Loudoun County Animal Services
Animal cognition has long been associated with tool use, and even tool making, most famously in Jane Goodall’s study of chimpanzees. In the intro, Pat shows numerous videos of animal tool use: a badger shifting the end a of large branch from the floor to above a wall to facilitate escaping an enclosure; a dog doing a little furniture moving to access a countertop; a bird stealing bread to successfully use as bait, to catch a fish for dinner, and incredible crows: one fashioning a straight thin metal rod into a hook to lift a wire handled glass out of a bucket. (Other crows are famed for placing nuts on roads to have passing cars crack the shells.)
The dog world has followed suit: Over the past decade-plus there has been a revolution in the world of dog behavior, as canine cognition scientists such as Adam Miklosi, Alexandra Horowitz, Claudia Fugazza, Brian Hare and others have explored abilities of the dog’s brain once thought to be far beyond the reach of our canine companions.
Session One (Saturday, January 8, 2022): Intro - Animals as Tool Users, Choice & Imitation
Choice: The notable Dr. Susan Friedman says, “The power to control one’s own outcomes is essential to behavioral health.” (Dr. Susan Friedman, PhD – www.behaviorworks.org). Our very simple Choice protocol introduces dog and human to the concept of allowing canines to have more choice in their lives, and thus helps them to be behaviorally healthier. (The Chin Rest and Chirag Patel’s Bucket Game are other good examples of giving our dogs more power to control their own outcomes). In Pat’s protocols, the dogs learn to choose and express the choice of what foods and other items they prefer.
In Pat’s protocol dogs are provided with a choice between bowls of so-called high value food (chicken) and name it and a lower valued food (kibble) and name that. Then the two bowls are set down together, about 6” apart. Tell the dog to “choose”. Switch sides frequently. When one is most often chosen, the other is removed, so that the dog learns that there is an “opportunity cost” for choosing, while learning the concept of choice.
Imitation: With her “Do As I Do” protocol, Claudia Fugazza opened the eyes of the dog world to the potential for our dogs being able to learn through imitation of human behavior. We will present the three phases of this fascinating protocol, “Copy that!”:
Phase 1 introduces & teaches the imitation concept with 3 very well-known (on verbal cue) behaviors of your dog (or your student’s dogs) and is critical in getting the dog to understand the “Copy (Imitation) Concept”. In this phase your dog starts the process of social learning by observing what you do (your version of 1 of the dog’s 3 well known behaviors) and copying that behavior, simply with the cue “copy” rather than the traditional cue word for that behavior. Eventually the dog should be able to reliably execute that behavior after watching you and then hearing “copy”. Extending that to two other behaviors becomes the basis of the Copy Concept.
Phase 2 is generalizing the imitation concept to 3 more lesser-known behaviors, and Phase3 (the hard part) is Generalizing the imitation concept to 3 novel (not previously trained) behaviors.
Session Two (Saturday, January 15, 2022): Shape, Color & Object Discrimination
Discrimination: Dog owners have long known that you can ask dogs to fetch a stick or ball even with both in sight and many will bring back the correct object every time. This step-by-step discrimination protocol teaches dogs to choose between colors, shapes and a variety of objects.
In color discrimination the starting point is that dogs are red-green color blind so you will work with the colors blue and yellow. You show your dog (or students’ dog) a card with a yellow circle, name it “yellow” and cue the dog to “touch” it, varying the card from side to side. Do likewise with a blue circle naming it “blue” and cueing a touch. Then show the two together encouraging a touch on one of the cards by naming it and holding it closer to the dog at first, then alternating the one which one is held closer, and eventually reducing the offset as the dog gets better at selecting the one named.
The very same principles and techniques can be applied to teaching discrimination between two objects or shapes.
Session Three (Saturday, January 22, 2022): Match to Sample, Reading & Counting
Matching to Sample: Matching to sample refers to a procedure where a stimulus is presented, such as a ball, and the dog indicates a matching stimulus (another ball) or in more advanced matching, a picture of a ball. Another never-ending source of entertainment and learning for you and your dog.
Reading: It may be hard to believe, but yes, dogs can learn to read. Maybe not full sentences (at least not yet!), full-length articles or books, but words, yes. Our reading protocol shows you how to get started.
The process starts with some on-cue behaviors that the dog knows very well (e.g. “sit” or “spin” That behavior is then associated with a printed card with the word “Sit” on it (or “Spin”) coupled with its applicable verbal cue. In time, the verbal cue can be withdrawn as the word “Sit” (or “Spin”) appears on a card presented to the dog, which it takes as the cue to perform the behavior.
Counting: Dogs can also learn at least rudimentary counting. Borrowing from the work of the amazing Ken Ramirez, who has taught at least one dog to count to fourteen (far beyond three, which was once thought the limit for dogs), we introduce here the basics of teaching your dog to count.