A Conversation for Understanding Your Dog
Barkclad Started conversation Jul 19, 2007
Thanks for an interesting, informative and well written entry - I enjoyed reading it. However, there are 2 points I need to further understand.
Firstly you talk about dogs having no concept of the past, but go on to say that dogs wag their tail upon your arrival home because in the past you shouted at him/her when you returned home. If dogs can associate current events (you arriving home) with past events (you shouting at them) then surely they must have a concept of the past? My second point is that I often return home to find my dog already acting very submissively, only to later discover the mess she has made. She's an intelligent dog and I believe that she understands the consequences of what we have taught her is bad behaviour. It's almost as if she's saying "Ummm... you might wanna go and check the bin before you stroke me, I've been a bit naughty today"
Anyway, maybe I'm misinterpreting or not reading between the lines!
Thanks again for a great entry
Mina Posted Jul 19, 2007
I should have explained myself more clearly when I wrote this. Dogs learn incredibly quickly, so they learn that when an owner comes home they sometimes get shouted at. This isn't memory, it's a learned association between being in the house alone, the contents of the bin on the floor and the owner suddenly coming home, with the shouting behaviour that they don't understand is about the mess. Try putting the contents of the bin on the floor before you go out, and see if you get the same reaction. You'll know it wasn't her that did it, but you should still see the same reaction.
I should go back and correct it, but at the time I wrote this, I wasn't sure how to explain it. Someone asked me the same question in real life and I ummed and ahhed for ages before I realised that I should phrase it as 'learning isn't memory'. I'm not too up on what happens in the brain, so it took me some time to work it out.
Your dog really doesn't understand that what she did while you weren't there is what you are cross about. She'd only understand that if you caught her in the act. One of my dogs had trouble realising he should hold on to his bladder and bowels overnight, and nothing I tried worked, feeding earlier, exercising later, etc - then I slept downstairs one night (for a separate reason) and heard him piddling. I told him off (very sleepily shouted 'no') and he hasn't done it since. Still poops on occasion though.
My other dog raids the bin while I'm out sometimes, and she never looks 'guilty' when I come home, even though I'm sure she knows she shouldn't do it because she never does it when I'm home. I don't tell them off unless I catch them though, cos she just won't associate it with something she might have done a couple of hours ago, so she has no reason to try to appease me.
coelacanth Posted Jul 19, 2007
>>"... I'm not too up on what happens in the brain.."
Well, I'm not too up on what happens with dogs, but I can explain psychological therories on learning.
According to different behaviourists (who believe in a "blank slate" at birth, ie *everything* is learned and only reflexes are innate) there are 3 kinds of learning:
1) Learning by association (Pavlov's dogs)
2) Learning by reinforcement (Skinner)
3) Learning by observation and imitation (social learning theory)
And then there's cats. (Eddie Izzard)
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