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Is Your Body Language Helping or Confusing Your Animal?

By Jennifer Cattet Ph.D. To read this article, please click here.

A recent study confirms that in dogs, body language indicating a relaxed, interested and content state of mind during training correlated with better training results.

This article is selected and posted by our Tutor Team. Jennifer Cattet, the author, is not a tutor at Ethology Institute.

 

Jennifer Cattet, Ph.D., has been training dogs professionally since 1984. Her career as a dog trainer started with traditional training techniques, which were the only methods available at the time. Frustrated and concerned with the effects such methods had on some of the dogs and on their relationship with their owners, she went back to college and studied Psychology and Ethology (animal behavior) at the University of Geneva, Switzerland (she spent most of her early years in France). After her bachelor’s degree, she worked as the Assistant Professor in the Ethology Department and completed her studies with a doctorate on spatial navigation in dogs.

Jennifer Cattet (Body Language)

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The Importance of Self-Confidence in Animal Training

The importance of self-confidence in animal training is much greater than you might think. All animals, including dogs, react much better to our body language than to sound signals.

If you behave self-confidently—not arrogantly or aggressively— your dog will look at you, listen to you, and follow you more readily. We have seen that numerous times in classes and workshops.

In the movie, did you notice how a simple change in the way the owner gives the signals makes the whole difference? The signals, before and after, are roughly the same. The only difference is the self-confidence with which the owner gives them.

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

Read also the article “The Importance of Confidence in Animal Training” by Roger Abrantes.

Quiz (for students wishing to earn study credits)

"The Importance of Self-Confidence in Animal Training" video quiz

You have five minutes to complete this quiz.

 

“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

Quiz (for students wishing to earn study credits)

“The Abrantes Belly-Button Routine” Video Quiz

You have five minutes to complete this quiz.

 

Mission Interspecies Contact—Creating a Relationship

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

It all depends on your body language, not what you say. 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.

Your body language is crucial. 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.

Quiz (for students wishing to earn study credits)

"Mission Interspecies Contact—Creating a Relationship" Video Quiz

You have five minutes to complete this quiz.

 

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.

Quiz (for students wishing to earn study credits)

"Training Dog to Find and Bring Cellphone to Owner" Video Quiz

You have five minutes to complete this quiz.

 

Dog Training: Chuck Berry And Frisbee Fun


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Videos
Dog Training

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.

Quiz (for students wishing to earn study credits)

"Dog Training: Chuck Berry And Frisbee Fun" Video Quiz

You have five minutes to complete this quiz.

 

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.

Quiz (for students wishing to earn study credits)

"The Importance of Body Language by Roger Abrantes" Video Quiz

You have five minutes to complete this quiz.

 

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.

Quiz (for students wishing to earn study credits)

"Canine Scent Detection in Doglando" Video Quiz

You have five minutes to complete this quiz.

 

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.

Quiz (for students wishing to earn study credits)

"Puppy on a Lead" Video Quiz

You have five minutes to complete this quiz.

 

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.

Quiz (for students wishing to earn study credits)

"Body Language with Insecure Dog" Video Quiz

You have five minutes to complete this quiz.