WE PLANT THE "SEEDS OF IDEAS" IN DOG OWNERS MINDS - THESE IDEAS EVENTUALLY BLOSSOM INTO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF DOG BEHAVIOUR - Sally Hopkins
WE PLANT THE "SEEDS OF IDEAS" IN DOG OWNERS MINDS - THESE IDEAS EVENTUALLY BLOSSOM INTO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF DOG BEHAVIOUR - Sally Hopkins

SEEING A SQUIRREL

Here is an example of the Memory flow chart.

A young dog is being taken on its usual walk in a local park. It is sniffing the ground "reading the newspaper" (which in itself is a series of Events that the dog is also assessing) when suddenly -

 

A squirrel runs across the ground and climbs up a nearby tree. The dog has never seen a squirrel before.

 

(Note - "&/OR" means that the dog may use one - or any combination - of it's senses when detecting an event)
 
   

SIGHT - Dogs have difficulty seeing stationary objects but the squirrel's sudden movement triggers the movement sensors in the dog's eyes.

&/
OR

SOUND - The dog hears the rustling of the autumn leaves as the squirrel runs through them.



 

&/
OR

SOUND - The dog hears the high pitched chirp of an alarm call - either from the squirrel itself, or from another keeping watch nearby.

&/
OR

SMELL - If the wind is blowing in the right direction (from the squirrel towards the dog) the dog will detect the squirrel's scent and investigate.
 

&/
OR

SMELL - The dog detects the squirrel's track while "reading the newspaper" on its walk through the park.


 

 

BRAIN ASSESSES EVENT
Because this is the first time the young dog has come across the existence of a
squirrel so there are no environmental photos stored in its memory to trigger a behaviour. Therefore, the dog's brain has to assess whether the event is rewarding, threatening or irrelevant.

 

WILL HELP THE
DOG'S SURVIVAL

It is bored with the handler and the environment that it lives and walks in. The dog's brain is crying out for excitement and stimulation. Therefore it eagerly draws on its natural hunting instincts to fill this void in its life and runs after the squirrel.
 
EVERYDAY
OCCURRENCE

Because its handler regularly provides mental and physical stimulation to fulfill its working instincts (eg Dog Games or Mind Games) the dog regards the squirrels as inconsequential.

 
 
THREATENING
DOG'S SAFETY

The handler is anxious about the dog running off and getting lost. He shouts frantically at the dog to come away from the squirrel (which confuses and stresses the dog as it picks up the handler's anxiety). The dog's brain assess the event as being threatening.
                 
VERY
REWARDING

It almost catches the squirrel before it escapes up the tree. The dog found the thrill of the chase far more exciting than walking with its boring and predictable handler!
 
PLEASANT
It begins to chase after the squirrel but soon realises that it has no chance of catching it - the squirrel was far faster than the dog and would never have been caught .
 
 
NOT
IMPORTANT
 
UNPLEASANT
It feels confused and anxious about what has just happened. Why did the handler shout at it? What did it do wrong?



 
 
VERY
UNPLEASANT

It runs after the squirrel and gets lost. It panics at losing its "pack" and runs off in the wrong direction. It may meet other dogs that sense it's anxiety and become aggressive towards it.
 
     
 
     
 
SHORT-TERM
MEMORY
SHORT-TERM
MEMORY
           
REINFORCED
It sees and chases
another squirrel within a
few days of this first
encounter. It almost
manages to catch it this
time. It begins to enjoy
the great rush of
adrenalin chasing the
prey.
REINFORCED
Each time the dog
senses a squirrel the
handler becomes
anxious and passes on
their stress to the dog. It
begins to anxiously
anticipate the handler's
displeasure when it sees
squirrels.
   
 
Either FORGOTTEN
or it becomes a
 
     
THE EVENT HAPPENS AGAIN IN THE FUTURE.
         
THE DOG'S BRAIN MATCHES THE SENSES IT DETECTS IN THE
ENVIRONMENT WITH THAT OF THE "SQUIRREL PHOTO"
IN ITS LONG-TERM MEMORY
         
TRIGGERS
DOG TO RUN AFTER
SQUIRREL
TRIGGERS
DOG TO IGNORE
SQUIRREL
TRIGGERS
DOG TO BECOME
STRESSED
The randomness of whether
the dog can actually catch the
squirrel is a very strong
incentive for the dog. It begins
to actively seek out other
squirrels and small animals to
chase after each time it goes
our for a walk, irrespective of
whether it is on the lead or not.
This is because the
environmental photo
stored in it's long-term
memory tells the dog that
they are uninteresting and
are not worth wasting
energy on by trying to
chase them.
The dog has built up strong
negative associations with
squirrels and the environment
where they may live. It will
gradually begin to generalise
that walking near the handler is
stressful - it does not know
when the handler will become
anxious and raise their voice.

© 2004 Copyright of Sally Hopkins - www.dog-games.co.uk

 

As you can see from the flow chart, whatever sights, sounds or smells that the dog used to detect the squirrel will be stored as an environmental photo in the young dog's long-term memory. If the dog ever senses this "photo" again in the same or similar environment it's brain will trigger it to do the same behaviour again.

 

This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).

 

Dog-Games Copyright 2004 - 2015 All Rights Reserved