Attention Control

For most training purposes, attention can be divided into two broad categories: orienting and attending. Both forms of attentional behavior are controlled by a dog's name and other similar signals. The orienting response is governed by classical conditioning processes, as well as by the more primitive adjustment mechanisms involved in sensitization and habituation; Pavlov referred to it as the "What is it?" reflex. Although influenced and modified by learning, the orienting response actually precedes and makes possible learning in the first place—without the activation of the orienting response, no new learning is possible. orienting behavior can be divided into four types of responses, depending on their strength: strong, moderate, weak, and no response. Typically, strong orienting reactions are evoked by the presentation of startling or surprising unconditioned stimuli. Moderate orientation is evoked by cues previously associated with appetitive or aversive events, weak orientation is stimulated by cues associated with highly predicted and controlled appetitive or aversive events, and, finally, no orientation is likely to occur in the presence of irrelevant or insignificant events.

Some stimuli unconditionally elicit an orienting response, whereas others develop the strength to do so only after conditioning. Commonly employed unconditioned orienting stimuli used in dog training include clapping, whistling, kissing sounds, clucking, yelling, and stomping. Note that many of these orienting stimuli involve the production of different kinds of sound. Audition is a particularly favorable sensory modality for attention training because it can be stimulated at a considerable distance and from any direction. The other sensory modalities (especially sight and touch) are not quite as accessible to stimulation as hearing but are nonetheless commonly used. Visual orienting stimuli used in attention training include changing body postures, waving the hands, running away from or toward the dog, tossing a ball or other object, or moving a laser pointer. Tactile orienting stimuli are commonly used, as well. Besides the use of touch as a physical prompt to get a dog's attention, various throw tools (chains or rings) are used in the case of dogs unresponsive to auditory and visual orienting stimulation.

To condition the dog's name as an orienting cue, it is paired with one of these unconditioned orienting stimuli. For example, just before clapping the hands to capture a distracted dog's attention, the dog's name is shouted out. After several pairings with a variety of orienting stimuli, the name becomes a generalized orienting signal. Unconditioned orienting stimuli can be strengthened by a process of sensitization. For example, the sharp clap of hands may after many repetitions become habituated. Its strength can be recovered by pairing it with a stronger unconditioned orienting stimulus like the crash of a shaker can. In this example, the trainer claps his or her hands and immediately thereafter tosses the shaker can in the direction of the distracted dog. After one or two such pairings, the dog will respond much more strongly to a clap alone.

The attending response requires that the dog exhibit sustained eye contact toward the trainer. One method for obtaining such control (described in more detail below) involves prompting the dog to look up by making a kissing or clucking sound and then appropriately bridging and reinforcing the response. At first, the dog is only required to look up briefly, but as training proceeds the requirement of duration is increased until the dog is holding eye contact for 3 to 5 seconds. Once the attending response is well conditioned, the dog's name is spoken just before the clucking sound is made. Gradually, the clucking prompt is faded and the dog learns to attend with sustained eye contact to his or her name alone.

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  • abeba
    What is orienting and attending in dog?
    6 years ago

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