Thursday, August 20, 2015

Monkey Minds Up the Leash

The Buddhist term “Monkey Mind”
stems from the observation that left untamed, our minds' natural state can tend toward being unsettled, restless, indecisive and uncontrollable.

Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, carrying on endlessly. We all have monkey minds, Buddha said, with dozens of monkeys all clamoring for attention. Fear is an especially loud monkey, sounding the alarm incessantly, pointing out all the things we should be wary of and everything that could go wrong.

A few months ago, in a post entitled Attention Deficit Disorder at Both Ends of the Leash, I wrote:
The predator brain is constantly on the alert for clues and stimulus; the sound of a can opener, the click of a door, the scent of perfume, the rattle of a cup, the swish of a skirt, the greasy smell of a hamburger, the chime of an elevator.

As a consequence, both people and dogs seems to have epic levels of Attention Deficit Disorder.

What happens when the ADD mind of a dog meets the ADD mind of a human?

Often a great deal of misery!

When distracted people interact with distracted dogs, the result is inconsistent and poorly timed feedback. Connections, if made, are poorly reinforced. Frustration grows. Both sides get bored and begin to question the intelligence of the other.
So what's the cure? There is no cure, but there are tools that can help us tame our Monkey Mind when dog training. Oddly the two things that seem to work best are little handheld clickers.

When a trainer has a clicker in hand, and is focused on getting the noise timed exactly right, is the trainer flailing around with his or her hands?


Is he or she talking?


In fact, they are not supposed to be moving at all.

And in clicker training, it is the clicker that does the talking, not the human.

Is the clicker assertive? You bet!

The clicker sends just ONE clear signal -- a signal that says "we could use a little more of that."

So what's the difference between the proper use of a clicker and an e-collar tap?

Not much, other than the obvious --- one device is generally saying "give me a little more of that," and the other device is generally saying "give me a little less of that," or perhaps "pay attention."

Either way, the most important thing going on may be up the leash where the dog trainer's Monkey Mind is now focused, paying attention, and sending just one clear, well-timed signal to the dog.


Donald McCaig said...

The trouble with both clickers and ecollars is their impersonality. These devices conceal human intentions (and misintentions)as if the instruction is coming from the world. This is a lie and generally one ought not lie to your dog. If, every time it chases game its shocked, the lesson is "Game may shock me." If, in a moment of all-too-human anger it's seriously shocked and that shock isn't perfectly appropriate and perfectly timed, it may learn a lesson yu=ou never intended. They aren't used for sheepdog training. = If a dog is too tight on its outrun (for instance) I don't mind letting it know I'm displeased with a shout (if I'm wrong, the dog gets over its puzzlement and thinks, "That's just old Donald, screwing up again." If I shock it imperfectly, what might it mean?

Dog thinks: I got shocked, just as I was passing sagebrush: sage brush shocks, avoid sagebrush.

or: Can't run into a shadow shaped like a spider. shadow shocks, avoid certain shaped shadows.

I've seen sheepdogs ruined by shock collars and any number of confused dogs who've essentially given up on training because of inept, persistent, kindly-meant clicking.

I'm not utterly opposed to clickers or shock collars and have used both myself, but neither is a panacea nor can either be used effectively in the absence of dog savvy, timing and experience.

Donald McCaig

PBurns said...

Superstitions occur when things are accidentally or unintentionally reinforced, and generally when they are over-reinforced and when the ecollar is used only episodically. The trick I find is to use very low stim sooner. Do less sooner rather than more later, and use the collar for more than busting and serious correction. Superstitions occur with humans too, but generally when serious consequences come from rare events. Timing is no small matter either. You have to make sure you are reinforcing what you think you are reinforcing. That's not always as clear as it sounds.

Karen Carroll said...

I use both my voice and clicker (I click with my voice). to get my dog's attention. I also use it for the hawks. It stops the endless talking we humans do which is often too much for the dog. Commands are short, (Kennel up), In the house. Potty, Go for a walk, sit, lie down, etc.