A critical look at “Nothing in Life is Free” Kathy Sdao, MA, ACAAB www.kathysdao.com
A philosophical reflection Philosophy:(Greek; “love” + “wisdom”) all learning exclusive of technical principles & practical arts Every facet of training knowledge deserves consideration: • sciences of learning theory & ethology (= “technical principles”) • mechanical skills for instructors (= “practical arts”) • philosophy (= everything else)
Thesis: NILIF is based on dominance • Vastly better than physical dominance • But still focused on “rank” & teaching dog his place in the hierarchy • We need to lose alpha theory baggage and rediscover affirmation, cooperation & affection • Behavioral advice needs a framework, a story. But NILIF might not be best • We’ll consider alternatives.
Examples of NILIF protocols • Handout from Dumb Friends League http://www.ddfl.org/behavior/nilif.pdf • “Protocol for Deference”in Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals by Karen Overall, VMD, PhD http://www.bpvets.net/PUPPY%20MANNERS.doc
It’s OK to question established truths • Shampoo, rinse, repeat. • Use sunscreen. • Don’t eat fat. • Hierarchical pack structure of dogs • NILIF Obvious? Harmless? Useful? Ubiquitous: 157,000,000 hits on Google
What got me questioning this? • “Soup aggression” incident with my dog Nick • Ethogram on myself • “Earning love” is contrary to my deepest beliefs;withholding love is a problem These created lots of cognitive dissonance for me.
Some problems with NILIF • Do we emphasize control or communication? • Owners fail to keep up strict rules; intermittent R+ • “Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior & Training, Vol. 3: Procedures & Protocols”by Steven Lindsay(p 384) • Shunning dog can be stressful & anxiety-producing • If all you have is a hammer, all problems look like nails • Contradicts counter-conditioning protocols • Creates inadvertent behavior chains
NILIF alternative:“Exchange reinforcers.” “There are two sides to the click: what happens before & what happens after. What happens immediately before the click is a behavior the trainer would like to strengthen. What happens after is an event the animal would like strengthen, such as receiving food. The click unites these two desires.” Alexandra Kurland; www.theclickercenter.com Core info conveyed by behaviorism’s tenets: 1)Reinforce behavior you like. 2) Prevent reinforcement for behavior you don’t like.
Say yes, over & over; find 50 behaviors to reinforce every day My “Top 10”: • touch my fingers with your nose • run to bed (or crate) • move floorward • look at me • walk by my side • maintain current position • “octopus paws” when approached • potty on grass • deliver object to my hand • move backwards
Prevent the worst behaviors. • Physically prevent dangerous/destructive behaviors. Keep the dog out of “deep end of the pool.” • Ignore harmless nuisance behaviors. • bull-scritch with Tucker schnauzer • scavenging for bugs with Sara cocker • stealing toys from other dog • No reinforcement contingent on demanding Timing of “thrills” is essential
Meet dog’s basic needs • safety, good food, water, appropriate temperature • companionship • exercise • play: with humans & dogs Client sanity = dog exercise + training • change of scenery/environmental novelty • mental stimulation/problems to solve or tasks to do • food puzzles/predatory fixes • consistency; affectionate & peaceful interactions
Reserve some reinforcers as earned only For example, with my dogs: • meals • nightly tug-fest for down-stay on bed • “fridge toys”
Expand dog’s behavioral repertoire. • What do they know? • Broaden & deepen • Fill behavioral “slots” with reinforced behaviors
Realistic compromises… …even though absolutes are easier than “gray.” • STILAAF: air, water, sleep, etc. • NILIF for a limited time? • Stagger introduction or shift components of NILIF • NILIF more important for some family members? • Full NILIF appropriate for some dogs? • Full NILIF appropriate for some clients?
If not NILIF, what? • Exchanging reinforcers – fulfilling each others’ needs – rather than “earning privileges.” • The good & worth is in the animal; released by “yes” • Opt for a mentality of affirmation, generosity, creativity and joy rather than a mentality of frustration and stinginess. • A new definition of “balanced training”: = head(logic & science)+ heart(compassion & love)