Category Archives: cartoon

Reinforcement Gone WRONG

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Often a chain of actions grows a behavior. Barking, whining, jumping up, mouthing, excitement at the doors … are very commonly increased by chained events and unfortunately most of the time the person doesn’t realize that they are growing the behavior instead of reducing it.

So if your dog is doing something you don’t particularly like and you don’t know why it’s getting worse. Take a look back. Usually two steps of actions back and you then will spot the behavior/reinforcement cycle.

What then? Put more steps into the cycle or take out a step right before or after the dog’s usual action. Example: in the above cycle the dog barked, woke the person up, then got affection or maybe play time outside. Options: 1. ignore barking (earplugs) and wait until it completely stops before getting out of bed … stay neutral (non-reinforcing) until several preferred things have been offered by the dog, or 2. Schedule wake up time earlier, before dog would usually start to bark or whine, then reinforce quiet behavior immediately, or 3. dog barks, you wake up and go to bathroom and dog follows quietly and lays down (no speaking), you go to other room and dog is asked to do a series of behaviors … sit, down, do trick … then gets rewarded with pets and praise (with this, you may be just growing a longer chain, but usually not).

In our house, Jazzie goes over by the stairs and leans against the wall when she wishes to go outside. Or if I’m using the computer, she puts her head on my thigh and waits. I see her there or feel her chin, get up and go outside with her and play flying disk games. Lately she’s been increasing her requests. Why? Because the reinforcement of the game. Why was I playing the game … because it’s winter and I have to get dressed to go outside and so for efficiency sake potty plus game.

Since I don’t want excessive requests … I let her out, said nothing, waited for her to go potty and turned around and came back inside. She didn’t need to go potty, so it was just a game request.

I like her go outside reminders, because sometimes I can get overly involved in reading or work, but I don’t want to have to let her out too frequently. So we just won’t play her favorite games outside unless I’m the one who initiated the trip outdoors. I expect this will reduce her requests. We’ll see.

Have you discovered unintended behavior chains?

 

 

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Mat Games (or how to get a dog to stick to a rug despite the door bell ringing)

Dogs are so bouncy and speedy.  Jazz can go down the six steps to the landing, touching the top step, another step two-thirds down and then she’s barking out the narrow, next-to-the-door window before the second ring. Say her name and she bounds back up the stairs. More action by the door and she’s back down to check it out. If there’s someone staring in, doggie alarm phase two goes off. A little too much action and sound.

Enter the plan to stick her to a rug. Glue, weights, magnets, velcro all of which had risks and benefits. I mean, it would have to be special glue, and she’d have to swallow the magnets and what would we do when she sheds off her velcro? And she’s already heavy enough, add weights? Her 35 pound body and springy legs can shift hefty resistance.

I kind of like the harness and pulley, she’s flying like Kathy Rigby plan. Or maybe the automatic appearing slide that reroutes stair goers to the basement, triggering a guillotine gate system blocking their return trip.

Peanut butter – hard to bark when you’re eating peanut butter. Thinking of laser targeted peanut butter delivery.

Management planning: We could block the window, add a gate at the top of the stairs and maybe at the lower level too, and change the sound of the doorbell, but where’s the fun in that?

Think about a doorbell activated dog trapping system – picture Venus flytrap velcro-like action … only faster. Or, I like the doorbell-activated treat dispenser in your princess dog bed, Madame Jazzie.  But she could rush to the afore-mentioned bed, consume her treat and be back at the door, 1, 2, 3. Unless there was the before mentioned guillotine gate or flytrap velcro in the way.

Ah, so what to do? The mundane trainer-ly plans won. Today she was stuck to her rug despite door bells, knocking, yoohoo’s, dancing, people coming and going and other dogs barking. I had a hard time getting her to move off that rug. No glue, no velcro, no guillotine gate or automatic slide, just preference and rewards delivered there over the last three weeks. Two training sessions daily or one or — well whatever, building up the time in place on that ‘special’ rug, the ability to go to her place, and finally, the distractions that might pull her off of her place. Used the Treat & Train, but could have done it by hand. The Treat & Train’s timer and measured system keeps it less random.

cartoon 001What you say? No magic? And she sticks? Yup, she sticks. She can still use more practice, but then can’t we all?