Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Who's training who?
There’s a saying that during every moment spent with a dog, one of you is training the other. Now, I probably spend more time than the average person training my dog, both in formal training sessions and by simply requesting a behavior before doing something she wants, like throwing her ball, which is why it always comes as such a surprise when I discover that she’s trained me to do something.
Recently, Maisy trained me to give her a cookie in the mornings. If I do, she will reinforce my cookie-giving behavior by going outside. If I don’t, she will decline to go outside, and instead remain in bed.
Here’s what happened: The Husband and I both work full-time during the day. I leave first, and for awhile, left the dog-letting-out duty to him so that she’d get “last call” as late as possible. Unfortunately, he has a tendency to be pressed for time in the mornings, which meant that sometimes he’d skip letting her out. To Maisy’s credit, she really didn’t have any accidents. Even so, I felt it was unhealthy to go from 10pm the night before until 4:30pm without peeing, so I decided that I’d be the one to let her out in the mornings.
The problem was, she wasn’t interested in going! Instead, she would much rather remain in bed with The Husband, and when I’d ask her if she’d like to go out, she’d barely open her eyes. When I told her that going out wasn’t really optional, she’d lift her head and look at me sleepily, clearly not interested in moving. She’s obviously not a morning person- er, dog- and there was no amount of begging or demanding that would get her out of bed.
So I resorted to bribery. One morning, after Maisy ignored my calls, I rattled her treat jar. Being essentially a stomach with fur and legs, she came running, and once out of bed, happily went outside. I was pleased that she had responded so well, and was hopeful that she would come a bit more promptly in the future. But the next morning, I was back to where I began, desperately rattling her treat jar.
Although she’s coming a bit more readily now, she won’t actually go out without the treat. If I try to shove her out the door, she’ll immediately bark to come back in. If, on the other hand, I give her the treat before sending her outside, she’ll happily putter around the back yard for 5-10 minutes before coming back in.
I guess I can’t really blame her, though. Given the choice between staying in bed to snuggle with The Husband, and getting up to go to work, I know where I’d rather be. It’s only the promise of a paycheck that gets me out of bed, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that she feels the same way.