I have been on the road this time exactly one week and already I am seeing some “CRAP” from my dogs. Crap is a word that I have often used while teaching if I don’t like what my students are rewarding. “. . .well that was crap” is something I have said over and over. If you have watched my Success with One Jump you will have seen the out-takes at the end of me using the word over and over. Yes it means; poop, caa-caa, manure, shite, turdaceousness or fecal matter. I have said this so often that Lynda, one of my instructors, came up with an acronym for it.
Crap, if you continually reward ambiguous performances in your dog you will get crap behaviour. No way around it, it will never be worthwhile. You may not even realize you are rewarding the behaviour. Like the dog that runs aggressively up and down the yard with the neighbour’s dog on the other side of the fence. That is self-rewarding crap, so your role in the development of that crap may not be as obvious, but the responsibility for you allowing it to happen is still yours. I have been playing the same roll this week in my own dog’s new “Crap”. My dogs have always been very quiet in their crates or on a table while I work another dog and also while I teach seminars. Lately Encore and Feature have gotten more vocal. I did see this start in Minnesota so I can’t say it has come on all of a sudden, but it has gotten progressively worst. In the last 2 days Feature has even decided she would occasionally leave her table to go sniffing while I am teaching. CRAP! So when they bark, or leave the table I have been giving them a time out, locking the offender in a crate or removing her from the building. N-i-c-e, lets just punish something that you should have been using reinforcement to prevent Susan! So yesterday afternoon I went on the attack. I experimented with ways to stop what I didn’t like by using reinforcement to my advantage, while not interferring too much with my teaching. So rather than have Feature just hang on the table while I watch handling, I had her lie by the chair I was using. Hmmm, quiet, yet creeping around on her down, not so good. So I took off my shoe and had her put her right paw on it. Putting her right paw on my shoe is a behaviour I shaped a while ago, why? I don’t know, but it came in handy to give her a boundary to observe. That worked for the last couple of hours but I need to alter things because I can see her already changing the criteria of her right paw on my shoe behaviour. I don’t want to end up with very naughty seminar dogs after this trip so I have got to get on it, back to the drawing board today! It is very much like contacts in a trial. You have a wonderful performance at home but all behaviour does drift, and if don’t notice it, after a few trials or years of trials “all of a sudden” you are left with something that does not at all resemble what you started with when you first trained the contact behaviour at home. I love my well behaved dogs and I don’t want to lose that while teaching!
I am very grateful that God gave me a nudge to help me realize the crap (don’t know if He would use that word) that was beginning with my dogs and how I needed to come up with a new plan of reinforcement to alter what I don’t like.