Sunday, August 1, 2010

Training my dog with punishment

Tinky-Winky used to be very good in the car. She'd just lie down in the back seat and sleep until we got somewhere. But last November, I hit a bison and went into the ditch. No one was hurt, not even the bison, but once we got out of the ditch, Tinky-Winky wanted to sit in my lap. And I let her, because she just had a big scare.

Then on the return drive, she wanted to sit in my lap, and I let her.

And the next time we went, she wanted to sit in my lap, and I let her.

And so for the next seven months, she sat in my lap all the way from Hay River to Yellowknife and back. Most of the time it's not dangerous, but it did get annoying, and then as summer heated up, it got really uncomfortable.

Then, we got the New Car. Which is a minivan with captain's seats in the front. So, I thought she wouldn't be able to sit with me, and that would be the end of that annoyance.

I was wrong.

The first drive in the van, she sat in the passenger seat. The return drive, however, she tried to sit in my lap. I pushed her away. She tried again. I pushed her away. She got more and more pushy, and I had to push her away more and more forcefully. She's strong when she wants something.

Finally I stopped and tied her to something in the back seat. Her leash is just long enough that she can sit with her nose between the two front seats, so she did just that, for a while. Then she tried to climb into the passenger seat, so I unhooked her and let her do that.

Then... after a while, she tried to sit in my lap again, and got even more ornery than before, so I stopped and tied her up again. Halfway through the trip I untied her, and after that she didn't try to get into my lap again.

Now when we do that long drive, she sometimes shows that she'd like to be in my lap, and I tell her no, and she finds something else to do.

And this was all punishment: I did something to decrease a behaviour. It worked very quickly, and it did her no harm at all. She didn't stop bothering me because she was traumatized, but because she got the point that I didn't want her in my lap. And if you think I could have done it with positive reinforcement alone, you're wrong. I tried giving her treats for being in the right place, she doesn't care. She doesn't even like to eat in the car anyway, and she won't take treats when she's upset. And even if she had taken the treats, she'd have kept trying to sit in my lap as well, because some times she'd rather have a treat, and some times she'd rather be in my lap. She's not a machine; her needs vary from time to time.

You have to punish your dog some times if you hope to train it. Or your cat, horse, child or employee. There is no effective behaviour modification without punishment. If you have issues with punishment, it's not because punishment is wrong, it's because you have maladaptive schemas about it.

No comments: