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A Letter From Emma Parsons

My name is Emma Parsons and I am the Training Director here at Sunshine Books, Inc. Karen is away on vacation but she wanted me to update you on a few of our projects.

I have just finished teaching a six-week clicker training course at the Tufts Veterinary School of Medicine in North Grafton, MA. Nine students attended, mostly first and second year veterinary students. A Masters degree student and a practicing veterinarian also joined us as well.

Learning by Observation II

I have written about learning by observation several times, beginning with Lads Before the Wind in 1975 (reissued with four new chapters in 2000), and the account of two Steno bredanensis, or rough-toothed dolphins, that were inadvertently switched during shows and succeeded in doing most of each other's repertoires, including some shaped behaviors. One animal accepted blindfolds and located and retrieved sinking hoops, a behavior that had taken weeks to train in the model animal. The other animal succeeded in jumping through a hoop high above the water. (They had separate show routines, but could watch each other, day after day, from the holding tanks which had barred underwater gates. Probably sitting there saying "Heck, I could do that!")

Can Dogs Learn by Observation?

I'm very interested in the question of dogs learning by observation. The 'decisive' paper that proved that dogs don't learn by observation was a very limited study, I believe, involving two dogs with no particular reinforcement history, in which the observer dog failed to learn some task... And somehow it went into the zeitgeist as a firm conclusion, one I was totally prepared to believe in myself, at one time. I thought that dolphins do learn by observation, and dogs don't. Then I started giving seminars, and seeing all kinds of observational learning going on.

Spring At Last!

Boston had a particularly icy winter. The dogs and I are glad it's over! To celebrate, we're offering you a Spring Special: buy one clicker product and get 15% off on a second item of equal value or less. Call 1-800-47 CLICK and ask for the May Spring Special

Dog Growling at Baby

Someone recently wrote to me for advice on a difficult situation developing between her dog and her baby. When such a problem arises, I think you need to teach the baby that he may NOT sit on the dog, pull ears, bother the dog when it's lying down, hit it with toys, and so on. You can't do this with punishment, babies can't learn that way; but you can do it. The dog needs to learn to get up and leave if bothered; but the baby needs to experience being removed, gently but firmly, from the dog, long BEFORE the dog has become irritated to the point of growling.