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DeCaff practicing her mechanics as a puppy

DeCaff, as a puppy, practicing her training mechanics.

Carrying on from yesterday’s post here are some more ways dogs have learned to shape their humans. Many dogs learn how effective hunger strikes can be when shaping a human. People can’t stand to watch a dog miss a meal. The moment a dog turns up his nose to his routine breakfast 9 times out of 10 the bowl is taken up and either canned food or bits of cheese are added to it. Awesome gig for a dog if you can get it, really!

Don’t think this human shaping is restricted to only pet dogs.  No way, lets look at the agility ring. Dog canters around the agility ring showing moderate speed. You carry on every time, more or less ignoring him until you get to the end of the run where you present him with his reward. Then one day your dog stops cantering and slows to a trot. Wow all of a sudden you turn into a candidate for the Dallas Cowboys cheerleadering squad. “Com’on, com’on, com’on, thata boy! You can do it. What’s wrong boy, lets get going, com’on, com’on, com’on!”  Dog learns; hmmm when I go fast you ignore me but if I slow down you show my all kinds of attention and praise.

Now you are going to train this agility dog, you do a sequence offer the dog his tug toy and he won’t take it. You start dancing around, still he doesn’t take it so you give him a cookie. Dog learns that he can get you to produce the reinforcement of his choosing.

Next time out you are running a sequence at home and the dog decides to not go down on the table. He stress pants and looks away from you. Concerned, you pull out a cookie and lure him to the down position. Hmmm says the dog, I went down on that table 6 times last week and a “good boy” is all I got from you. Now when I choose to not go down, you produce a cookie! Dog thinks, note to self, drop the automatic down crap on the table.”

However I think the dog’s most brilliant discovery is the use of voice. It starts when, from his crate, he hears your car in the driveway home after a long day at work. He is so happy you are home he starts his fan fare the moment your car door slams. The barking, the wiggling, the whining. He announces your arrival with every tool he can use from the confines of his crate. Subconsciously or otherwise, your ego has been stroked as no-one has ever been that happy to see you in a long time. You smile and go to greet the dog, letting him out of crate and then outside to potty. Hmm says the dog, I must use this barking dog gig other places. He then implements the barking craze to go outside, or to come inside or even to just get your attention as you turn to him and say “would you p-l-e-a-s-e shut UP!

And my personal favorite, the dog shaping their human to dance. Picture this you take out a big handful of cookies to train your dog. You are about to shape behaviours so you wait until your dog shows you something brilliant. Your dog stares at the treat hand non-stop attempting his own version of the Vulcan Mind-melt on you. He may even whimper or nudge your hand until finally you move your hand behind your back. To which your dog goes behind your back so you respond by moving the hand up under your chin or on top of your head. All you need now is to “do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around” and your dance would be complete.

If you want to amuse yourself some time watch a human interact with their dog some time and you will agree with me that dogs are far, far better at shaping people than people are at shaping dogs. Tomorrow for your entertainment and to prove you are not alone, I will confess to the behaviours my own dogs have been able to shape in me!

Today I am grateful that we can all laugh at our own unconscious screw ups.