Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shaping

Susan Garret's blog this week has been on the topic of our dogs shaping us. That's right--dogs shaping humans. Reinforcement builds behavior, and we often reinforce "cute" games our dogs come up with only to find out later on that this cute game is a pain!

When I got Cosi, he had a game with his reflection. He would look at himself (in the glass of the entertainment center, in a shiny oven door, etc.) then run into another room and bark. Come back; repeat. I didn't like this game; it seemed pointless (meaning it had nothing to do with agility!), and the barking was not something I wanted to encourage.

I use this game as an example of how our dogs do funny things, and we laugh at them. My neighbor just got a GSD puppy. I hear them in the yard with the dog, teasing it with a toy, laughing at the dog as he barks in frustration because he can't get the toy, and them laughing at the barking. I just keep thinking, "Wait until you have a full-grown GSD and you can't get an object from it because you're playing monkey-in-the-middle with the toys now."

Not that I'm any great, perfect dog owner/trainer, I just have seen the error of my ways with the exact same scenario--cute games that are funny now and make life difficult later. I am currently working on a behavior routine Cosi has devised on our walks. When he sees or hears another dog, he barks and lunges. I am working on getting him to walk by another dog without barking. It's a work in progress...

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