This is the second of two posts on Susan Friedman’s Humane Hierarchy. Here is Humane Hierarchy Part 1 in case you missed it.
In this part, I present examples of each of the methods listed in the Humane Hierarchy. My examples all center around crate training.
Here is the Humane Hierarchy again so we’ll have it handy.
And here is a link to a different version of the Humane Hierarchy graphic that may be visually easier than the roadmap version.
Remember, these interventions run from the least intrusive first, to the most intrusive last.
Intervention 1: Health, nutrition, and physical setting, This means to check for physical reason for a behavior first, either a physical problem with the animal or something environmental that is affecting her.
Behavior 1: Dog just stands there when you ask her to go into her crate. Your old dog seems to have unlearned her crate behavior. Instead of going in eagerly when you cue it, she stands there licking her lips. She resists when you try to lead her in. You take her to the vet. It turns out that her vision is impaired. There is a glare coming off the stainless steel water bucket in her crate and it is scaring her. Your intervention: get a plastic bucket (and maybe a plastic crate).
When considering a problem behavior, checking for a health-related reason should be the first step. This doesn’t apply only to old dogs, either!
Just think if you had tried to retrain the behavior, even with positive reinforcement. You would have had an apparently “stubborn” dog. Even worse, what if you had punished her?
Here is a beautiful video by Sonya Bevan of Dog Charming that shows some “mis-behaviors” by dogs with some very interesting causes, including at least one that has to do with the physical environment: “There’s always a reason dogs do what they do.”
Intervention 2: Antecedent Arrangements.
Antecedents are those stimuli, events or conditions that occur immediately before the behavior, which function to set the occasion for the animal to exhibit the behavior. — Susan Friedman. A framework for solving behavior problems: Functional Assessment and Intervention Planning. Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine. 16,(1) 6-10.)
Cues are antecedents that we teach deliberately, but antecedents are happening in your dog’s life all the time. Antecedent arrangement means that sometimes you can deal with an animal’s unwanted behavior by changing what comes before it, rather than the consequences that come after it, as we do via the more familiar processes of reinforcement and punishment.
Behavior 2: Puppy whines in crate. Your puppy’s crate is in the dog playroom. Your other dogs are loose in another part of the house. As part of the process of taking them outside when you get home, you let the other dogs into the playroom while the puppy is still crated. The puppy whines and screams in excitement when the others come in. Then you are in a quandary. Let the puppy out while he is whining? If so, you would probably reinforce it. But what if he has to go to the bathroom?
The antecedent in this case is the entry of the other dogs. This precedes vocalizing by the puppy. The noise making might be OK in other circumstances, but whining and screaming in the crate cause problems. Here are three possible antecedent changes that could solve this problem:
- Complete elimination of the antecedent: Take the other dogs outside through another part of the house. Then go get the puppy separately to take him outside.
- Change puppy’s location during the antecedent: Let the puppy out first. Either take him outside, or let him be loose in the room when the older dogs come in. He may get excited and vocalize, but this doesn’t put you in the quandary that it does if he is in his crate.
- Change puppy’s location so he is no longer present for the former antecedent: Move the puppy to another part of the house and take the big dogs out through the dog playroom first, then release him to join them.
Any of these should solve this particular instance of whining in the crate without having to reinforce or punish anything, or train anything at all.
OK, here come the operant learning processes with which many of us are familiar. If you need a brush up, please see my blog post Operant Learning Illustrated by Examples, or go straight to my movie: Examples of the Four Procedures of Operant Learning.
Intervention 3: Positive Reinforcement. Something is added after a behavior, which results in the behavior happening more often.
Behavior 3: Dog goes in crate and stays there. This is something you want to teach your dog. To do so using positive reinforcement, you could use any of these three methods of training: luring, capturing, or shaping.
- You could leave good stuff in there for him to find (luring).
- If he went in there on his own, you could immediately mark and reinforce (capturing going in).
- If he is in the crate and being quiet, you could drop him a treat or chewable as you go by (capturing quiet stay in crate).
- You could play training games where you shape him to go into his crate from different areas of the room (shaping).
Brace yourself for inordinate cuteness in the video.
Intervention 4: Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behaviors. This means a replacement behavior is (positively) reinforced while the unwanted behavior is extinguished (see extinction below).
Behavior 4: Your dog goes in her crate when visitors come (instead of leaping on them). This is something you want to teach. Your adolescent dog loves everybody and is thrilled when someone comes to the door. She jumps all over them. This is not your preferred way for her to greet visitors.
You start by training your dog to go to her crate using positive reinforcement, without visitors present. You train it really well until she is absolutely thrilled to go to her crate and runs top speed when cued.
Then teach her that the doorbell ringing is a cue for her to go to her crate. After this cue is very solid, you start practicing with people coming in, but not in real life yet. Use setups.
You will not get extinction of the jumping on people unless it ceases to be reinforced, so you will also take some management measures. For the beginning period you might keep an ex-pen around the inside of the doorway in case your dog makes a booboo and runs for the door like before. She still can’t get to the visitor and practice jumping.
For practice setups, you must train your visitors. You need them to absolutely ignore your dog if she does get to them and jump on them. This is the removal of the previous reinforcement for jumping up, which is generally human attention. But it’s best to try to avoid the situation entirely, because some dogs enjoy jumping even when the human is ignoring them.
A rule of thumb is that the reinforcement of the new behavior has to be more potent, or at least as potent, as the original reinforcement. So the finishing touch will be to teach your dog that after she has gone to her crate, she will sometimes be released to visit (if she enjoys that). She can calmly visit with the guests and get human attention as long as she has four feet on the floor. You will have to train that as well.
Here is an example of differential reinforcement of an alternative behavior where I taught Clara to lie down when I bent over, rather than mugging my face.
Intervention 5: Extinction, Negative Reinforcement, and Negative Punishment. Dr. Friedman does not give a hierarchical ranking order within these three. The degree of humaneness will depend on the application of each method and the individual animal.
Intervention 5a: Extinction. Extinction of a behavior occurs when the consequence that was previously reinforcing the behavior is permanently removed.
Behavior 5a: Puppy barks to be let out of crate at night. When you first got your puppy, sometimes when you were late letting him out to potty in the night he would give a little bark to wake you up. You would immediately get up and let him out to potty. As he got older you got tired of this. You were sure he really didn’t need to go. He would bark and you would stay in bed. So he barked longer. Finally when you couldn’t ignore it any longer, you would let him out. This has been going on for some time.
You get on the Internet to see how to get the dog to stop barking. Someone writes that you just have to outlast him. So the next night when he starts barking, you ignore him. And ignore and ignore and ignore. When he finally gives up and is quiet for a minute or two, you may let him out.
This scenario demonstrates the drawback of using extinction by itself. This situation is a mess. It’s horribly unfair to your dog, who may really need to go to the bathroom and is trying his best to tell you say in the way that was previously reinforced. His world has turned upside down and what used to work beautifully fails. Your dog has no clue now how to get out to potty. You waited until he was quiet to let him out, but you can’t use “being quiet” as a cue to be let out if he is quiet most of the night. Unless you want to start a behavior chain of: make noise, be quiet, get let out.
This is one of the reasons why using extinction alone is “farther down the road” than Differential Reinforcement of an Alternative Behavior. In that case, you are deliberately developing and reinforcing a new behavior to take the place of the old. The dog gets a big fat clue about what to do instead.
Intervention 5b: Negative reinforcement. Something is removed after a behavior, which results in the behavior happening more often.
Behavior 5b: Puppy stays in the crate. You are teaching your puppy to stay in the crate when you tell him to, without your closing the crate door. You put your puppy in and tell him to stay. He stays for a few seconds, then gets up and heads out the door. You get there first and keep walking forward, walking into his space and pushing him with body pressure until he backs up back into the crate.
Negative reinforcement uses an aversive, something the animal does not like. Because of that it can have fallout. My movie, Negative Reinforcement vs Positive Reinforcement, shows the difference in my dogs’ behavior when trained the same behavior with those two methods.
Intervention 5c: Negative punishment. Something is removed after a behavior, which results in the behavior happening less often.
Behavior 5c: Puppy whines in crate. Your puppy is in her crate. You enter the room and she starts to whine in excitement. (She has never done this before.) You immediately turn on a dime and leave the room.
Intervention 6: Positive punishment. Something is added after a behavior, which results in the behavior happening less often.
Behavior 6: Puppy runs out of the crate door when it is opened. Your pup has developed an unnerving habit of dashing out the crate door as soon as you open it. So you decide to show him who’s boss. You get a spray bottle of water and add some lemon juice. You walk up to the crate, open the door, and squirt him in the face as he tries to dash out.
This demonstrates the many drawbacks of positive punishment. First, it may not be absolutely clear to the dog what he was squirted for. Looking out? Crossing the threhold? Whatever happened next?
Perhaps you haven’t even taught him the proper behavior that you do want, such as to sit quietly in the crate until released. So the next time you open the crate door, your dog may be afraid to come out at all. Or afraid whenever he sees the squirt bottle. His affection and trust for you may wane, since it was abundantly clear that it was you who were squirting him with the painful stuff. His anxiety level has probably shot up from the whole experience. What’s going to happen next time?
This scenario also illustrates what Dr. Friedman calls the “double whammy” of positive punishment. First, the dog didn’t get the consequence he was seeking: getting out of the crate. Second, he got squirted painfully in the eyes. And as Dr. Friedman wrote in the article that introduced the Humane Hierarchy,
Positive punishment is rarely necessary (or suggested by standards of best practice) when one has the requisite knowledge of behavior change and teaching skills.
And she has kindly arranged a list for us of seven other things to try first!
Thanks for reading! Coming up:
- Movies, Translated (French)
- What’s in a Name?
- Arguing with Logic and Grace
- When Management Succeeds
- Level 1 Breakfast (quick behavior drills)