“Animal Training My Way”—the “Abrantes Belly-Button Routine”

“The Belly-Button Routine” got its name from the fact that Roger Abrantes keeps his right hand holding the lead right in front of his belly-button. The only movement he makes with it it’s down and up, respectively when he stops and when he resumes walking after a stop. Be aware of where your right hand holding the lead is. We don’t want you or the dog to jerk it.

Notice how Professor Abranteswalks slowly forward and back, keeping a steady rhythm and changing direction very clearly, giving the dog a fair opportunity to follow him. Sometimes, he stops, and the dog must stop as well. Depending on what he ask it to do, it may sit, stand or down.

He calls this drill the kata* of dog training. Once you can do that to perfection, varying the form of the signals between hand, sound, body, and facial, you can teach your dog all you want, and a dog can learn.

Pay particular attention to:

1 – The few signals Abrantes uses.
2 – No repetitions of signals and no yelling.
3 – The consistency in the form of the signals. They are the same, every time, independently of whether he uses a sound, a hand or a body signal.
4 – The consistent and regular use of the semi-conditioned positive sound reinforcer: He says ‘dygtig.’** In SMAF: “!±sound”(dygtig). (You may have to turn your sound up to hear some of them because he whispers them).
5 – The immediate use of the inhibitor ‘ah’ when the dog shows an undesired behavior. In SMAF: [!-sound](ah).
6 – The eye contact he maintains with the dog when he asks it to do something.
7 – The few treats he uses (compared to the majority of trainers). He uses them strategically to reinforce some behaviors on specific circumstances.
8 – The contact he establishes with the dog during the performance of the drill.

To learn more about creating an effective communication and a sound relationship with your, please see our course Ethology and Behaviorism.

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* Kata (型 or 形 literally: ‘form’) is Japanese and designates the detailed choreographed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs. Many traditional Japanese arts use kata, such as theatre forms like kabuki, and schools of tea ceremony (chadō), but are most commonly known for their use in the martial arts.

** “Dygtig” [ˈdøgdi] is a Danish word and means “clever.” It is, apparently, a good sound as a reinforcer, Abrantes discovered many years ago.   speaker-1

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Mission Interspecies Contact—Creating a Relationship

Dogs react much better to our body language than to sound signals. We talk too much!

If you look at your dog all the time while you’re walking, you are assuming full responsibility for who follows whom. The dog will pull the lead, then—and rightly so, because it is your duty to follow, not your dogs. Yes, it is a lead, not a leash. You use it to lead the dog, not to leash it. Allowing the lead getting tight sometimes, does not equal to being a cruel dog owner. It amounts to allowing your dog to solve a problem for which it has more than enough intelligence to do.

One thing is your dog pulling the lead and feeling uncomfortable by doing it. A completely different matter is you pulling the lead. The former teaches the dog to keep an eye on you to avoid discomfort. The latter only teaches the dog that you are an unpredictable person one cannot trust.

In the movie, did you notice how the simple and clear body signals and facial expressions, and moving rhythmically, appear to perform miracles?

To improve your communication and relationship with your dog, please see our course Ethology and Behaviorism.

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Training Dog to Find and Bring Cellphone to Owner

This video shows a bit of our training of a dog to find and bring the cellphone to the owner. We did it stepwise as you will see. The task is more complex than it may appear at first because it involves two different aspects. (1) to find the cell phone, to which we applied our proven scent detection procedures. (2) to bring it to the owner, which was ultimately a question of teaching the dog to retrieve.
We started with the latter because we wanted to be in a position to reinforce every time the dog found the cell phone. Then, the dog would handle it correctly as we taught then, i.e. would pick it up carefully and would bring it to the owner.
Otherwise, we could easily create undesirable behavior by reinforcing the dog finding the phone but handling it incorrectly. Beware of undesirable habits that you will have to extinguish later (in this case, for example, biting the phone, dropping it, playing with it). In other words, the retrieving behavior had to show satisfactory and reliable results before we could start with the searching part of the task. Equally, in scent detection, we want the indication behavior to be reliable before we embark on the scent discrimination proper.

We did it in three days with approximately four hours of efficient work each day. We planned the whole operation to the last detail before we started.

If you’d like to know more about planning training and creating a POA (Plan of Action), please look at our course The 20 Principles All Animal Trainers Must Know.

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Dog Training: Chuck Berry And Frisbee Fun


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Manuel Castañeda, our late graduate and tutor, who passed away in 2018, shows here the Combi-4 skill at a distance, where Chuck Berry, the dog, responds to four signals, sit, stand, down, and free. After that, they have some frisbee fun. However, notice that there is an educational aspect in the frisbee fun: the dog has to drop the frisbee near a particular cone on the ground.

There is always an educational side to any game. In nature, young animals learn essential skills and features of life through various play activities.

To learn more about training and behavior, see our course Ethology and Behaviorism.

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The Importance of Body Language by Roger Abrantes

In this video, Roger Abrantes demonstrates the importance of a crystal clear, friendly, and self-confident body language. Our self-confidence affects our communication. The video shows the use of our knowledge of ethology at its best. We interact with the animals in ways, which are easy for them to understand and to respond appropriately.

Be prepared to work on yourself. Everything you do, matters. The way you do it, matters. The more you practice, the more subtle your signals will become. How you feel, and your level of self-confidence have a dramatic effect on the result. It’s all a question of attitude. Take your time. Think, relax and enjoy.

To learn more and get inspired, go to our course Ethology and Behaviorism based on the book “Animal Training My Way—The Merging of Ethology and Behaviorism” by Roger Abrantes.

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Canine Scent Detection in Doglando

This video shows the final double-blind test in canine scent detection. It all looks very easy, and it is—when we know what to do and do it correctly.

To learn more about the innovative and unique scent detection training method created by Roger Abrantes, go to our course Canine Scent Detection.

Roger Abrantes trained scent detection for law enforcement canine units in Europe and in the USA, landmine-detecting rats for Apopo in Africa, SAR canine teams for the Alpine Rescue Team in Switzerland, and Guinea pigs for civilian use.

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Puppy on a Lead

In this video, Roger Abrantes shows his ‘kata’ for puppies. He walks forth and back teaching the puppy to follow, to stop when he stops, to sit, and to ‘down,’

Notice the ‘lead on the floor’ detail, stopping all movement and inducing the puppy to stop; eye contact; the correct timing of reinforcers; clear body language.

It’s all very straightforward when you apply the correct science to your training, a combination of Ethology and Behaviorism. To learn more, see our courses Ethology and Behaviorism and All About Puppies.

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Body Language with Insecure Dog

Our body language affects the effectiveness of our communication with our animals, as we have seen multiple times.
In this video, we look closer at the importance of our body language when dealing with a dog demonstrating insecurity, on the verge of impeding it of interacting with others.
We’ll need to use all our knowledge of ethology, interacting with the dog in ways, which are easy for it to understand, and, therefore, show appropriate responses.
Notice, that the differences between working with a dog with an average degree of self-confidence and an insecure dog are minor.
Often, we increase the level of insecurity of the dog precisely because we treat it as such. We help too much. The animal never gets a chance to solve the problems by itself and learn. Wrong behavior is still wrong behavior. What we must do is to increase the difficulty of what we ask the dog to do more gradually, in small steps.
At one time, we’ll have to “force” an error to teach the dog to cope with that as well, without showing strong emotional responses.
As always, be prepared to work on yourself. Everything you do matters. The way you do it, matters. The more you practice, the more subtle your signals will become. How you feel, and your level of self-confidence have a dramatic effect on the result. It’s all a question of attitude. Take your time.

To learn more, please go to our course Ethology and Behaviorism.

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"Body Language with Insecure Dog" Video Quiz

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The Dog’s Color Vision and What It Means for Our Training

Do dogs see colors? Does that affect our dog training in any way? These are the questions I will answer today.

In the early 1980s, we performed some tests at the Ethology Institute Cambridge to determine whether dogs were colorblind as the popular view says. The conclusion of our experiments was that they could distinguish between some colors and could not discriminate certain other colors. They are not completely color blind (seeing only shades of gray). They were more like some people who see colors though not the full spectrum. However, we could not determine, at the time, whether the color discrimination of the dogs was due to differentiating between real colors or various shades of gray. Meanwhile, more modern research has cast some light on these questions.

Eyes contain light catching cells (cones) that respond to color. Canines have fewer cones than humans, which implies that, in principle, their color vision cannot be as good as ours. To see colors, we need various types of cones, which can detect different wavelengths of light. We have three types of cones, which gives us the possibility to register what we call the whole range of color vision.

Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara tested in the late 1980s the color vision of dogs. Their studies confirm that dogs see color, though not as well differentiated as humans do. For us, the rainbow looks violet, blue, blue-green, green, yellow, orange and red. For a dog, we presume it looks dark blue, light blue, gray, light yellow, darker yellow, and very dark gray. They seem to see violet as blue (like many humans).

DogColors5

Studies performed by Russian scientists demonstrated that dogs tend to discriminate real color rather than brightness cues. Dogs have a dichromatic color vision, which means that they have two types of cones in their eyes. They match any color they register with no more than two pure spectral lights. Placental mammals are in general dichromatic. The ability to see long wavelengths necessary to distinguish red from green seems to have disappeared during evolution, probably after the Triassic period. Dichromatic vision is, though, good to distinguish colors in dim light, favoring the most nocturnal animals.

Trichromats, like most humans, have three color-detecting cones (blue, green and red) and can distinguish between 100 different gradations of color. Honeybees are also trichromatic seeing ultraviolet, blue and green instead of blue, green and red.

Human = A and C. Dog = B and D. It is difficult for the dog to discriminate between red and green.

The term color blind is, therefore, somehow misleading. Some animals developed the ability to see some colors and others to see other colors all depending on what mutations appeared and the subsequent costs and benefits each strategy implied for their struggle for survival.

What does this mean for our communication and training of our dogs? Since dogs find it difficult to distinguish between certain reds and greens (like some humans do), we should choose toys and training aids in other colors. For example, light blue or yellow are much easier colors for a dog to detect. On the other side, when training them in any scent detection discipline, we should use colors for the targets that are difficult for them to see so to compel them to use their noses and not their eyes.

References

Kasparson, A. et al. 2013. Colour cues proved to be more informative for dogs than brightness. Proceedings of the Royal Society.
Neitz, J. et al. 1989. Color Vision in the Dog. In Visual Neuroscience, 3, 119-125. Cambridge University Press.

Featured image: When training dogs in any scent detection discipline, we should use colors that are difficult for them to see so to compel them to use their noses (and not their eyes) to find the target (picture from Joy of Living).

Are You Bonding Properly with Your Dog?

GuineaPigAndDogMarkTaylor

Guinea pig camp starting tomorrow, Michael and Natalie of Ready, Sit, Go are busy with the last preparations, but there’s always time for a nice dinner and a couple of hours around the pool table. Fantasia on San Fernando in Burbank is my favorite pool hall and sports bar in the area. It has a relaxed atmosphere, a diversity of clients, good Brunswick 9-foot tables and Guinness on draught.

Pool is a great game. It requires technique, strategy, mind, skill, and it is a social activity. You play, talk, crack a joke or pick up a serious topic, and you have a good time with your mates (= buddies in the US).

Thinking about my blog for today, I asked Michael, “What should I write about?”

“Bonding,” he answered, “bonding in dogs”—and so bonding it is.

Bonding in animal behavior is a biological process in which individuals of the same or different species develop a connection. The function of bonding is to facilitate co-operation.

Cat and rabbit (photo by Mark Taylor).

Parents and offspring develop strong bonds so that the former take care of the latter and the latter accept the teachings of the former. This serves both parties best. As a result of filial bonding, offspring and parents or foster parents develop an attachment. This attachment ceases to be important once the juvenile reaches adulthood, but may have long-term effects upon subsequent social behavior. Among domestic dogs, for example, there is a sensitive period from the third to the tenth week of age, during which normal contacts develop. If a puppy grows up in isolation beyond about fourteen weeks of age, it will not develop normal relationships.

Males and females of social species develop strong bonds during courtship motivating them to care for their progeny, so they increase their chances of the survival of 50% of their genes.

Social animals develop bonds by living together and having to fend for their survival day after day. Grooming, playing, mutual feeding, all have a relevant role in bonding. Intense experiences do too. Between adults, surviving moments of danger together seems to be strongly bonding.

Rabbit and kitten (photo by Mark Taylor).

Bonding behavior like grooming and feeding seems to release neurotransmitters (e.g., oxytocin), which lowers innate defensiveness, increasing the chances of bonding.

We often mention bonding together with imprinting. Even though imprinting is bonding, not all bonding is imprinting. Imprinting describes any kind of phase-sensitive learning (learning occurring at a particular age or a particular life stage) that is rapid and apparently independent of the consequences of behavior. Some animals appear to be preprogrammed to learn about certain aspects of the environment during particular sensitive phases of their development. The learning is pre-programmed in the sense that it will occur without any obvious reinforcement or punishment.

Our dogs in our domestic environments develop bonds in various ways. Grooming, resting with each other, barking together, playing and chasing intruders are strong bonding behaviors. Their bonding behavior is by no means restricted to individuals of their own species. They bond with the family cat as well and with us, humans.

Bonding is a natural process that will inevitably happen when individuals share responsibilities. Looking into one another’s eyes is only bonding for a while, but surviving together may be bonding for lifetime—and this applies to all social animals, dogs and humans included.

We develop stronger bonds with our dogs by doing things together rather than by just sitting and petting them. These days, we are so afraid of anything remotely connected with stress that we forget the strongest bonds ever originate under times of intense experiences. A little stress doesn’t harm anyone, quite the contrary. I see it every time I train canine scent detection. The easier it is, the quickest it will be forgotten. A tough nut to crack, on the other hand, is an everlasting memory binding the parties to one another.

I even suspect one of the reasons we have so many divorces these days is that we want everything to be easy and oh so pleasant that in the end, there’s nothing holding the two together—but that’s another story for maybe another time. Meanwhile, ponder and enjoy the photos from the great animal photographer Mark Taylor.

Guinea pig camp tomorrow—time to bond with these loving little creatures.

Featured image: Guinea Pig and Dog (photo by Mark Taylor).