kitchen table math, the sequel: book club - Don't Shoot the Dog - money for grades

## Wednesday, February 6, 2008

### book club - Don't Shoot the Dog - money for grades

I've finished Don't Shoot the Dog - amazing.

Life-altering.

And, best of all: will get a 13-year old to do math with his mother!

Have been trying to steal time to write posts about the book, and then for some reason was inspired to compose what should have been a first post here as a Comment on Ken's blog instead.

subject: "extinguishing" a behavior you don't like by putting the behavior on cue.

Liz Ditz said...

Well, d'oh.

If you have a dog that barks, and the barking annoys you:

1. Teach the NO! or FREEZE! command (meaning, "dog, do nothing" or "what you are doing now...you shouldn't)

2. Teach the dog to bark on command

3. When the dog barks without the command BARK, then NO! or FREEZE!

I'm not sure how well this sequence works with spouses, friends, or co-workers, but it works a treat with kids and dogs.

[upon reflection]

I just realized how hard it is to write training manuals. I realized that I paid very close attention to the behaviors of the first dog I trained, a hound. Teaching the FREEZE command probably took thousands of trials -- upon reflection, at least 50 to 100 trials per day.

Sheesh.

The strategy of extinguishing a behavior by putting it on cue is not so effective with behaviors that have a strong biological or instinctive basis.

Barking is a powerful instinctive response in some breeds (and varies considerably among most dogs in all breeds). If the dog is highly reactive and his instinct is to sound an alarm bark at a variety of stimuli, you may get control over the behavior in your presence (you will also have to teach a "quiet" command), but you can be sure the behavior will be maintained in your absence. On the other hand, if it is a dog that does not seem compelled to bark at every moving object, it may well learn to bark on cue, and then not bark without the cue.

A parallel is teaching the dog to urinate or defecate on command (don't do this indoors!) It can be very handy, especially for city dwellers who walk the dog at appointed times. You take the dog to the desired location, give the command, the business gets done, voila! Enjoy the rest of your walk and look forward to an accident-free evening at home. Most dogs will quickly become reliably housebroken with this regimen.

It's obvious, though, that if you simply omitted the cue, nature would eventually take its course. You can't extinguish a biologically-driven behavior. You can usually get good control over it so that the dog's biological drives and your own needs (for peace and quiet, a feces-free home, or a dog-free sofa) are in alignment.

Catherine Johnson said...

The strategy of extinguishing a behavior by putting it on cue is not so effective with behaviors that have a strong biological or instinctive basis.

Absolutely.

I believe one of her cases was a dog barking to get in - not barking at strangers & strange dogs.

The barking-to-get-in dog learned that he would be let in only when there was a black dot on the door (something like that).