#37 - Unlocking the Behavior
Matrix: Part 1

[00:00:00] Allie: And it’s been amazing to see the explosive progress that this client has been able to make because she took that step back to really focus on those observation skills, and that was something that we’ve been talking about for a while. But sometimes it takes a moment for it to really click, and it takes hearing about something enough times to really understand what you are looking for, and what you’re working on, and all of that.

So, I, I love, I love seeing that and her being able to see her dog’s behavior for what it is, focusing on those overt behaviors. For her to be able to tell me, ” I see when she’s going to yell at dogs, and I can do something about it beforehand.” And understanding why she’s taking the action that she’s taking for that consequence and understanding that it’s about feelings instead of behaviors. I, she is making so much more progress, understanding those three topics that we dipped our toe into today.

Welcome to Enrichment for the Real World, the podcast devoted to improving the quality of life of pets and their people through enrichment. We are your hosts, Allie Bender…

[00:01:22] Emily:  …and I’m Emily Strong…

[00:01:23] Allie: …and we are here to challenge and expand your view of what enrichment is, what enrichment can be and what enrichment can do for you and the animals in your lives. Let’s get started.

Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Enrichment for the Real World, and I want to thank you for rating, reviewing, and subscribing wherever you listen to podcasts.

Last week we heard from Dr. Susan Friedman, and one of the topics we discussed was observation skills. This week we’re going to dive further into some learning foundations, how that applies to observation skills, and talk about implementation with the animals in your life. And because there’s like a lot of learning foundations, this is part one of a two parts episode.

In this implementation episode, Emily and I talk about why we’re better together, why sometimes your dog barks at people and sometimes they don’t, and how to better predict your pet’s behavior.

[00:02:25] Emily:  The laws of the behavior sciences are universal, right? I mean, there’s obviously a lot of individual variety and variation, but yeah, we are all subject to the laws of behavior, just like we’re all subject to the laws of physics.

And I think that’s a really important thing for anybody who lives or works with non-humans to learn, because you can be more effective at meeting your learner’s needs, and including them in their own learning process, when you are an acute observer of behavior, when you really refine and hone those observational skills.

[00:03:00] Allie: Yeah, I am accused of wi, wizardry often because of that. And

I tell folks that it’s like unlocking the matrix. It’s like in the movie, when Neo sees all of that green coding and all of that green coding makes up everything within the world of the Matrix. I tell folks it’s like that because when you can see the laws of behavior in action, it’s like you can see the coding behind all of those actions, and all of those behaviors, and it’s so cool to see this.

And obviously, you know, in an enrichment podcast we’re going to talk about how this makes you more effective at meeting your learner’s needs because enrichment. But for our clients, what this typically means is that they’re able to predict their animal’s behavior better. So many of our clients come to us and say that their pet has unpredictable aggression or that their behavior is unpredictable and very seldomly is that actually true. There are usually precursors that we are able to identify that predict that behavior, and not only precursors in the environment that can predict that behavior, but also predictors in their body language as well.

And when that’s not true, that doesn’t mean that it’s unpredictable. It just means we haven’t been able to figure out what those precursors are yet. And sometimes we do get to figure that out, and sometimes we say, “Well, are close enough. We have enough information here that we can still keep everybody safe, and we can still work on the behavior and all of that good sort of stuff.”

[00:04:40] Emily:  The few times that I’ve been in a situation with the client where the behavior is legitimately unpredictable, it’s almost always either because the animal is just so chronically stressed that, they just go what we call zero to 60, is really just 59 to 60.

The animal’s just constantly operating at 59, so it doesn’t take much to push them over the threshold to 60. Or the other thing that could be happening is that those, behavioral responses have been punished in the past, or ignored, which ignoring is a type of punishment when it reduces behavior. And, uh, so the animal has just learned to, not communicate those things, and just skip straight to the end.

And in both of those cases, when you know that you still can predict when those behaviors are going to occur, and you can actually teach them how to bring those warning behaviors back into their repertoire. So, even in the times when behavior isn’t predictable. It, it’s almost always eventually predictable. And again, you have to have really good observational skills to be able to suss that out and help the animal get to that goal.

[00:05:49] Allie: I would add medical to that list of reasons as well. And again, with those observation skills, there have been times where, I’ve had a client who their pet has regressions that we can’t particularly figure out until they tell me, “Well, their stool was a bit softer that day too.” And then we started tracking soft stool or some other observable, physical thing with their animal and realized, oh, they probably have an upset stomach or some other medical thing going on that was affecting that behavior. So, I’ll add medical to that list of reasons why we can’t suss out as easily.

[00:06:31] Emily:  I am so proud of you and so grateful to you for that because after, like we’ve known each other for almost a decade, right? And after a decade of me harping on the intersection between medicine and behavior, this is a moment when you caught the ball that I, dropped and picked up that medical conversation. So, thank you for, for adding that cuz I, I, did totally forget to mention it, and it is super important.

[00:06:54] Allie: This is why we’re a team. So, for today’s implementation episode, we wanted to do something a little bit different. Normally y’all know that we say, okay, here’s the topic and here are the steps to go through with applying it. Really for today, we wanted to talk about behavior foundations, and learning foundations. Because it is half of what we do, and there’s no better time to talk about it than after listening to Dr. Susan Friedman. And they did talk about, quite a few of these topics, so today, instead of having, a kind of a step one, a step two, a step three, we have different areas that we want to just lightly touch on.

For those of you who are not science nerds like we are or, are afraid of terminology, it’s okay. We’re going to take it easy on you. And we just wanna talk about a few things that we talk about most frequently with our clients actually to help them with understanding their pet’s behavior.

So, let’s first talk about, Emily you know, the spiel, like the back of your hand, so I’m going to let you do our first takeaway about overt behavior, covert behavior, labels, all that.

[00:08:08] Emily:  My pleasure. This is something I learned from Dr. Friedman, so this is actually one of the things that that created that paradigm shift for me when I was first learning about behavior from them was this idea that we interpret behavior through our ideas about why a learner is behaving the way they are, instead of just looking at the behavior itself. That is a really important distinction. It was a huge aha moment for me when I was first starting out. So, when we say overt behaviors, what we mean by that is behaviors that we can see, measure, and assess.

So, think of them as action. Overt behaviors are actions that we can observe for ourselves.

When we talk about covert behaviors, what we’re talking about is internal behaviors, thoughts, feelings, motivations, and intentions. We know that covert behaviors exist in all sentient beings, not just humans. And they’re very important, to say that we should become really good observers if overt behavior is not to say that covert behavior doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter, but we can’t know what’s happening inside of another learner. We cannot see, measure or assess it.

And if you think about how accurate our assessments of other human’s covert behaviors are, uh, if you think about all of the misunderstandings and misinterpretations that happen in two humans who speak the same language, same species, same language, that gives you an idea of how, how reliable our interpretations of covert behaviors are.

And if we’re that bad at it with other members of our own species who speak our own language, then we’re probably not great at it with other species. So, that’s why it’s important to base our decisions about behavior change and what we’re gonna do on the animal’s overt behaviors, what we can see, measure, and assess.

As opposed to making those decisions based on what we think their covert behaviors are. Because since we can’t see those behaviors, we can’t actually know what they are, we can’t actually know what’s going on inside. The reason that this is important is, uh, I mean, I, I don’t even, I don’t even know to that, that’s a thing to say because like, it’s just deeply important to everything that we do.

But an example of why this is such an important distinction, it’s because so often when we work with clients and they have a dog with a maladaptive behavior, a lot of times their interpretations of why that behavior is happening is because the dog is trying to dominate them, or the dog is mean, or the dog has rage syndrome, or something like that.

And if we try to base our behavior change decisions based on those stories, those narratives, then we’re gonna miss the mark of what’s actually going on with an animal, what they actually need, what they’re actually feeling. And so, when we teach clients how to read body language, and how to read those overt behaviors, over, and over, and over again, we hear clients say, ” It’s like a whole new world has opened up to me, and now I can see it everywhere. And now that I have learned how to see it, I can’t unsee it. I can see conversation happening in our neighbor’s dog. And it just, it’s an eye-opener.”

So, that’s the first step for our clients and for ourselves as learners is learning how to observe overt behaviors and separate those overt behaviors from our assumptions or our fictionalized narratives about why those behaviors are occuring.

[00:11:37] Allie: I think of it as overt are observable and covert are covered, is how I remember those things.

[00:11:44] Emily:  I love that. That’s fabulous.

[00:11:46] Allie: One of the things that helped me really understand this concept as well, was actually the book Crucial Conversations. Because in that book they talk about one of the first things to do when you find yourself having a difficult conversation with somebody is to take a step back and assess the story that you are telling yourself about that person, and knowing that whatever that story is is going to determine your actions, and behaviors, and thoughts, and all of that covert behavior that you have in relation to that person and in relation to that discussion.

How they talk about it in Crucial Conversations really helped solidify how I talk about that with my clients. My clients have a story about who their pet is, that may or may not be true, and only the pet knows if it’s true. We don’t get to know if that’s true or not, and changing that story can change how we behave around our pet.

[00:12:48] Emily:  Yes. That is such a powerful part of that book. Again, shout out to that book forever, and ever, and always because it is so helpful and that’s one of the things that I think is really relatable, and so it is definitely useful to use that as a device, mechanism to talk about with clients. I don’t know what the word I’m looking for is.

[00:13:08] Allie: I know what you mean, hopefully everyone else knows what you mean too. Overt and covert behaviors, labels, all of that, Dr. Susan Friedman teaches this, but also the book, Crucial Conversations talks quite a bit about this without using that terminology for those of you who are looking for something less terminology heavy, to learn more about this, since, like I said, we are just touching the very little tip. We’re not even dipping a toe. We’re just touching the water of all of these topics with our toe, and so if you want to learn more, those are places to go to for that.

Our second topic for today is ABCs. Now, this is something that Susan talked about in the previous episode, this is something where we are talking about this concept with our clients all of the time and borrowing this concept when we talk about behavior change, but we rarely actually use the terms antecedent and consequence. And for those of you not familiar with the ABCs, it stands for Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence, and it goes in that order just ABCs of the alphabet go in that order. But we rarely talk about it in that way. It’s kind of like enrichment in that we use Fight Club or Encanto rules of, we don’t talk about enrichment when we talk with our clients. We do the same thing with ABCs. It’s, it’s Fight club or Encanto rules for this as well.

So, when we are talking about this concept with our clients. We are talking about responses that an animal has to the environment that, I don’t know about you, Emily, I’ll be curious to hear how you talk about this, but with my clients, what I’m usually talking about in, in terms of antecedent is the picture that sets up the stage for the behavior to happen.

That if these factors all happen together, that sets the stage for that behavior to happen, and then on the consequence side of things, sometimes I’ll use the word consequence because that’s more common in our vernacular, that’s not as, as unknown as the word antecedent. But for consequences, I’m talking about what happened after the behavior happened, and do we see more of that behavior, or less of that behavior, so that we can make a decision about should we perhaps do something different after that behavior happened?

[00:15:32] Emily:  Yes, I, I speak about it pretty similarly with clients. I’m typically, in most cases, I’m wanting them to think about how the environment is influencing their pet and vice versa. So, what’s going on in the environment when your dog, or parrot, or whatever does the thing, and then what happens afterwards as a result of that behavior?

What’s going on in the environment as a response to that behavior? And how is that influencing the behavior? So, a lot of times I’ll talk about the ABCs more as like an environmental conversation, or an environmental response so that they’re thinking about that. And I often tell people, you are a part of your dog’s environment, or your pet’s environment, so you are a part of that as well, but you’re not the only part of that.

So, are you the one delivering the consequence, or is it the person walking past your front window? Or is it the ceiling fan creaking making noise overhead? Or is it the time of day the sunshine coming through the windows, right? So, those are kind of the, the ways that I talk about ABCs with clients, um, without actually using words like antecedents. Things like that that might be alienating to them.

[00:16:47] Allie: I love talking about it as, an environmental conversation. Is that what you said?

I love that I’m going to steal that from you. I think a really important thing that you talked about is that humans are a part of the environment and are not the only part of the environment. And so, there are so many times where I see people forgetting that concept. Where they don’t realize that they’re the one reinforcing a behavior that they don’t want to happen again.

We see this all the time with jumping, y’all. A dog will jump up and the human will for just a second, will ruffle them behind the ears, talk to them, and then say, “I’m not supposed to let you do this, and then push them off.”

[00:17:34] Emily:  Or even not that, even sometimes just the act of pushing them off, you know, a lot of dogs are like, any attention is good attention, right? So, even the act of pushing them off, or kneeing them in the chest, or whatever people are doing, if the behavior is still happening, it might be that what you think is stopping the behavior is actually maintaining the behavior.

[00:17:53] Allie: We see that one all the time, and then we see the opposite as well, where people forget that there are other things in the environment that could be maintaining or decreasing a behavior. And I see this with counters surfing a lot, where a person will say, “I yell at them after they get something off of the counter, why are they still doing it?”

And I was like, “Well, cuz ham from off the counter sounds way better than the, the mild yelling at that that is happening.” That’s why I talk about it as a picture because I tell folks it’s like you can take a snapshot of that entire environment, and every single thing in that environment that you see in that snapshot is fair game for being part of that antecedent picture. And things beyond that snapshot. It’s more like, a video clip, I guess because you have sounds, you have tactile, you have taste, you have all the senses that are there for you. But remembering that you are a part of the environment and that there are other things in the environment is something that we see a lot of people forgetting.

[00:19:01] Emily:  I think that also happens a lot with, uh, dogs barking at things going past the window where people are like, “I don’t know why my dog continues to do this, because I’ve offered corrections, or whatever, and the dog keeps doing it.” And it’s like, “Well, yeah, because from the dog’s perspective, barking is highly effective. Because they bark, and then the, the people leave or the, or the delivery truck leaves. And as far as they’re concerned, their barking caused the thing to go away.”

You aren’t the only person delivering consequences and other consequences in the environment may be more relevant to your dog, or your pet, whatever species you’re working with, than what you are, are trying to make relevant to them.

[00:19:44] Allie: Absolutely. the other part about the, this antecedent picture that I wanted to mention is that this is often the reason why sometimes behaviors happen, or don’t happen.

I get this question a lot, especially with behaviors like aggression, or leash reactivity. I see it all the time with leash reactivity where clients will ask me, “Well, my dog barks sometimes at other dogs or at people but doesn’t bark all of the time at them. Why? Just why?” Uh, and again, it comes back to this predictability. They’re not able to predict their animal’s behavior because they’re not observing what is happening before the behavior takes place and what happens after the behavior takes place.

And so, to them it looks unpredictable, but for somebody who does have those observation skills, because we’re not special, anybody can do this. Anybody can learn this. For somebody who does have those observation skills, we can pretty accurately predict when there’s going to be an issue, and when there’s not going to be an issue.

[00:20:50] Emily:  And then I think the third takeaway that is really important, uh, one of the kind of building blocks of behavior that we talk about with clients, but don’t necessarily use the terminology with them, is the distinction between classical or respondent versus operant conditioning.

So, the way that I talk to clients about it, and Allie, you can tell me if it is different for you.

When I’m wanting them to focus on, classical or respondent conditioning, I’m talking to them about changing feelings. Now, to be clear, that is not the sum total of what classical conditioning is, but it’s the thing that is most frequently relevant to our clients, is changing the way their pet feels about something.

And so, if I’m teaching them some kind of classical conditioning procedure or some kind of counter conditioning procedure, I usually talk to ’em about it in terms of we’re doing this exercise to change the way they feel about X, Y, Z.

And then operant conditioning is when we’re teaching an action, a skill. And so, I talk about it with my clients as skill building to remind them that their pet isn’t bad, they just lack a skill, and that makes it suddenly really attainable. Because it’s not like, “How do I change the monster? My animal’s a monster. What can I do about that?”

It’s like, “Oh, they’re not a monster. They just need skills. We’re just, we’re just skill building. That’s it.” So, I make that distinction for my clients, and sometimes if it’s operant counter conditioning, I can say, ” We’re going to teach them a skill that changes the way they feel about, something.” But I don’t talk about it in terms of classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and counter conditioning.

I just say, we’re doing this to change feelings. We’re doing this to build skills, or we’re teaching a skill to change feelings. So, we’re doing both.

[00:22:38] Allie: Here’s where you and I differ a little bit in that I do use the term counter conditioning, in a way that I name an activity. Like I would call a Relaxation Protocol, or Look at That, or Go to Place or whatever it is. It’s, that’s just the name of the activity is counter conditioning, and I do that because all of our resources currently say that. So, I, preempt them. I say, I’m using this term because all of your resources that I’m going to send say this, but it’s just a fancy way of saying scary thing predicts awesome thing and it becomes awesome. And, uh, so you and I differ a little bit on that, so that’s interesting.

[00:23:18] Emily:  It is true. I mean, there are times when I’ll say to a client, I’m gonna send you this training plan, “It’s gonna say like this big, long word, counter conditioning. Don’t, don’t worry about that. That’s just the big, fancy term for what we’re doing, which is changing feelings.” So I do sometimes give them a heads up that like, “You’re gonna read this training plan that has a big board on it, but just, just don’t worry about that, just look at the instructions cuz the instructions are what we just worked on, not that big of a deal.” Cuz I don’t, I don’t want to scare them with big $60 words.

[00:23:48] Allie: It’s like a hundred dollars word. It’s a, it’s an expensive word. Uh, so here’s an example of what we’re talking about.

I use the example of the ice cream truck. When I hear the ice cream truck, I have feelings that happen about that. I am excited when I hear the ice cream truck, and there are observable behaviors that I show based on those feelings. And when we’re talking about the ice cream truck in particular, those observable behaviors are I sit up straighter, my eyes get big, and then I look to wherever the sound is. There are observable behaviors that show you how I feel about the ice cream truck.

When we’re talking about pets, this can be something like, you get out the harness, and your dog is super excited, bouncing off the walls about the harness, or they go and hide.

Same thing, different feelings that I see depending on the animal. A common example is a cat running to you when they hear the can opener going.

[00:24:53] Emily:  Or for me, I realized that whenever I’m done working on something, and transitioning into, like free time. I apparently I sigh, and I go, “Okay.” So I’ll go, “Okay.” And the reason that I know that I do that is because now every time that I do that, Brie gets just inordinately excited. She just like leaps up out of the nest, and gets super wiggly, and starts tap dancing and goes to the office door, like, what are we doing now? I was like, oh, okay. So, me sighing and saying, okay, and like this long sigh, is, is Brie gets really excited because it predicts that we’re gonna do something fun.

[00:25:33] Allie: Yes, yes. Or on, on the flip side, dogs who have feelings about doorbells, because doorbells predict people entering their home, which they may not enjoy. With classical, we’re talking about feelings like that versus you don’t necessarily have feelings about going to a particular place, or sitting, or lying down, or things like that.

Perhaps there is, you can’t extract one of these things from the other, and so we’re talking about it in, in black and white terms when it’s, it’s really a whole host of gray area. That is what actually happens in reality. But, uh, it’s easier to talk about it in black and white terms. That’s what we’re talking about with that changing feelings versus getting a particular behavior.

And you need both to effectively work with maladaptive behaviors, and I use maladaptive behaviors because that’s what Emily and I work on, but I would say for training, just in general, you need both because both are going to happen. And so, you need to understand what’s happening when you see it.

[00:26:38] Emily:  Absolutely. And that goes back to why it’s so important to develop these really beautiful, finely tuned observational skills. Because when we understand these building blocks about learning, and we’re able to both see these details and know what they mean, what they portend, then we are better at both predicting the learner’s behavior, and then also helping them to become more behaviorally healthy. Which includes including them in their own learning process, and making them a part of that, and giving them a say in their learning experience. And all of that is built on this foundation of really good observational skills.

[00:27:20] Allie: Before we get into the stories that we have for today, let’s take a moment to talk about how to build those observation skills, because really the topics that we talked about today, like I said, we wanted to do something a little different. The topics that we talked about are all fine and well, and we talked about how that applies to what you’ve perhaps seen with your pet in your life.

But I want to talk about how to build those observation skills in case you haven’t seen these things with your pet, or if you are seeing some of these, but you want to make sure you’re not missing anything. So, let’s talk a moment about how to build your observation skills. I know we’ve talked about this topic many, many times in the past, but for good measure, one of the first things to do is to separate your feelings from your observations. We say time and again, see with your eyes not your ideas. Emily talked about overt and covert behaviors and being able to recognize those overt and covert behaviors and labels and all of that stuff that Emily was talking about.

Really means being able to separate how you feel about something or being able to detach yourself from the story that you have about this particular individual or situation. And that is what is going to allow you to actually observe with your eyes and see behavior for what it is. And you need to be able to see behavior for what it is first before you can actually work on the observation skills part of it.

So, that is the absolute first thing that you have to do is separate your feelings from your observations. That’s a little different for each person, so it’s harder to go into what exactly that looks like, but a lot of times that means some soul searching, and it means looking at first what that story actually is, and then why you are so attached to that story.

And this is true for all of us with many, many things in our lives. I was just telling Emily before we hit record that I had an epiphany that I had a feeling about a particular thing, and I didn’t realize that it was affecting my behavior, and the decisions that I was making. And so, tomorrow we get to suss out why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling.

Once you’re able to do that, then the thing I recommend to pretty much everyone is to watch videos. And now, if you are not a video taker yourself, good news. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a video of your own pet. I tell folks, go to YouTube and look up videos about insert species here, and just watch. You’ll get to see so much more from a video then you will in real time when you’re building your observation skills.

Even when you’re not building your observation skills, you still get so much more in video than you do in real time. It is, speaking from a consultant standpoint, it is much easier for a client to send me a video and for me to watch it through about 10 times than it is for me to see the thing happen in person, and have to recall every single detail. That’s a lot of work videos are way easier. So, watch a video, go to YouTube if you need to. Take a video of your own pet, whatever works for you, and just watch, and rewatch, and rewatch, and look for different things throughout that video.

[00:30:57] Emily:  I think one thing that can be really helpful with video watching as well is to actually slow it down, so I will actually put videos on half speed, and watch each individual animal, in all the way through, and then go back and watch the next animal all the way through and go back and watch the next animal all the way through.

And then I’ll watch it again at full speed to see how the entire interaction plays out. And that is a really important component of watching videos, is slowing it down because fluency is defined as speed plus accuracy, and you don’t really ever get that speed plus accuracy unless you work on accuracy first, and then build speed over time, right? So, watching videos slowdown is a life hack that I have learned is so helpful in terms of learning how to read that body language really accurately, and then as you do that over and over you, you get the speed comes naturally. You’re able to do it at full speed eventually in real time.

[00:31:56] Allie: That’s a great life hack. I love that. And so, once you’ve gone through it, and like Emily said, you’ve watched this individual and then you’ve watched that individual and so on. Watch the environment, watch for what happens in the environment. If there are people, watch the people, there is so much that you can get from a video.

Okay, that’s all I wanted to say about observation building.

[00:32:19] Emily:  So, my example of this for today, of why these observational skills are so important, is about a client that I am still working with, and I absolutely adore them, and the issue that they came to me for help with was their, one of their dogs, anytime the husband would leave the house, would attack the husband. And, and I said, “Okay, so what do you mean by attack?” And they, uh, showed me video and sure enough, this dog is growling, and stiff, and he’s jumping up, and he’s actually nipping at the husband, pulling on the husband’s clothes, sometimes making contact with the skin through the clothing.

So, I just saw that li little video clip of the actual behavior without anything before or afterwards, and they thought it might be a separation related problem behavior. And so, we kind of explored that. I asked them a lot of questions, it, it seemed like, okay, there, there might be something there, but this doesn’t present as a typical, uh, separation case.

So, I asked them to send me a full video, and I was talking, I was asking them about what they had tried in the past to work on this, behavior. And their previous trainer had taught them how to do Look at That, which is great, we, we love, Look at That.

And, so their, their previous trainer had taught them how to do look at that, but these observational skills and these little details are just so important. The devil is in the details. And so, what had happened in the implementation of Look at That is that the wife had inadvertently been clicking and treating whenever the dog would growl and lunge at the, the husband. And so, it wasn’t actually a separation issue, it was a behavior that had been shaped.

And I figured that out when they showed me this video, this full video. Of before, during, and after the husband leaving the house. And this dog is like showing all this, angsty kind of behaviors, really tense muscles, and, and forward commissure, and high tail, and growling, and, and jumping up and nipping at the husband.

And then when he was done, looking back at the wife with a loose derpy grin and these like forward ears, and wiggly tail, and then looking back at the husband, and all those like tense, distressed body language signals coming back, and he’s biting at the husband, and he stops and checks in with the wife. And so, the wife had inadvertently done a beautiful job of shaping this behavior of the dog, attacking her husband.

And that to me was such a good example of how these observational skills are so important because any of the training protocols that exist in the world, um, they’re great, but they have to be done well. If you give anybody any old training plan, if every training plan on the planet was just available on the internet, they wouldn’t probably be very effective a lot of the time because these little details of timing and observational skills are necessary to implement them well and effectively.

That to me is a really good example of why developing good observational skills is critical to both understanding what’s going on with your learner, and being able to teach them, help them become more behaviorally healthy. And in doing so, including them in their learning process and helping them to be a part of it and have a say in it.

[00:35:38] Allie: For my example, I have a client, who I’m still working with, but I don’t know, we just happen to choose current clients today. I have a client that I’m still working with and a few weeks ago when I met with, she came to me, and talk about observation, right?

Because when I had met with her in the previous session, she was pretty down. She was, uh, beating herself up, she wa, you know, she was just in the thick of that bog that sometimes is behavior modification. And when I met with her a few weeks ago, noticeably different demeanor from this client.

She was so much happier, she was smiling more, she was talking about her dog in a different way and she was telling me that the past few weeks all she had done was observe her dog. That was it. We had decided to take a step back, take a little bit of a breather, and just work on those observations and to see the, the look on this client’s face when she was talking about how much she learned about her dog during this time, that she took a step back from training to just observe and to learn who her dog really was.

It was just the best feeling for everybody. Everybody benefited from that, you know, I, I got to help my client, which was fantastic, and help her overcome some things that were really bothering her. And the client and the dog had such a better relationship for it. Now, uh, when this client gets a little bit bogged down, and is feeling stress or pressure, we take a moment and say, “Okay, let’s go back to our observation skills, and then we can move forward.”

And it’s been amazing to see the explosive progress that this client has been able to make because she took that step back to really focus on those observation skills, and that was something that we’ve been talking about for a while. But sometimes it takes a moment for it to really click and it takes hearing about something enough times to really understand what you are looking for, and what you’re working on and all of that.

So, I, I love, I love seeing that and her being able to see her dog’s behavior for what it is, focusing on those overt behaviors. For her to be able to tell me, ” I see when she’s going to yell at dogs, and I can do something about it beforehand.” And understanding why she’s taking the action that she’s taking for that consequence and understanding that it’s about feelings instead of behaviors. I, she is making so much more progress, understanding those three topics that we dipped our toe into today.

Today we talked about overt behaviors or observable, measurable behaviors, covert behaviors, your internal thoughts, feelings, motivations, intentions, et cetera, and why we need to separate the covert from the overt through our observations. we talked about the ABC’s, antecedent behavior, consequence, or environmental response is the easier way to think of that.

And we talked about classical versus operant conditioning or changing feelings versus getting a particular behavior. We also, we talked a lot today, we also talked about building observation skills, and how you need to first separate feelings from observations and then watch videos on halftime, is your life hack for today.

Next week we will be talking about Unlocking the Learning Matrix Part Two. If you liked today, you’ll like next week. I can’t guarantee behavior, but I come close to guaranteeing that.

Thank you for listening. You can find us at petharmonytraining.com and @petharmonytraining on Facebook and Instagram, and also @petharmonypro on Instagram for those of you who are behavioral professionals. As always links to everything we discussed in this episode are in the show notes and a reminder to please rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts a special thank you to Ellen Yoakum for editing this episode, our intro music is from Penguin Music on Pixabay.


Thank you for listening and happy training.

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