Oops, she did it AGAIN!

Remember that post from last week? Yeah, the one about Evey getting into the trash can… Well, the following day I came home to this!IMG_1874 IMG_1875

Still not guilty… Although she did pee on the same paper towel she had the day before. Weirdo! It must have smelled like bacon or something. *rolls eyes*

Okay so why am I posting this? Well, for one thing this is a case of “even dog trainers aren’t perfect”. But the other reason is that you would have thought that the first time she got in the trash would have been enough to remind me to velcro the lid down… It Was NOT.

Yes, cleaning up trash is unpleasant and something that I want to avoid. However, punishment by definition decreases a behavior. In this case you would think that I would stop leaving the house without Velcroing the lid. However, the problem is that in this case cleaning up trash isn’t a large enough punishment for me. For someone else, it very well might be enough to put that trash under lock and key 24 hours a day.

Yeah sure, after two garbage clean ups in a row I remembered to velcro the lid for the next two days but since then I haven’t remembered to velcro the lid. Evey also hasn’t gotten into the trash, so she’s actually reinforcing my forgetfulness. That’s ONE SMART PUP. Because now that the trash is filling up it’ll pay off for her to dig around in there tomorrow.

There is an alternate way to remind myself to velcro the lid… That involves a little intervention and a lot of reinforcement! I should hang a note on the doors I commonly exit when I’m leaving the house. There are 3. When I see that note (the intervention/cue) I’m going to go velcro the lid to the trash. I’m also going to set a jar of chocolate chips near the trash (out of Evey’s reach  because if she got into that it would be bad!) so I can reinforce myself for remembering to actually velcro the lid. Additionally, Evey won’t get into the trash so I’ll be doubly reinforced for Velcroing the lid. When I can remember to velcro the lid before I reach the door, I can take the notes down and the fact that Evey doesn’t get into the trash will be enough to maintain my new behavior, no more chocolate chips or extra weight gain!

I don’t know if I’ll actually follow thru with the “training plan” for myself. However, a couple of take home lessons I want you to walk away with:

  1. Obviously, trash scattered throughout the house isn’t catastrophic enough for me to change my behavior, but it could be for someone else. This is why the old argument that some people use to justify the use of aversives “It doesn’t actually hurt. I tried it on myself first.” doesn’t hold any validity with me. Punishment is subjective and an individualized experience. If an aversive doesn’t cause physical pain it could cause emotional pain and distress. You don’t get to decide that for your dog, your dog decides that for themselves.
  2. The use of punishment doesn’t reliably change behavior. Punishment can suppress a behavior or change a behavior temporally but without that constant threat of the punisher we go back to our old habits.
  3. You can change behavior permanently with positive reinforcement. Yeah it might take an extra step or two but once it becomes a habit the change is permanent. Should there be a relapse in that changed behavior, it’s much more likely that you’ll follow thru with starting your “training plan” again since it’s fun and pleasant for all parties involved.
  4. Oh, and never be ashamed to say that you train yourself, your spouse, or your children like you train your dog. Unless you’re using a shock collar! 🙂 *Awk-Ward*

Have a great rest of your week! Happy Training!!!

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