Years of the same behavior being reinforced over and over and over again. Lucas thinks, If I bark and lunge and snarl at this oncoming dog, he’ll leave me alone! And it works, time and time again, and now his mind equates his particular crazed response to successfully getting a potentially dangerous dog (in his mind) to go away.
Turns out, I have my owned conditioned response that I need to change.
Lucas loves doggy daycare. LOVES. In fact, they describe him as “pumped” to be there. However, the lobby is a charged zone for him. I wait in the car until we’re the only clients there, then I take him in.
This morning, just as we walked in, the receptionist’s dog burst out from behind the counter.
Here’s where hindsight helps: I should have, in the moment, noticed that Lucas’ tail was in a neutral position. His fur wasn’t up. His body wasn’t tense. In fact, in that split second, he really didn’t react at all.
I, on the other hand, resorted to my conditioned response. I yanked him to my side and stepped in front of him.
And then he reacted, lunging and snarling.
Driving home, I thought through the scenario a dozen times. I’m fairly sure that if I hadn’t done anything, if I had let it play out, Lucas would have been fine. I can’t know for certain, of course, but he wasn’t showing his usual signs.
So it looks like both of us have a conditioned response that needs to change.
But in class he’s doing phenomenally well. He’s responsive. He keeps his attention on
Easy Cheese me. He cries for the entire hour, earning him the nickname “whiny face” from the trainer… but other than that, I couldn’t ask for a better experience so far.
That being said,a part of me is a little concerned that Lucas is smart enough to know that we’re “training.” That in this room, a controlled environment, he’s going to get a facefull of cheese for paying attention to me, so why not? Will it carry over into the real world? I’m not willing to test it yet. On our walk yesterday, we spotted no less than 6 other dogs, and each time I changed course, not ready to test our progress yet.
So I guess as class progresses and he keeps learning and doing well, will his positive progress be enough of a positive reinforcer to me to change my conditioning?
Have you experienced anything like this? Does your dog’s behavior change your behavior and, thus, the outcome of a particular situation? Any magic formula for getting the confidence to change?