Well, yesterday was a bit of a recovery day after four days at Woof!2019 – the National Animal Behaviour Conference in Nottingham.
Amazing and inspirational – so much knowledge in one room with speakers and delegates there from literally all corners of the globe including Australia and the USA.
I have met and chatted to some wonderful people, including the speakers and made a lot of new friends who are as passionate as I am about what we do.
Chirag Patel organised it and I have to admit he is a bit of a hero of mine, he is so gentle and patient with dogs. I collared him in the corridor one lunch time and asked him for a selfie – omg! probably not one of my best moments but he came over and chatted with us in the bar that night so all was good.
I also got so sit and chat to Dr. Julie Vargas – as someone else said “as close to Skinner as you can get”.
She is a lovely, and very clever, lady and the daughter of B.F. Skinner – which was, for most of us, a little overwhelming to be honest.
I assume that everyone knows who Skinner was and I excitedly rang a couple of my friends – they didn’t have a clue – but I guess if you aren’t ‘into’ behaviour then you may not know. In a nutshell his research into operant conditioning and behaviour is the basis of everything we know today how about human and animal behaviour, like extinction curves, co-operative behaviour, shaping behaviours and so much more.
Wow did that blow my brain chatting with B.F. Skinner’s daughter in the dinner queue.
BF Skinner said
There is no such thing as misbehaviour:
yes, read that again
There is no such thing as misbehaviour:
Dogs don’t misbehave – you get what the contingencies have created.
Or to quote Skinner “the rat is never wrong”
That is so true – dogs don’t intentionally behave badly – how they behave is shaped by everything in their environment and things that have reinforced the behaviour in the past.
So, if your dog does something you don’t like him doing – think about why he does it, because there will be some kind of reinforcement in it for him. Otherwise he wouldn’t do it.
Your dog jumps up at people because it gets him attention.
Your dog nudges your hand when you are watching tv – because when he shoves his soft wet nose under your hand you give him a pet on his head (probably without even noticing that you do it). It works so he continues to do it.
The reinforcer maintains the behaviour
But dogs aren’t perfect and we shouldn’t expect them to be (we most certainly aren’t). Sometimes we have to just think “if its not a problem for me, its not a problem”
So if your dog doesn’t walk perfectly at heel everywhere you go but just potters along next to you not pulling – if thats not a problems for you why stress about it and try and get perfect heelwork because one of your friends told you thats how your dog should walk.
“if its not a problem, its not a problem”
Thats it for now apart from to leave you with one of my favourite quotes from the conference.
“create smile moments”
(Chirag Patel)


  • XMCpl says:

    Fascinating piece, would you be willing to publish extra?

    • kerry says:

      There is much more about separation anxiety in the behaviour section on my main website

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