30 May Mishka – Creating a Positive Outlook
Mishka, our newest pack member, came from an unfortunately impoverished environment. Locked outside in a bare yard in virtual social isolation for 18 months, she dragged her blanket to the backdoor sleeping in the snow even in the depths of winter in the hope of being let inside… In this case although there was apparently no forceful training, the absence of social contact and an impoverished environment has left her in a poor state of welfare – sometimes it is the absence of everything that is just as damaging. Punishment doesn’t always have to be overt or physical.
Her previous learning about life, or ‘learning set’ as behavioural scientists call it (one of the stage II concepts you will learn about), has been founded on negative beliefs. She had learnt that life wasn’t fantastic, so the platform for her future learning was dramatically skewed. Learning sets are subject to win-stay and lose-shift strategies – ‘If it’s good you stay with it and if it’s bad you switch to find something better’. Unfortunately Mishka had little opportunity to exercise choice in her old environment ( an indicator of poor welfare – Stage I), but here at the NAC she’s developing many ‘win-stays’ as we set her up to succeed according to the NAC Behaviour triangle (meeting her needs … Stage I). She has the company of other dogs for safety and play, people who interact with her (and reward through treats), plenty of things to do, see and explore, the ability to walk into or out of buildings as she pleases. This is the opposite of the impoverished environment where choices were severely limited. And the results have been remarkable …
This kind of rehabilitation through positive experiences is working wonders for her. In the 4 months she’s put on weight, grown, she’s now moulting all of her dead fur. Nanuq and the other’s have taught her the appropriate way to play and interact with other dogs. She’s learnt it’s fantastic to sleep in the day and often comes to the Office and sleeps under Ross’s desk. The most fantastic thing happened for Mishka this morning, she developed a new game!
The ‘sock game’ literally involves retrieving a sock. But for her it was a light-bulb moment (Stage II – Insight learning). She retrieved the sock and gave it to Ross repeatedly even without food reinforcement – purely for the enjoyment of the process. For her to feel safe enough to initiate object play (Stage I) is a credit to her ability to make the most of the opportunities we’ve given her. The game is predatory in nature (hunting) and therefore not ideal but it is more important that she has a positive outlook on life, and develop the positive based learning set which will make future training simple.
This is why learning sets are key to behaviour modification; training was too much for her cope when she first arrived so our priority was to change her outlook on life. She’s now on track for a healthy and stable future.
These are just some of the amazing things you will learn on the Behaviour Qualification, take a look at our prospectus for more information or call 01267 236434.