Sunday, April 19, 2015

Home2K9 Helpful Hint: Consequences.

I keep going to the same Starbucks drive-thru even though nearly every single time, my drink is delayed significantly, or even prepared incorrectly. The location is convenient, but the consequences of this particular drive-through are certainly annoying. The problem is, even though I have a bad experience frequently, it's not bad enough that I'm motivated the next time to work a little harder (read: go out of my way) to choose a different drive-thru. On the contrary, I find it worth the risk because they occasionally reward me for my discomfort by comping my drink, or providing a coupon for a future free drink. Yay! I rather enjoy the risk now, and often hope they screw up (when I'm not in a hurry), so I can get my bonus rewards for being such a patient customer. Guess what happens when I'm in a hurry though? I'm so incredibly ticked. I have no sense of loyalty because they haven't actually earned it, and I feel very frustrated in spite of the predictable nature of these mistakes.  

Many of you are engaged in this type of training relationship with your dogs. The consequences you deliver are annoying, but not significant enough to cause your dog to go out of their way to change their habit the next time. You may give them a gentle collar pop, or scold them with your voice, but if you aren't matching the level of intensity your dog is experiencing within themselves, or addressing their state of mind in a way they truly value, then you're only creating an annoyance they learn to work around. Worse yet, follow that too-light consequence with a cookie or a free pass out of "place" command, and it's like my comp beverage card. Suddenly your dog is jazzed to "try you again next time," and expects to earn more freebies. This dynamic may even work for you for a time, when the stakes are low, but what of those moments when your dog is frustrated and "in a hurry" like I sometimes am? No respect exists between you because you reliably delivery poor "product," and the reaction is not one of reverence or calm, but disconnected bitterness and entitlement.  

Making a point to deliver valuable consequences right from the start, will cause a shift in unwanted behavior, and end repeated attempts from your dog to negotiate your rules. If you're only "annoying," or you "predictably compensate," then fido will find that to be a game worth playing. If you're the Starbucks drive-thru, and your dog is me, make your dog's drink so nasty the first time they push your boundaries, that they write a bad Yelp review and never come back again. Easier on your dog, and easier on you. Trust me. 

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