Where Eagles and Herons Watch Dogs (32KB)

Bob Bailey

Pavlov is Always Sitting On Your Shoulder

Post to ClickerSolutions, a Yahoo Group

Copyright © 2001 by Robert E. Bailey
All Rights Reserved

Pavlov sitting on your shoulder

by Bob Bailey

As posted to ClickerSolutions
Slightly edited
Used with permission

Sun, 2 Sep 2001 06:36:27 -0500
Copyright 2001 by Robert E. Bailey.
Thanks to Bob Bailey for permission to post this article.

To: ClickerSolutions@yahoogroups.com
From: "Bob & Marian Bailey" <behavior@hsnp.com>
Date: Sun, 2 Sep 2001 06:36:27 -0500
Subject: [CS] Pavlov sitting on your shoulder

Several have asked privately what I mean by Pavlov is (always) sitting on your shoulder. OK. Here is how I use it in our classes, as well as how I "live it."

No matter where we are in training; no matter where our focus is on "getting" behavior; no matter at what level the sophistication is of the animal:

The animal is a sentient being, with a long history of biological (including behavioral) evolution that has given it built-in emotional states and responses that may, at any time, be elicited by environmental circumstances.

Further, depending on the animal's experience (its antecedents), those emotional responses may be powerful enough to override any operant responses you have conditioned, and even more, those you are in the process of conditioning.

Any time the trainer forgets the animal has fears, anxieties, and other potentially diminshing emotional responses, the trainer is open to a rude awakening.

Such emotional conditions are usually reflected in the animal's expressed behaviors, including rates of various behaviors emitted, body language, vocalization, or the lack of it, etc. The emotional outburst may [even] be violent.

However, seldom does an animal just suddenly go bonkers. Usually, if the trainer is sensitive and experienced, the animal will signal that things are not going well emotionally. Part of our skill at our craft is being able to hear and see what the animal is expressing. If we are so focused on the behavior we are after, and the animal is reacting to something in the environment that is causing distress and we don't see that emotional response, we may find that the subject behavior suddenly (though, not really suddenly; we just failed to notice) deteriorates and the animal may give one or more very untoward responses.

The point here is that Pavlov on your shoulder is an always condition; it never goes away. We may lessen it by various means, but it is never gone, and the trainer must forever be aware of it.

Pavlov on your shoulder is one of the "facts of life" that can humble the best of trainers. For those of us who have worked with large wild animals, our recognition of this has often saved us some physical trauma.

I hope this helps those who asked.

    --Bob Bailey

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