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Animal Behavoirsm is Kinder than Human Behaviorism
Why I quit my job working with animals.
Recently someone asked about my “former life” working to train animals.
I am someone who is trained in behavior modification in various species, who has trained animals professionally.
I no longer train animals.
I gave up animal training because people want compliant animals that don’t think for themselves. They want you to break the spirit of their animal and that broke my heart.
Behaviorists evaluate behaviors, separating them into two categories:
In a faulty black-and-white way of thinking, Behaviorists divide all behaviors into the categories of "good" or "bad," so "desired behaviors" can be encouraged and "undesired behaviors" can be discouraged (through an individually tailored program of reinforcements and punishments).
Reinforcements and Punishments Used in Modern Human Behaviorism (and outdated in Animal Behaviorism)
Positive Reinforcement is Desired behavior followed by a Treat/Reward = MORE of the desired Behavior.
Negative reinforcement occurs when something unpleasant or uncomfortable is removed to increase a desired behavior (to avoid feelings of discomfort).
With Negative Reinforcement, a person or aminal is exposed to an unpleasant situation or stimulus that is ONLY terminated when "undesired behavior" stops or "desired behavior" starts.
Positive Punishment would be when an Undesired Behavior is followed by a consequence or Punishment in hopes of discouraging the undesired behavior from occurring in the future.
Negative Punishment is when one removes a pleasant stimulus to decrease an undesired behavior.
This can be taking away, withdrawing, or withholding toys, activities, love, and affection when the animal or child misbehaves (this can create a stress response greater than that of someone who's being Negatively Reinforced).
Animal Behavoirsm is Kinder than Human Behavior
These techniques were first developed and tested on animals, then later adapted for humans. Still, in many ways, today's Animal Behaviorism has become kinder and gentler than the behavior modification methods used with humans today.
For years, the Animal Behaviorism Movement has been a movement toward Positive ONLY Training or Positive Reinforcement Training (R+) (that avoids using punishments and aversives altogether) - still far from perfect but moving in a better direction.
Behaviorism in humans typically utilizes ALL of the four types of reinforcements and punishments listed above.
However, many dog and animal trainers no longer use Negative Reinforcements, Postive Punishments, or Negative Punishments in working with animals, only addressing and supporting Positive Behavior.
While I DO think this is a move in the right direction, these methods are still imperfect in that they are dependent on labeling behaviors as "desirable" or "undesirable," "good," and "bad.”
With animals, we also try to understand the cause/need for the underlying “behavior” because we know they often result from unmet needs.
It pains me to see that the treatment of humans is so far behind the treatment of other animals, but it doesn't surprise me.
When you know better, do better.
I don’t use the methods I learned in this book anymore.
I now teach animals how to communicate with us and I do the work to understand how they are communicating in ways that we might miss if we’re not paying attention.
Words are not the only thing you can use to communicate. With animals the way their body moves tells you everything.
We don’t bark orders at our dogs.
I encourage them to communicate their needs to us.
We give them choices and ask them questions and wait for answers and permission to do things like pick them up - or let them in or out.
Compliance biased programs stifle creative thought (regardless of species). They force obedience. They crush. They destroy.
People who work with animals ethically know this.
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