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Aug 092011
Bullseye View

My Bullseye View comes from detailed and objective observation of behavior and the accurate determination of cause and effect, or rather, stimulus and response. When I see something occur, I believe it occurred for a reason, always. If it was not as expected I wonder and try to determine why. If things repeatedly re-occur that way, then I am sure.

Then as I see obvious patterns in behavior, I can do two things. One is to rewind the video of what I just saw occur, as accurately as possible. This is a visual skill as a result of constant practice. I am not speaking of using a video camera, although one certainly could and I do recommend it where possible.  Everyone may possess this capability in some way, but may not necessarily be that good at it for a number of reasons which includes the lack of use.

The second thing I do is watch the whole behavior sequence again and again, either through setting it up intentionally, as I might in a training session.  Or if it is a naturally occurring situation, I watch it again under circumstances I expect it to occur and am prepared for it to occur.  Through knowing what I am looking for (my memory of previous behavior has given me this information), I can observe it occur closely from an earlier point in the sequence and preferably before the stimulus, or cause of the resulting behavior sequence occurs.  Being able to see the exact stimulus that causes a behavior and the exact instant behavior begins to change allows you to begin to understand how it occurs and what makes it worse and what makes it better.  You begin to see it occur earlier in the sequence of behaviors and are able to interject and modify behavior before the stimulus occurs, and therefore modifying the response that results.

As I repeat this in training I would be adding additional factors like excitement and motion to see how they impact the resulting behavior sequence and the goal in training is to keep it as close to a desired sequence of behaviors as possible (or a precise complex behavior too).If you add to much motion, or too much excitement, new and undesired behavior might appear, but you can see the cause, because  you just added it and it was not here previously, so you can adjust and repeat it an prevent the undesired behavior. If you added excitement, or speed, or distance and got what you wanted, great.  But if it became something you did not want, you can see that what you added caused the resulting undesired behavior.  That allows you to adjust your behavior and the situation  again so your dog can be successful and achieve  the desired behavior as a result of a particular stimulus or event.

In the real world while walking, playing, working, etc; this would mean to include other things into the performance of complex behavior to precisely shape it into what you want it to be such as getting closer to the cause of the behavior (eg. a strange thing in a yard, or maybe  dog behind a fence), for example  in order to add excitement., or a little controlled stress while you help your dog stay calm and controlled.  Each time a sequence of behavior is repeated, there are changes and you need to be watching closely each time to see if you are closer to the behavior you want, or not. I f you can see the cause of behavior vary AND the result of behavior vary as a result, you can understand how and why the behavior occurs.

If you are not closer to the desired behavior, assume something in the sequence altered the outcome negatively. Determine what that was by cycling through repetitions and vary the changes in conditions carefully (controlled environment).  You will be able to see the cause of the failure or change in performance as the pattern emerges, adjust your behavior,  train it precisely and achieve a more desired result .

Modifying behavior successfully to be more appropriate, or desired behavior as opposed to undesired behavior requires you to watch your dog and observe what they do on a regular basis and under normal conditions.  When their behavior varies to stressed, or anxious, or maybe excited, you can see the cause of that anxiety , or stress clearly and that allows you to do something and act upon what you see.  No excuses, no incorrect assumptions.  When you have more experience, you will begin to be able to trust what you see and you will see things before they become a problem.

Richard Ford




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