Monday, December 2, 2013

In Which My Training Priorities Surprised Me

To be perfectly honest, I really haven't done much training with Pyg. But I have done quite a bit of behavior modification. Some of my friends don't think there's much of a difference between these two things, and perhaps they're right. But things are so much more fun in my head (there are narwhals, after all) that the distinction matters to me.

Maybe a better way to talk about it would be to say that I've done quite a bit of classical conditioning with Pyg, and not much operant conditioning. I've been very interested in creating good emotional associations with things, in changing the way he feels. I haven't done much in the way of changing how Pyg behaves. Of course, I do realize that changing feelings often changes behaviors, so yes. My friends are probably right. But so am I. Or at least, my point stands.

Anyway, if I had to sum up what I've done with Pyg over the past month, it would be in one word: husbandry, with a focus on handling and grooming. Maybe it was just the stress of transport, or maybe he'd had bad experiences, but when Pyg first came home, he was a bit hand shy. Oh, he was friendly enough, but if you reached towards him, he'd skitter away. It was hard to catch him long enough to put a leash on him so he could go out to potty.

I started with doing lots and lots of collar grabs with him. Reach out, touch collar, give treat. Reach out, grab collar, give treat. Reach out, tug on collar, give treat. Over and over and over again at each step, until Pyg was happy to see my hand coming towards him.

Next I worked on being about to touch him anywhere on his body. Touch his hips, give treat. Touch his thigh, give treat. Touch his back, give treat. Touch his shoulder, give treat. Touch his ears, give treat. Look in his ears, give treat. Hold head still, give treat. Over and over and over again until I could trim his nails without protest, until I could examine his teeth, until I could trim up some of the fur around his face.

Hey! Someone left their peanut butter in the tub!
Most of this- even the nail trims- went surprisingly fast. Trimming his face was a bit harder (he does not like the scissors). But hardest of all has been trying to get him in the bathtub. I have no idea why, but he is freaked out scared. This is frustrating if only because he is so greasy and smelly at this point that I have contemplated throwing caution to the wind and just getting it done.

I haven't, yet. I am patient, and he does have to eat twice a day, after all. Right now every meal is going towards the bathtub thing: being fed while held near the tub and having special treats in the bathtub. Once that's done, we need to work on taking medicine (which is going to be hard, because he does not like the dewormer I'm giving him right now), and then a bit more on medical exams.

One of these days, I'm going to have to actually train him.

1 comment:

Chris and Mike said...

Husbandry training is so important. Having just had my big sweet brave Aussie Bandit scream bloody murder at the vet's when having his temperature taken, the next training challenge is making him OK with having his stub of a tail lifted. Thank goodness for clickers and treats! (I only wish I had done this BEFORE his bad experience).