- The role and possible uses of animal learning in canine be...
The role and possible uses of animal learning in canine behaviour rehabilitation
The first step to help rehabilitate canines from certain
behaviours (i.e. 'behavioural disorders') is a good and accurate
diagnosis. Analysis of the source of the problem behaviour, the
dog's driving force to behave as such and specific contextual
signals in which the problematic behaviour occurs is the second
stage of rehabilitating canines. The comprehension of two specific
areas is especially essential in understanding the rehabilitation
process. One area is "equine ethology". This refers to the 'innate'
behavioural repertoire of a dog, where the dog's driving forces are
determined by the evolutionary history of dogs. The second specific
area is "learning theory" which refers to all the variety of
learning occurrences which each individual dog has experienced that
has moulded its behavioural response to the environment from the
early stages of its life.
As each dog would invariably differ one from the other in
learning opportunity and ability, "problem" behaviours have to
usually be approached individually based on historical and
observational analysis of a dog on a case-by-case basis. Examples
of "problem" behaviours that usually need correcting can range from
submissive urination to dangerous aggression, from destructiveness
to disobedience, from too active and playful to ignoring the owner
Extinction in Classical conditioning refers to the reduction of
a conditioned response when a conditioned stimulus repeatedly
occurs without the existence of the unconditioned stimulus it used
to be paired with. In Operant conditioning however, extinction
refers to the actual decline of an operant response when it is no
longer reinforced in the presence of its discriminative stimulus.
In order for an extinction programme to effectively work, it must
be done religiously. Extinction is considered successful when
responding in the presence of an extinction stimulus is zero. When
the particular behaviour reappears again after it has gone through
extinction, it is considered spontaneous recovery. Extinction
programmes are especially useful in getting rid of certain
"problem" behaviours from canines.
Prescription of fixed rehabilitation methods for canines with
behaviours that are undesirable is not possible. This is because
each dog has different individual learning experiences which have
to be further linked to the general behavioural responses that are
expected to occur in response to a particular environmental change
in order to understand what any why a response takes place. An
accurate assessment of the factors contributing to each problem is
necessary before an effective treatment plan can be developed.