Signals precision in Animal Training

Animal Training should be a clear and precise interspecies communication. It’s important to respect and understand the species that we are training.

This little article will show how precise and simple signals can be effective with calm and respect with dogs.

First, some basic information.

Canine communication
– Dogs communicate majority by visual signals.
– They show a sophisticated mimics and body language.
– They are excellent observers of our body language.

– Response to a stimulus.
– Influenced by the environment.
– Changed depending of consequences.

– The process to change behaviors.
– Nonassociative Learning.
– Associative Learning (Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning).

– A Signal is everything that intentionally causes a change in the behavior of the receiver.
– A Cue is everything that unintentionally causes a change in the behavior of the receiver.
– A Command is a Signal that causes a change in the behavior of the receiver in a specific way with no variations or only extremely minor variations.

About the signals:
– A Signal has a meaning and a form.
– Good signals are effective .
– Bad signals are ineffective.
– Visual signals are better when the dog is relatively close to us; and sound signals tend to be better when the dog is far away.

In a practical way:
– SMAF – Acronym of Signal Meaning and Form.
– SMAF is a precise scientific training language created by Dr. Roger Abrantes.
– For each teaching skill and in addition to other topics we need a Plan of Action (P.O.A) with the precise signals described.

Standard Skills Example:
To simplify, I’ll write a single line with the Skill to teach => The signal meaning => The signal form.

Name(Skill) => Look at me(Meaning) => Name,sound(Form)

Sit(Skill) => Put your bottom on the ground AND keep it there until you receive another signal(Meaning) => Sit,sound + Sit,hand(Form)

Down(Skill) => Put your belly on the ground AND keep it there until you receive another signal(Meaning) => Down,sound + Down,hand(Form)

Yes(Skill) => Continue(Meaning) => Yes,sound(Form)

No(Skill) => Stop(Meaning) => No,sound(Form)

Sit and Down Skill by a young trainer

Yes-No Skill with a two and half months puppy

The importance of a simple and clear language.

Precision Signals Examples.
SMAF Manual
The 20 Principles All Animal Trainers Must Know
Animal Training — My Way

This article would be published in a book for commercial purposes. But we want to reach out more professionals and families with updated and real information, so the content is being released for free. If you believe in this project, make a voluntary contribution of your choice and we can continue with the free publications. If you are a company and want to take an active part in this project, contact us.

Animal Behavior & Communication Decoding — An introduction

The moments that we have the opportunity to communicate with the animals are magical and should be Respectful. Isn’t often we have the honor to having a clear communication with another species. Having communication, we have everything. Language translates emotional states. So, it is necessary first understand to really observe. They deserve it.

In Humans, it is possible to recognize 44 units of action that are anatomically individualizable and visually distinct, that from their numerous combinations, matrices and possible conjugations, the whole complex game of the face is modeled.

Ekman and Friesen (1978) were the first scientists who have explored the Facial Action Coding System, usually called microexpressions. All this allied to the phylogenetics of behaviors.

In other species, only now some studies and researchs are advanced and its amazing how we can clarify and maybe in the future predict some behaviors.

Animal Behavior & Communication Decoding (ABCD) is a system that I design to use in my animal training sessions, trying to establish a pattern of behaviors that may predict the following behaviors. It same time, the continuous research how the body language of different species can interfering in communication and produce or conditioning some behaviors.

I’m completely sure that with a solid scientific approach in animal behavior and following all latest studies about interspecie communication, it will be possible in a near future to improve the communication, understanding and learning between different species with a precision never imagine before.

Basic Non-verbal communication diagram
Body language communication without sounds.

In 2008, I idealized an animal monitoring collar, allowing it to be used for scientific, sport, operacional and social purposes. Something impossible to do at the time. In 2014 I registered all my project. I tried without success having some support from companies that wanted to deepen this project. Seven years after I see that I was right about the future, and some international universities are engaged in similar projects, but not yet with a total essence of my project. With this collar, and a specific algorithm for this my ABCD system, speeding up for sure the whole process of research that I am doing.

My Animal Collar Project.

In this first step, I am using all the latest studies on the subject. About Facial Action Coding System (FACS), already adapted for several other species, such as chimpanzees (Vick et al., 2007), macaques (Parr et al., 2010) and gibbons (Waller et al., 2012), dogs (Waller, B.M., Peirce, K., Caeiro, C.C., Scheider, L., Burrows, A.M., McCune, S., & Kaminski, J., 2013), cats and horses.

Cat, Dog and Horse FACS. Credits in the References.

In second place, using all species ethogram available needed, as an example below.

Canine Ethogram — Roger Abrantes

This little introduction will show the standard guide of this system, that should be complemented with Specific Research Analysis (measuring behavior).

Researching Steps

Defining concepts
Research Design (RD) — All topics and planed steps for this research.
Observation Checklist (OC) — A list of procedures for the planing observation.
Species to Study (SS) — The Species that we will collect data.
Species Ethogram (SE) — List with normal Species behaviors.
Facial Action Coding System (FACS) — An anatomically based coding system for the scientific measurement of facial movements and facial expressions in humans. Can be done for all species.
Present Environment (PE) — The registration of all environment stimuli details in the moment that we can observe and couldn’t be design in RD.
Behavior One (b1) — First behavior display in one specific situation.
Behavior Error Data (BED) — All behavior variations due to the present conditions.
Behavior Antecedents Data (BAD) — All earlier antecedents that could variate the behavior displayed.
Behavior Two (b2) — The sum of b1+BED+BAD
Following Behaviors (b3, b4,…) — The sum of earliest behavior and the new behavior observed.

Standard ABCD Observation:
2. RD
3. OC
4. PE
5. Initiate Observation
6. B1 (Registration of BED+BAD)
7. B1+PE=B2
8. B2 (Registration of BED+BAD)
9. Finish Observation
10. Follow RD

DogFACS Sample

All specific and further details will be present with the progress of the studies. All scientist and animal trainers are very welcome to use this system and improve as needed. All credits for the updating will be added.

This article would be published in a book for commercial purposes. But we want to reach out more professionals and families with updated and real information, so the content is being released for free. If you believe in this project, make a voluntary contribution of your choice and we can continue with the free publications. If you are a company and want to take an active part in this project, contact us.

ABRANTES, R. (1997). The Evolution of Canine Social Behavior. Wakan Tanka Publishers.

ABRANTES, R. (1997). Dog Language. Wakan Tanka

ABRANTES, R. (2011). Dominance—Making Sense of the Nonsense

BEAVER, V. Bonnie (2003). Feline Behavior: A Guide For Veterinarians, Second Edition. Elsevier.

BUDIANSKY, Stephen (1997). the Nature of Horses, Their Evolution, Intelligence and Behaviour. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

CAEIRO, C.C, Waller, B.M, Burrows, A.M. (2013). CatFACS

CHANCE, P. (2008) Learning and Behavior. Wadsworth-Thomson Learning, Belmont, CA, 6th, ed.

DARWIN, C. (1899). The Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals. New York D. Appleton and Company.

EKMAN, P. (1976). Nonverbal Communiction: Movements with Precise Meanings. Journal of Communication, 26(3),14-26.

EKMAN, P. & ROSENBERG, E. L. (2005). What the face reveals : basic and applied studies of spontaneous expression using the facial action coding system (FACS) — 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, Inc.

HOROWITZ, Alexandra. (2014). Domestic Dog, cognition and Behavior—The Scientific Study of Canis familiaris. Springer.

LORENZ, Konrad. (1981). The foundations of ethology.
Based on a translation of Vergleichende Verhaltensforschung, with revisions. Springer Science+Business Media New York.

MARTIN, P., Bateson, P. (2007). Measuring Behavior, An introductory guide. Cambridge University Press.

MCFARLAND, D. (1998). Animal Behaviour. Benjamin Cummings. 3rd ed.

MIKLÓSI, Ádám. (2007). Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition. Oxford University Press.

MORRIS, D. (2002). PeopleWatching. Vintage Books.

SANNI Somppi, Heini Törnqvist, Miiamaaria V. Kujala, Laura Hänninen, Christina M. Krause, Outi Vainio. Dogs Evaluate Threatening Facial Expressions by Their Biological Validity – Evidence from Gazing Patterns. PLOS ONE, 2016; 11 (1): e0143047 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0143047

SCHIRMER A, Seow CS, & Penney TB (2013). Humans process dog and human facial affect in similar ways. PloS one, 8 (9) PMID: 24023954

SKINNER, B. F. (1966). The phylogeny and ontology of behavior, Science, 153,1205-1213.

STRICKLIN, W.R. (2000). ANSC 455 Applied Animal Behavior. Department of Animal and Avian Sciences.

SZÉKELY, T. (2010). Social Behaviour, Genes, Ecology and Evolution. Cambridge University Press.

WALLER, B.M, Caeiro, C., Peirce, K., Burrows, A.M, Kaminski, J. (2013). DogFACS

WATHAN J, Burrows AM, Waller BM, McComb K (2015). EquiFACS: The Equine Facial Action Coding System. PLoS ONE 10(8): e0131738. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0131738

Teach without Speech – Introduction

Versão Portuguesa aqui

“Teach without Speech” project is one of the most difficult challenges I’ve had in my entire career. It took me to memories that I already thought were well forgotten. What model of measurement would I have to do to share the knowledge I gained through various personal and professional sacrifices?

Since 2004, before many television programs and Youtube to help train trainers that I began to give training classes without any specific training. I read a little, and started. I just felt like I had to start. An irresponsibility at the time in my current vision, but had to start somewhere.

By nature I am a quiet person and I prefer ​​my personal space, certainly for that reason I have always tried to communicate with the animals to speak as little as possible and to respect their space. That’s the basic principles of nature. When we see animals in their natural environment, we notice that sounds are used when strictly necessary, with a prioritization of body language and the use of the environment for a clear communication. I used food only as a tool and not as something essential for training, I do not establish relationships based on food. Complementing with a training plan that made me have the right number of snacks for the number of repetitions, I didn’t want to create conditioning to specific places in my body. After these years, I notice that I use the same or even less amount of food than before in contrast of the new generations.

However, that year I joined the Portuguese Air Force in the specialty of Air Police and sub-specialty in K9 training for guard and defense. It was one of the best years of my life. Not only professionally but also personally. Professional because of the spirit of camaraderie and values ​​passed by the “olders”, personal because it was an abrupt transition from a “golden cradle” passed to reality of life.

I have always continued to study and value myself professionally from the point of view of military teaching and from other places where I have worked, because I have always believed that only with the practice we would change theory, but in some work environments this is not always allowed.

After several frustrations, disappointments and relegations, I risked all my personal and professional life in a last opportunity to continue doing what I always liked. This change allowed me to value who believed in me, invest in what really mattered in life and put aside all that was just an unnecessary burden. I summarized my life with two hand luggage and traveled to Denmark to deepen my knowledge, have the freedom to follow my principles and intuition and at the same time work with the Ethology Institute and There will never be words to describe the appreciation of the trust and professionalism of Dr. Roger Abrantes, Tilde Detz Jensen and the entire team of Ethology Institute and It was at the Ethology Institute that I found the scientific answers to what I already did, I was always a student of the institute and did not know. Not always the best decisions are the easiest. Listen and trust in your intuition, it is your essence speaking.

During this time until now, many dogs and people daily have crossed my life. Several situations unfortunately I did not get the necessary collaboration of the families, others I feel today that was due to my limitation of knowledge. We do not know everything, we can’t know everything.

In the meantime, I took formation in a new area that has given me a lot of interest and it is in her that I currently dedicate myself to 100% of my work: Anthrozoology.

Anthrozoology or Human-Animal Studies in general is the study of the interaction between humans and nonhumans. It covers a considerable diversity of areas of study, where I highlight: ethology, anthropology, zoology, biology, comparative psychology, sociology and primatology. This is my world, of complexity, of paradoxes, well, the human world.

This is certainly the first project in the world that will cover this area integrated in animal training, complemented by animal facial decoding, micro expressions in a scientific context and by a set of specific daily techniques that can be used by all.

All this learning until today makes this my small vision can somehow help the various professionals in the area, who is starting the activity, and families with pets. They will be the trainers of the future.

Our future role will be just coaching, contrary to the old fashion of “turnkey” animal training. Without the presence of the families, we cut the important link of this wonderful communication. The society is becoming more curious and participatory in the education of its animals, something fabulous and evolutionary, that will make the coaches having a solid formation not only in animal behavior and learning, but also in philosophy, ethology and in the most recent area : Anthrozoology. We need to know ourselves as primitive animals before trying to know other species.

The role of coach in the social education of animals and their families can be a very unpleasant job for some because it does not bring trophies, bowls and most of the time recognition. On the other hand, they will also not be containers of diplomas, demonstrations with own or previously selected dogs or with big texts or socially accepted words. With this paradigm shift, these human objects will finally confirm to be parallel issues in the treatment and training of living beings.

We are working with the most sensitive point of a society: its mentality. To make a family believe he needs to change some routines is not always easy, we enter into a paradox of “he’s a dog, he has to be treated as such”, but “I do not do it because he’s like a son to me.”

Nowadays, the priority is not to know the other species, but rather to know ourselves. Our individual selfish need for presence in society is bringing an artificial environment in our habitat for all species, moralistic fallacies are beautifying socially accepted words and divert them from the reality of their concepts and applications, either by marketing purposes or simple ignorance. The need for change it’s in the evolution of our real knowledge and not by cover-up the reality by the lack of the knowledge. We’re not helping them, we’re in the medium term extinguish them because they are leaving their essence and no longer being what we argue now that they are.

The interspecific communication is much more than understanding, is a journey to our origins when we deeply felt it without the imposed human barriers.

Once again I am sure that these internal conflicts, the nights badly slept with the concern of one or another case, of daily understand the lack of communication that exist not only between people and dogs but also between people and people, was a reason for the origin of this project.

My opinion about the work of others is respect, because respect and agreement follow the same parallelism that science vs. moralism or ethics. After all, nobody is the same, which is wonderful. Do not try to please thoughts or ideologies, people already have their interests and will not value your sincerity. Do not be deceived by the delusions of others.

“Teach without Speech” project is the result of all these years of study and daily practical experience. It can’t be considered a method, but rather a combination system of various approaches in animal training, adapted to all species, although I put more emphasis on dogs, cats and horses, which I work daily. It is not just a project of scientific knowledge with the latest studies on the spoken materials.

It is also a reflection we must make on the “eight and eighty” in which we live today. The attempt of many to fight against anthropomorphism is creating incoherent humanization without people’s understanding. At the moment we need to fight for harmony and balance among all species that live scared in this human zoo.

“Teach without Speech” project goes far beyond a taught technique. It is interspecific respect and understanding in its essence.

“Teach without Speech” project don’t go teach to train robots, but will make the reader think by themself about what we really are and how we act. Only after that reflexion, we’ll be able to communicate with others species without fallacies or force, but with knowledge, comprehension and respect.

This project will have articles about some general issues of my studies and ways that I have created to simplify the understanding in the training, and are complemented by practical workshops, where I have the opportunity to demonstrate and pass with more detail and individual adaptation the whole system of the “Teach without Speech” for the three species, it has been a pleasure to work with individuals and companies around the world, to know the cultures, to respect them and connect them throughout this matrix. Perhaps with this beginning we may in the future study each social culture and make the necessary adaptations.

I make the invitation and the healthy challenge to read each article that will be published with the attention they deserve and what we need. Nosce te ipsum. Carpe Diem!

København, June 2nd 2016

This article would be published in a book for commercial purposes. But we want to reach out more professionals and families with updated and real information, so the content is being released for free. If you believe in this project, make a voluntary contribution of your choice and we can continue with the free publications. If you are a company and want to take an active part in this project, contact us.