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How Learned Helplessness Is Related to Animals in Our Care

Friday, August 17, 2018  
Interesting ARTICLE about learned helplessness - in ourselves as well as dogs/other animals. It's a good reminder that inappropriate, punishment based training can shut down motivation altogether.

"Learned helplessness is the opposite of self-efficacy. It is the belief that what we do ultimately does not matter, that we will be stuck in the same life patterns no matter what we think, say, or do. When we learn to view ourselves as helpless, we give away our personal power, falling to the trap of futility and resignation."

And it is a LEARNED behavior. How do we prevent it? By helping dogs, horses, cats and children realize that they have some control over their environment. Control means choice. Sitting before a door, causing the door to be magically opened by the human, is an example of giving a dog a choice as well as control over the environment. Unavoidable shocking, jerking, yelling, spraying and other nasty consequences are scary, confusing and often quite random to animals.

Train deliberately, emphasize positive reinforcement of all types, and pay attention to the consequences of doing it badly. (We're all learning from the animals we train.)

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