Placing a Canine’s Harness on with out Getting Bloody Arms: Adjusting Antecedents

A woman and a brown and white dog are at the end of a hall next to a piano bench. The dog is standing on his hind legs with his front feet on the bench. The woman, in a red shirt and gray cap, is leaning over the dog and touching his leg near the shoulder.
I’m educating Lewis to get used to physique dealing with within the “paws up” place

I keep in mind how magical it was, the primary time I noticed somebody’s canine come working and fortunately thrust their head into their harness, then stand nonetheless for the buckling up. I used to be astonished {that a} canine may be taught to try this. Yeah, it was a very long time in the past.

Since then, I’ve taught an excellent handful of canines to be proud of carrying a harness and to assist me put it on them. This contains a few difficult canines who have been apprehensive at first about carrying gear.

This submit doesn’t embrace directions for educating a canine to have their harness placed on. Here’s a nice video by Emily Larlham that delineates these steps. My submit offers with some particular difficulties with an overexcited canine.

Clara pops her head by way of the harness and stands nonetheless whereas I clip straps, or lifts her entrance foot as wanted for her older Hurtta harness. (Her motion helps me keep in mind methods to put that harness on—it’s a type of difficult ones.)

Choo Choo, my accomplice’s chihuahua combine (one of many robust ones to start out out with), stands quietly on her hind legs together with her entrance toes on my knees as I sit in a chair and placed on the harness. I thank her each time for saving my again. After all, all of them get a deal with after this cooperation and even after every step, to not point out an outing.

Lewis sprints across the room, with the chihuahua chasing him and pretend snapping at him, then guarding the recliner the place he’s headed. He finds a path and leaps wildly over the opposite canines onto the recliner, stands there on the highest of it, faucets his toes, then paws and scratches at me a number of instances in pleasure as I put the harness over his head. I’ve the scars. Then he licks and bumps my face as I lean in to snap the straps.

Certainly one of these canines isn’t just like the others.

Gradual Modifications

I learn an article this 12 months (2023) on ABA and coaching that blew my thoughts. (Thanks, Dr. Christina Alligood, for the nice “How Analysis Works” course.)

The article was “Gradual Change Procedures in Habits Evaluation” by Dr. Stephanie Kincaide. The entire paper is accessible on the URL.

The main focus of the article was that in good educating and coaching, we frequently arrange or reinforce gradual adjustments in all three elements of the three-term contingency: in antecedents, behaviors, and penalties.

In antecedents, we might fade in a stimulus. You see this in desensitization plans, but in addition within the unique protocols of errorless studying. We might do that when the stimulus in its most intense kind induces worry within the animal. Or, as within the instance I’ll describe right here, when the stimulus already has a powerful reinforcement historical past for a special conduct from the one we at the moment need.

I’ll miss how the gradual adjustments idea applies to behaviors and penalties for now (it’s best to learn the article!), however might write about it sooner or later.

I’ve two predominant functions in penning this submit. One is to debate how reinforcement historical past can stop a canine from altering a conduct as shortly as we expect they need to. The opposite is how I used gradual adjustments in antecedents to alter the last word conduct.

The Habits and My Plan to Change It

Once I take Lewis someplace, for a stroll or a experience within the automobile, I first put his harness on. For 2 years now, I’ve cued him to leap onto a recliner so I received’t need to bend over to placed on the harness. It additionally (largely) prevents me from getting clocked within the jaw if he jumps in pleasure. He will get all the best way up on the again of the recliner, not within the seat.

However there’s a totally different hazard when he’s up there. When Lewis is happy, he paws. And paws, and paws. He got here to me with this conduct put in and fluent. He significantly paws at doorways—crate doorways, gates, glass doorways—you title it.

I’m not a door, however that conduct has generalized. He paws in any thrilling state of affairs. And his goal is commonly me. As I lean in with the harness, I’m more likely to get scratched.

I guessed that the pawing would lower if he did a “paws up” conduct fairly than standing on all 4 toes on the chair. It takes extra effort to swipe a entrance paw round whereas standing on hind legs and balancing with one entrance one. He additionally wouldn’t be proper in my face.

A woman and a brown and white dog are next to a bench. The dog is standing on his hind legs with his front feet on the bench. The woman, in a red shirt and gray cap, is holding her hand up, about to give the dog a treat.
An early “paws up” session in 2022

SPOILER: I guessed improper. The pawing survived the brand new place, although diminished. I’m going to proceed to explain my course of as a result of we succeeded anyway.

I deliberate to work on a entrance paw goal if the paws up conduct didn’t considerably scale back the pawing by itself.

The Antecedents: What Set Up the Habits

The instant antecedents that predict harness utility and an outing are:

  • the time of day.
  • Eileen selecting up the harness and leash.
  • Eileen approaching the recliner.
  • Eileen encouraging Lewis verbally and with a gesture to stand up on the chair (not often vital). He often bounds onto the chair earlier than I even get there. Have I discussed these days that I’m not so nice at stimulus management?
  • Eileen transferring towards him with the harness in “please stick your head in it” configuration.

A few different particulars: The recliner itself is a cue for leaping up at any time of day. And the harness approaching his head has turn into a cue for pawing at yours actually.

I wanted to alter the image.

Bullet Dodges: Reinforcement Historical past

Right here’s the place, just some years in the past, I might have tousled. However I managed to not this time.

He has a prolonged reinforcement historical past for leaping up on that recliner to get his harness on. However that’s the place the place I wished him to do paws up as a substitute. I wanted him to place two toes on the chair fairly than 4.

It appears like such a easy change, but it surely was not. Did I begin my coaching there, with that individual chair, to show the brand new conduct? Nooooo. And did I attempt to train the conduct simply earlier than taking him for a stroll? Nooooo.

A woman and a brown and white dog are at the end of a hall. The dog is sitting on a piano bench placed there. The woman, in a blue shirt and gray cap, is smiling at the dog.
Right here’s an “oops” second

Previously, I might have accomplished each. I might have gone to the recliner and cued a paws up conduct and watched, dismayed, as he hopped all the best way onto the chair. I might have instantly gotten pissed off. He can already do paws up on cue on a number of objects. You realize that factor the place you assume your canine “is aware of it”? He often doesn’t. In Lewis’ case, the massive reinforcement historical past for leaping all the best way onto the chair would overwhelm his capacity to face on the ground and do paws up there. He would bounce up and down from the chair to the ground like a ping pong ball, lacking that in-between conduct of paws up.

See, I’m studying. I knew I used to be up towards the Matching Regulation. On one aspect of the size have been the 700+ instances Lewis had jumped to the highest of the recliner for his harness (and one other 1000+ instances to look at squirrels out the window). I’m not exaggerating both of these numbers. On the opposite aspect was his cued paws up conduct, possibly practiced 100 instances, and by no means on the recliner.

Likewise, I knew making an attempt to show it instantly earlier than his day by day stroll was not a good suggestion. He’s approach too excited then. That’s a part of the issue! I taught his earlier “getting my harness on” conduct with all that pleasure and motion inbuilt.

I wanted to start out by eliminating as most of the former antecedents as I may, then reintroduce them, linked with the brand new conduct. I may change two elements instantly: the merchandise we used for paws up (the recliner) and the time of day. We practiced paws up with quiet toes with objects apart from the recliner, and we practiced within the morning, when walks have been unlikely. The opposite instant antecedent was me strolling to Lewis holding the harness. I unnoticed this half for an excellent whereas and practiced paws up with out that complication.

So right here is the order during which I pale in elements of the unique setting. That is the “gradual adjustments in antecedents” half.

Fading within the Bodily Antecedents

First location: finish of a hallway, largely as a result of it was good for filming.

Order of objects I used for “paws up”:

  1. a piano bench

Second location: lobby on the entrance of the home, the place the textured tile ground provides canine paws a greater buy.

  1. the piano bench once more
  2. a sturdy cardboard field with a heavy object inside
  3. an overstuffed chair

Third location: pc/storage room

  1. a small picket chair

Fourth and last location: the den the place I usually put his harness on

  1. the couch the place he hangs out loads
  2. the recliner, the place I’ve been placing his harness on

Extra about these strikethroughs beneath.

If this looks like a ridiculous variety of steps, recall all these instances he jumped up on the recliner within the den in a state of excessive pleasure to get harnessed up. I couldn’t undo that in a single day.

The piano bench was an excellent top and a pleasant impartial object he had by no means interacted with. Nonetheless, I’ve taught him numerous leaping onto or into objects. So the very first thing he did once we approached the bench was to leap up on it with all 4 toes earlier than I even caught up with him. However I used to be capable of gradual him down, and with assistance from a hand goal, present him what I wished as a substitute.

I practiced treating in place, to present some love for that place, then generally switched to marking then tossing a deal with on the ground and establishing for one more repetition. I might not all the time be treating in place through the conduct when placing the harness on.

  • I labored up some period.
  • I began touching his head and beneath his entrance legs whereas he was within the paws up place.
  • I fiddled along with his collar and labored as much as taking it off and placing it on.
  • I introduced the harness in and practiced the levels of placing it on him.

Throughout all these steps, I did my greatest to carry to my criterion of quiet, nonetheless entrance toes, firmly positioned on the article.

A woman and a brown and white dog are next to a piano bench. The dog is standing on his hind legs with his front feet on the bench. The woman, in a red shirt , is leaning over the dog and putting a blue harness on him.
Adjusting Lewis’ harness within the paws up place

Bringing within the harness required some backtracking. The harness itself was a cue to “bounce up on the factor,” to not point out “scratch Eileen.” So we needed to observe quiet paws up within the presence of the harness many instances.

I did all these steps on our very first object, the piano bench. Then on the field, and on the overstuffed chair. That one was a problem because it resembled the recliner greater than the primary two. It’s additionally a lot decrease than the primary two objects and virtually invitations a canine to leap on it. I obtained a good quantity of ping-ponging earlier than I obtained these again toes on the ground and entrance toes quiet on the chair, however we obtained there.

I aimed for a diminished error methodology utilizing optimistic reinforcement. Destructive punishment would have been simple to incorporate as a part of the plan. Because the harness predicts going for a stroll, and we have been aiming for that huge terminal reinforcement along with meals reinforcers, eradicating the harness and transferring away if he pawed may have punished the pawing conduct. However I did my greatest to work slowly sufficient that I pulled the harness away contingent on pawing solely a handful of instances, maybe 4 instances in a few hundred reps. You’ll see most of them within the film, within the part the place I first introduce his harness. I don’t like utilizing any punishment, and I’ve used much less and fewer of this selection as I’ve gotten higher at planning my coaching.

Entrance Paw Goal

Since his swiping at me survived the paws up place, I additionally began engaged on a entrance paw goal on a a lot decrease object. I’ve been planning to work on that anyway. I put a clip of that on the finish of the video and you may see how a lot steadier he was with it than with the paws up on larger objects. Trying again, I feel it could have been a greater place to start out than paws up, maintaining gradual adjustments and likewise muscle fatigue in thoughts.

Video Displaying A part of the Development

My sloppiness as a coach is on full show right here. I take advantage of two totally different markers for a similar factor and two totally different launch cues, I drop treats, I mark and reinforce a paw swipe (see the very starting of the film), and I’ve a satan of a time making standards choices on the fly about his busy toes. I’m not pleased with any of this. I level it out as a result of I hope it may well present how nicely canines can usually be taught regardless of us, and to present freshmen some hope.

Defining standards is all the time exhausting for me, even when I plan it prematurely, as I attempted to right here. How a lot incidental paw motion is OK? He doesn’t need to be a statue, in any case. What in regards to the little changes he makes as he will get into place, or the best way he stomps his proper entrance foot down? I used to be probably too tolerant. Permitting some motion was high quality for this utility for the reason that aim was to do one thing apart from elevating his foot into the air and pawing me. However with future paw targets, I’ll need actually quiet toes.

Sudden Generalization

A woman wearing adark pants, a red sweatshirt, and a treat pouch is standing next to a recliner. A brown and white dog is sitting on the top of the recliner as the woman fastens a harness strap.
Look Mother, no paw swiping!

All throughout this course of, Lewis was nonetheless occurring a day by day stroll, so we have been utilizing the previous methodology of him leaping onto the recliner and me defending myself whereas placing on his harness.

Think about my shock when he stopped swiping me.

I attempted, approach too late within the sport, to get some “earlier than” footage. And failed repeatedly.

This was not in response to plan. There he was, each day, standing for the harness, then sitting whereas I fixed the straps. He was not pawing at me as I put in his harness. I attempted a special harness to verify—yep, no paw swipes for that one, both.

Lewis will get his harness on with out scratching me

I Dared to Change the Plan

Training quiet toes exterior the context of the thrilling stroll was apparently a successful technique. So successful that I reverted to Lewis’ unique place on prime of the recliner now that he may stand and sit nonetheless. That’s a extra comfy place for me to work with anyway: no bending over.

However I see a bullet to dodge right here, too. I can’t stop working towards. It might be a nasty mistake to imagine the conduct is “mounted” ceaselessly. I’m going to proceed engaged on the “quiet entrance toes” conduct within the many contexts, together with transferring it to a “transportable” flat goal. I’ve different conditions with the necessity for quiet toes.

If his new conduct stays regular within the harness scenario, this can be my final submit on the subject. If I’ve misjudged and we get busy toes once more, I’ll report our subsequent steps.

I may create a shorter and fewer technical model of this submit for canine guardians who usually are not within the idea half, however may gain advantage from the gradual adjustments outlined. I do know this submit is terribly lengthy!

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Copyright 2023 Eileen Anderson

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