Super Bowl Shocker
My people are big football fans. I didn’t realize that when I was adopted. I’ve had to get use to a lot of vocalizations on Sundays (and to think they complain about my barking!). There was a really big game last Sunday, something called the Super Bowl (I’m still trying to understand the game – but I think this football bowl is bigger than my water and food bowls – I guess because the men are big – so everyone makes a big deal about it). Anyway, they said people really watch mostly for the commercials so that’s what I paid attention to.
I liked one commercial in particular. It was for Doritos. If you didn’t see it you can watch it by clicking here. It was about a man who was eating Doritos and a dog with a shock collar on who wanted some. The man would only share his chips if the dog barked, which of course would have resulted in the dog being shocked. It ended well for the dog. The man ended up chip-less all because he underestimated the intellectual superiority of the canine population. (I realize that all dogs are not as smart or as talented as I am – Afghan hounds are all looks, no brains and Bulldogs, well I’m not really sure why any college would want one as a mascot – but beside those few individual shortcomings, we’re still very good at training people).
Perhaps our success is what frustrates people – they just can’t figure out how we do it. Canines can train people without shock collars, but some people can’t seem to ‘train’ us without one. For example, people use those Invisible Fences – a shocking experience for the poor dog every time they go outside. Such ‘containment systems’ sound good to people only because they don’t understand or take the time to understand DOG.
Let me paint this picture for you: You have a child who you want to keep in the yard. You put one of these collars on the child – to keep them safe you tell yourself. The child is outside, and sees a person walking on the sidewalk outside your house. The child walks over to say hello. As they get close they get shocked. It seems every time they walk over to say hello to a person walking by they get shocked. Not only does this shock hurt but they don’t understand why the shock is happening. All they know is they see a person and get shocked. They don’t understand this ‘invisible boundary’. They don’t understand ‘keeping you safe’. What they do understand is this learned negative association: PEOPLE=BAD THINGS/SHOCK.
The result: they become more fearful every time they see a person walking by because this negative, shock reinforcement has taught them, not what you intended which was ‘stay in the yard’, but ‘people mean bad things/shock’. Obviously, after awhile not only won’t they approach a person walking by the house, they won’t want them in your yard on in your house either. People mean bad things happen. So what does happen when someone comes near them? They may become fearful. They may cry out. Maybe they will lash out to protect themselves from this perceived threat. Maybe they lash out at another child, seriously hurting them. This is what happens in the mind of a canine. Random, especially negative shock reinforcement, is not an effective training method. It is cruel and can result in some unintended, hard to break behaviors.
I’m very lucky I have people who realize that the way to a dogs heart is through their stomach! I will do anything for chicken. I will sit, wait, touch – I’ll even go so far as fetch a ball as long as chicken is on the line. Okay, lately I will do it for a “Goood Girl!” simply because when my person says that it means I made them happy. I like making my person happy. We have worked hard to try and understand each other (trust me people are hard to figure out!). I trust them more now. I think they trust me more now too because I don’t have to stay in my crate anymore when they’re at work. At least I think it’s a trust thing – Sometimes I think they don’t crate me so I’ll do the housework while they’re gone. You would not believe it but I find dog treats all over the house when they leave! How can they be that messy?? I feel, that in order to be a good canine member of my family, it is my responsibility to pick up these treats and dispose of them properly. I even find dog treats in their bed! I don’t know – People are a strange breed – but I sure do love mine.