On a recent walk with my puppy Zeldi we came across a woman standing around in the street playing with her phone. She was wearing a billowing long dress. Zeldi found the fluttering fabric very interesting and the woman wanted to interact with Zeldi. Knowing how tempting her garb was to Zeldi I rewarded Zeldi for resisting to play with the fluttering fabric and not leaping up on the woman.
When we were done with the ceremony as we were walking away the woman mockingly said: Treats@@ Treats@@ So I briefly explained that Z loves to play with fabric and that I was rewarding her for resisting that temptation since I am sure the woman would not appreciate walking away from the interaction all tattered an torn. She then revealed that she was a trainer. “Jumping up?” she said: Knee to chest! Knee to chest! That will teach her. I am a trainer”. And again” It does not hurt”.
My questions to her would be:
- What is wrong with prevention and rewarding appropriate behavior?
- If I were to wait until she leaps up:
- Would she not be practicing an undesired behavior that by mere repetition would be self reinforcing?
- By adding the knee jerk would I not be participating in that unwanted behavior and reinforcing it?
- If indeed the bouncing against my knee would work as a punishment: how effective would it be if the knee jerk was not “really” a big deal?
- Would she not find the satisfaction derived from the self- rewarding leap more tempting? Kind of like getting a speeding ticket that is so cheap that the pleasure of driving fast would completely outweigh the slight nuisance of paying a fine that would barely make a dent in one’s pocket book.
The trainer belongs to the school of thought where the teaching process is a step behind the dog and is focused on correcting nuisance behaviors and failing to reinforce the dog when calm and “well behaved”.