Archive for May, 2010

Intuition vs. Images

Intuition vs. Images

By Al Magaw

We have all met those people, often women, who have an uncanny intuition for reading other people,  developing trust or reservations almost instantly. It’s uncanny how often people who have a good intuition make a correct assessment. After making many mistakes in my life, some serious, some not so serious, I’ve learned to trust my own faint semblance of intuition more than I used to. I realise now that the slight feeling of apprehension that I had felt in various situations was closer to the truth than what my brain, while weighing the more  obvious evidence, evidence gained through the normal senses, had figured it was.  How this works, I have no idea, but there are few arguments that would dispute that there is such a thing as intuition.

Dogs, and other animals, have developed a method of communication that uses no sounds, no motions, and no visible clues as to how it works. It’s very mysterious, and there is very little hard scientific evidence available to confirm it, yet virtually every pet owner that is close to their pet has stories of how their dog, cat, horse, etc, has shown a remarkable ability to know what it’s owner, with no apparent signal being given, is going to be doing or wants from his pet. There are some, including this author, that believe dogs communicate through their ability to read and send images – a question that presents itself to me is this, “Is our intuition linked in some way to an animal’s ability to communicate through images”? There are certainly some demonstrable comparisons.

“Gramma” insists that someone is a bad person after meeting them for the first time and only for a few moments at that. It’s a scenario that is common enough and accurate enough to get a laugh.

We’ve all seen or heard of the normally friendly dog that all of it’s life had greeted everyone with a wagging tail, that suddenly wouldn’t let a stranger out of their vehicle. One of my own dogs was normally a wuss in his day to day life, friendly to everyone, yet one day when a pickup drove into the yard with two men in it, he objected to one of the men in the truck. “Ozzie” didn’t mind that the driver got out of the truck and came to the door, but he insisted the passenger not set foot on the ground. “Ozzie” was a Shropshire terrier, all black, with large, very white teeth, and with teeth showing and the hair on his back all bristled up, no one was going to argue with him. Why did Ozzie object to the passenger and not the driver? It couldn’t have been the truck or he would have objected to both men. Was the man in the truck imaging some sort of harm?

A lady I know, had one of her Alaskan Huskies chained in the back of her pickup when she stopped to give a hitchhiker a ride. The man was no sooner in the pickup than the woman realized there was something wrong with him, an intuition that the man could be a threat. The sliding rear window was open, and somehow the big dog, “Zeus”, hampered by being tied in the back of the pickup, was able to wiggle in through the open sliding rear window and plant himself firmly between passenger and driver.

In all of the above cases there was no reasonable, no discernible, reason to come to the conclusion that they came to, dog, Gramma or lady driver, yet we have to assume there was some sort of communication before any of them could come to the conclusion that they did. Does intuition and silent, image based communication come from the same source, the same instinct?  Does the evidence of other inherited instincts from our animal fore-bearers also include the ability, though faded, to understand images coming from a fellow human or some other creature? Is the dog’s heightened awareness a super strong intuition? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but the evidence causes me to ask them.

We rely so much on eyesight, hearing, and touch, that we’ve lost much of what it takes to understand other possible ways of communicating. Because we don’t understand something, or can’t see, hear, or feel it, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t so.

Do you have a remarkable story about one of your dogs? Contact us at live@dogdoctorradio.com We would love to hear from you.

Tags: Al Magaw | Robert Forto | Michele Forto | Iditarod | Team Ineka | Dog Training Denver | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Duluth Dog Works | Minnesota Dog Works

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Al Magaw is a musher from Salmo, BC. Al keeps a medium sized kennel of 20 – 45 alaskan huskies as well as several pet dogs of various breeds. Al has been training and racing for the last 33 years. Before becoming involved with sled dogs, Al, along with his family, kept and competed with horses for many years. Al can be reached through his website at http://www.spiritofthenorthkennels.com Al is a guest blogger for Denver Dog Works and can be reached through our website at http://www.denverdogworks.com

Influential People in the Development of Learning Theory Part 3

Influential People in the Development of Learning Theory Part III

By Robert Forto, PhD

Skinner, Keller, and Schoenfeld

B.F. Skinner (1904-1990) continued the work that Thorndike started.  He was the leading advocate of a more modern version of Thorndike’s Law of Effect, which states, “The frequency of a behavior increases or decreases according to the result it [the behavior] produces.”

When Skinner was pursuing his doctorate at Harvard University he discovered that he could methodically change the behavior of lab rats by rewarding them with food.  This study proceeded in the following stages:

“First, the rat was rewarded simply for facing the correct end of the cage.  Next, the rat was rewarded only when it stood next to the lever.  Later stages delayed the reward until the rat touched the lever with its body.  Eventually the rat learned it had to press the lever to receive a pellet of food.”

Skinner’s viewpoints were unique in that he felt the proper study of behavior should be limited to “observable events” of behavior, and instead of how the subject might think.  He consistently argued against making interpretations based on events that could not be observed.  Skinner did not discuss intervening variables, such as hunger or thirst, when interpreting behavioral learning.

In 1938, B.F. Skinner published The Behavior of Organisms (New York: D. Appleton-Century Co.).  Many consider this milestone work the leading authority on the science of operant conditioning.  Today many dog trainers are using clickers for training canines; clickers are conditioned reinforcers that have been used by conditioning experts since the 1940’s.  Skinner wrote about clickers, which he called “crickets”, in a paper called How to Teach Animals in 1951.

While on the faculty of the University of Minnesota, Skinner’s study of operant conditioning principles was expanded to include pigeons.  He was studying a phenomenon known as extinction when it occurred to him to ask himself, are theories of learning necessary?  As previously discussed Skinner felt the study of behavior should be limited to events that were observable and measurable.  Skinner maintained that the science of behavior should actually deal with behavior in its relation to variables that could be systematically manipulated.

Skinner was a leading advocate of Expectancy Theory; it was his contention that learning theory was in reality nothing more that expectancy.  He wrote, “When we assert that an animal acts in a given way because it expects to receive food [or any reinforcers], then what began as the task of accounting for a learned behavior becomes the task of accounting for expectancy.”  Skinner is also partially credited for moving the science of operant conditioning beyond the lab, and towards a viable technology for changing behavior.

Fred S. Keller (1899-1966) is well known for his work on a teaching method known as Personalized System of Instruction (PSI).  Keller was a classmate, and lifelong friend of B. F. Skinner. While it is true that Skinner ultimately wound up on the faculty at Harvard, where as Keller taught at Columbia, they remained colleagues throughout their lives.

In 1947, Fred Keller teamed up with William Schoenfeld (1915-1996) at Columbia University and began to teach the first college psychology course employing Skinner’s methods.  Undergraduate students taught rats to respond to stimuli in order to obtain reinforcement.  Keller and Schoenfeld published the first text in the emerging field of operant conditioning in 1950 entitled Principles of Psychology.

This is will be a multi-week series on the influential people in learning theory and the dawn of modern dog training. You can read about Huxley and Darwin and Pavlov, Thorndike and Watson as well.

If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you at live@dogdoctorradio.com

Tags: Learning Theory | Robert Forto | Michele Forto | Iditarod | Team Ineka | Dog Training Denver | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Duluth Dog Works | Minnesota Dog Works

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Dr. Robert Forto is the training director of Denver Dog Works and the host of the Dog Doctor Radio Show. Dr. Forto can be reached through his website at http://www.denverdogworks.com

Images by Al Magaw

Images

By Al Magaw

There had been a bear breaking into the shed where I keep dog food. No matter how I tried to board the shed up, the bear kept breaking in and helping itself to the dog food. To top it off, the bear was walking right through the dog yard, through the centre of some of the dog’s picket circles. The dogs seldom barked at the bear when it came through the kennel, and the only real signal the dogs gave when the bear came was the peculiar rattle they made with the chains. One afternoon, I heard the nervous rattle of the chains that indicated the bear was back. When I heard a yipe from a dog, I grabbed my rifle and headed to the dog-yard. I wasn’t going to put up with my dogs being mauled – dog food was one thing, my dogs were something else and I was going to do what I could to protect them. The bear heard me coming, I guess, because it scattered long before I could even aim the rifle, but it was the reaction of the dogs to me that surprised me. When I came around the corner into sight of the dogs, they all dove into their houses, a far cry from their usual reaction to my arrival in the dog-yard. This time I was a hunter, a predator. This wasn’t the “dad” they knew, this was danger! Normally I’m greeted with great enthusiasm in the dog-yard, but this time I was greeted with fear. The dogs had never seen the gun before, so they couldn’t have understood what it was, it had to be the images I was sending that created that fear. When I realised what was happening, I forced myself to relax. It took a few moments after I relaxed for the dogs to start tentatively stepping out of their houses and a few more minutes before they were confident that I was “OK” before they resumed the normal behavior that they have around me.

It was early fall and we were into a full regular training schedule, 4 days a week, two days on, one day off, two days on, two days off. Rain or shine, mud or dry land, I felt the schedule had to be kept. The dogs were coming along well, enthusiastic to run and conditioning nicely. One morning when I left the house to travel the 300 feet to the dog yard, the dogs all hid in their houses. I wondered “what the heck???” then I stopped to “look” inside of myself, what I was feeling inside. It was then I realised I was in a bad mood, for whatever reason, I was feeling out of sorts. The dogs had felt that from 300 feet away. I decided it was not a good day for training and went back to the house. There is something very powerful in the ability of animals to feel, sense, or “see” what we feel, our moods, our faults, and who knows what else.

Do you have a remarkable story about one of your dogs? Contact us at live@dogdoctorradio.com We would love to hear from you.

Tags: Al Magaw | Robert Forto | Michele Forto | Iditarod | Team Ineka | Dog Training Denver | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Duluth Dog Works | Minnesota Dog Works

____________________

Al Magaw is a musher from Salmo, BC. Al keeps a medium sized kennel of 20 – 45 alaskan huskies as well as several pet dogs of various breeds. Al has been training and racing for the last 33 years. Before becoming involved with sled dogs, Al, along with his family, kept and competed with horses for many years. Al can be reached through his website at http://www.spiritofthenorthkennels.com Al is a guest blogger for Denver Dog Works and can be reached through our website at http://www.denverdogworks.com

Cylus by Al Magaw

Cylus

By Al Magaw

This is an exerpt from the chapter “Cylus” from my unpublished book , tentatively titled, “Best Friends”

Cylus was my first leader, an obedience dog, intelligent, all heart, and full of bounce – we think he was a Collie/Aussie cross. Cylus was a last minute rescue from euthanasia when he was ten months old – this story took place when Cylus was four or five years old and he and I had shared many things together.

One evening, my wife Carol was putting our kids to bed, and I was playing with Cylus in the living room. I was getting ready to have him do some of his tricks, but he wasn’t waiting for me to give the command. He would do the trick as soon as the idea entered my head. I stopped and wrote down a series of tricks that Cylus knew. I called Carol to come and see what was going on. I asked her to watch to see if I was unconsciously giving  any signals by my body language. I silently read the first trick on the list. Cylus did the trick. We went through the whole list. Cylus did each trick in the order that I silently read them . I was not aware of giving any signal at all, and Carol could see no motion on my part. It was so eerie, that it sent shivers up our spines…

While driving home from work one evening I hit a deer on the highway. I wasn’t hurt, but the deer was dead and the truck was not drivable. I was able to catch a ride home with the next following vehicle. I arrived home to find that some friends had come to visit. Everybody was sitting around the living room having a pleasant conversation. Cylus was on the floor beside Carol. I sat in my usual chair and listened for a few minutes to catch on to what the conversation was about. When I did start to say something, I didn’t have more than two words out of my mouth, when Cylus started to moan and wail. He crawled towards me, belly down on the floor, this horrible moaning/wailing sound coming from deep in his throat. Carol asked, “What on earth is the matter with that dog?” I replied  that I had hit a deer on the way home.

I didn’t think I felt particularly stressed, and I sure wasn’t hurt. But Cylus had picked up something in my voice and had reacted with a huge concern for my well being.

In my very first race, Cylus in single lead, at the crest of a hill, I couldn’t see where the trail went. Cylus, who was about thirty feet in front of me, facing away, felt my uncertainty. His head and his ears came up, he hesitated and slowed for a moment until I could see where the trail went. Immediately that I was confident that we were on the right track, his ears and his head went down and he was back to full speed ahead –

These are just a few examples of how that remarkable little dog seemed to live inside my head. Cylus lived to be 18-years old, and although he’s long gone these many years, I still miss him badly.

Do you have a remarkable story about one of your dogs? Contact us at live@dogdoctorradio.com We would love to hear from you.

Tags: Al Magaw | Robert Forto | Michele Forto | Iditarod | Team Ineka | Dog Training Denver | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Duluth Dog Works | Minnesota Dog Works

____________________

Al Magaw is a musher from Salmo, BC. Al keeps a medium sized kennel of 20 – 45 alaskan huskies as well as several pet dogs of various breeds. Al has been training and racing for the last 33 years. Before becoming involved with sled dogs, Al, along with his family, kept and competed with horses for many years. Al can be reached through his website at http://www.spiritofthenorthkennels.com Al is a guest blogger for Denver Dog Works and can be reached through our website at http://www.denverdogworks.com

Influential People in the Development of Learning Theory Part I

Influential People in the Development of Learning Theory Part I

By Robert Forto, PhD

Huxley and Darwin

It is unclear when formalized studies of learning actually began, however, Professor Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) birthed the theory of association in the early 1870’s.  Professor Huxley stated that “It may be laid down as a rule, that, if any two mental states be called up together, or in succession, with due frequency and vividness, the subsequent production of one of them [mental states] will suffice to call up the other, and that whether we desire it or not.” This observation may very well have laid the groundwork for later studies in respondent and operant conditioning.  Huxley was an outspoken advocate of the naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882).  The professor was so passionate in his defense of Darwin’s theories that he was often referred to as “Darwin’s Bulldog”.

In Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotion in Man and Animals, Professor Huxley’s influence was evident in Darwin’s observations of the emotions of man and animals.  When studying animal expression Darwin was vividly aware of the challenges associated with those observations.  He writes, “The study of expression is difficult, owing to the movements being often extremely slight, and of a fleeting nature.” Nevertheless, Darwin’s careful observations were of immeasurable value to later researchers.  Darwin continued where Huxley left off by recognizing that movements, no matter how complex, can be performed with little or no forethought and minimal efforts when they have been performed with enough frequency.  This premise was the foundation for Darwin’s Principle of Antithesis, which reasons, that states of mind lead to the performance of “habitual actions”, when a “directly opposite” state of mind occurs, there is a “strong and involuntary” tendency to perform movements and actions of a “directly opposite nature”.  This principle is of special interest to observers of canine communication techniques, and can help the astute observer decipher the signal being sent and received by a canine, whether it is intra- or interspecies communication.  Darwin states further  “that gestures and expressions are to a certain extent mutually intelligible.”

Darwin speaks of his own dog’s “hot-house” face and reasoned that the opposite expression displayed by his dog was innate and not a deliberate attempt at communicating his desire to not go to the “hot-house.” He further states, “hence for the development of the movements which came under the present head, some other principle, distinct from the will and consciousness, must have intervened.”

While the vast majority of canine communication is accomplished via body language, there is some evidence that canines posses at least a limited verbal vocabulary.  While most canines in the wild do not bark, but howl, this is not the case for the domesticated canine.  According to Darwin “…some animals after being domesticated have acquired the habit of uttering sounds which were not natural to them.  Thus domesticated dogs, and even tamed jackals have learnt [sic] to bark, which is a noise not proper to any species of the genus with the exception of the Canis latrans of North America, which is said to bark.”  In regard to the Principle of Antithesis “the bark of anger, and that of joy are sounds which by no means stand in opposition to one another;…”  This lack of observable difference between barks is likely the reason that canines rely on body language so extensively.  Canine body language has been studied extensively and is well documented.  These postures or lack of them have been discussed in-depth in chapter three.

This is will be a multi-week series on the influential people in learning theory and the dawn of modern dog training.

If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you at live@dogdoctorradio.com

Tags: Robert Forto | Michele Forto | Iditarod | Team Ineka | Dog Training Denver | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Duluth Dog Works | Minnesota Dog Works

___________________

Dr. Robert Forto is the training director of Denver Dog Works and the host of the Dog Doctor Radio Show. Dr. Forto can be reached through his website at http://www.denverdogworks.com


Fox and Goose

Fox and Goose

By Al Magaw

One winter evening, my family and I watched seven, four-month old puppies play under the yard light in the snowy field in front of our house.  The seven puppies followed each other around in a circle making a packed trail about 60 feet in diameter.  Then they followed one another, single file, to make several paths that intersected the circle.  The pattern made in the snow was indistinguishable from the circle that children make when they play the game, “Fox and Goose”.  We were all crowded at the window, the lights in the house turned off so we could see better.  We watched, at first in amazed silence, then with peals of laughter, and finally with disbelief of what we were seeing.

One puppy would take his place at the intersection of the crossed trails and the other six puppies evenly spaced themselves around the circumference of the circle.  As if at a signal, the puppy in the centre dashed out the spoke of the wheel, turned onto the circle and grabbed a madly fleeing puppy by the tail.  After a brief scuffle, the puppy that had been caught went to the centre of the circle.  All of the puppies on the circle sat down facing the pup in the middle.  They waited until the pup in the centre bolted to the outside circle.  Again there was a mad dash around the circumference until another pup was caught.  To our amazement, they played this game for about 3/4 hour, sticking rigidly to their self-imposed rules. I had never seen or heard of such behavior at the time we watched the puppies play Fox and Goose, but a few years laterI read in the National Geographic Magazine of a scientist observing the same behavior in a group of wolf pups.

We would love to hear your comments regarding this article. Please let us know at live@dogdoctorradio.com

Tags: Al Magaw | Robert Forto | Michele Forto | Iditarod | Team Ineka | Dog Training Denver | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Duluth Dog Works | Minnesota Dog Works

____________________

Al Magaw is a musher from Salmo, BC. Al keeps a medium sized kennel of 20 – 45 alaskan huskies as well as several pet dogs of various breeds. Al has been training and racing for the last 33 years. Before becoming involved with sled dogs, Al, along with his family, kept and competed with horses for many years. Al can be reached through his website at http://www.spiritofthenorthkennels.com Al is a guest blogger for Denver Dog Works and can be reached through our website at http://www.denverdogworks.com

K-9 Communication by Al Magaw

K-9 Communication 2

By Al Magaw

I’ve had so many comments on last week’s blog, all positive – I really expected some controversy about animals, and us, to a lesser degree,  being able to communicate wordlessly, and without motion, to indicate thoughts – I’ve received stories that told about dogs being able to inform their owners when there was a sick lamb, stories about dogs that just “know” when there is something that’s going to happen that involves them without any obvious indication from the owners, to the story of the siberian husky that wakes it’s owners every morning from Monday to Friday so they aren’t late for work, but lets them sleep in on Saturday and Sunday – obviously, the siberian can read the calendar? – no, I didn’t think so – I’d like to share part of a letter from an old friend that I received a number of years ago – a letter that started me wondering a bit more and observing more closely, how animals communicate without words – In part, the letter reads —-

“Kuma, my Rottie, is an angel in the shape of a dog. He made his way through three bullets to reach my door. He has taught me much about play, about lightening up (in training), and visualization. He has led the way for me (to) learn deep mind/body/spirit communication from him”. ——– “Kuma has showed me what my next pathway will be as an animal communicator. I am seriously looking into that field as I would truly like to be able to “speak” with dogs and horses and learn what they really have to say about issues in their lives.” She goes on to say, “Rottweilers are pretty intensive dogs, different from any I have owned before. Kuma is teaching me to “send” pictures to him as a way of communicating”.

My friend goes on to describe how she found Kuma on her porch one morning, badly wounded with three bullet holes in him. She nursed him back to health and on one of the first walks with him.

“He started to chase some deer that went flying off in front of him.” “I immediately sent off a picture of him in the stage of a stock horse doing a sliding stop.” — “He looked just like a stock horse as he slid to a stop. He immediately came right to me, the first time he had done so off leash.” “I felt like I had just won a championship!” “it was an awesome moment. He is one powerful dog who displayed a fine line between play and aggression when he first came into my life.”

The letter goes on to talk about mutual friends and interests —  I’ve read this letter from my friend many times over the years since I received it and it still sends shivers up my spine, shivers of recognition of what is what is real and possible, if only we could learn.

We would love to hear your comments regarding this article. Please let us know at live@dogdoctorradio.com

Tags: Al Magaw | Robert Forto | Michele Forto | Iditarod | Team Ineka | Dog Training Denver | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Duluth Dog Works | Minnesota Dog Works

____________________

Al Magaw is a musher from Salmo, BC. Al keeps a medium sized kennel of 20 – 45 alaskan huskies as well as several pet dogs of various breeds. Al has been training and racing for the last 33 years. Before becoming involved with sled dogs, Al, along with his family, kept and competed with horses for many years. Al can be reached through his website at http://www.spiritofthenorthkennels.com Al is a guest blogger for Denver Dog Works and can be reached through our website at http://www.denverdogworks.com


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