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Friday, November 18, 2011

Bella's boot camp

So, day 4 with Bella in her learn to earn program.  She did well most of the day. Dinner was a little trying with her barking a lot at Glenda and the food kibble jar on the table.  Barking did not get any kibble to her, and after a few minutes she started to get it.  This is her old pattern - bark and to get her to quiet down she would get a food puzzle, play or let outside for tennis ball time.  Guess what? That was encouraging or reinforcing her barking!

So why was Bella now barking?  She was trying out the old technique to see if that would still work to get her play or food.  This is the extinction burst - as the old behavior is going extinct ( forgotten) there is a sudden rush of attempts to use the old behavior to get her way - hence the barking. Now this is the point of testing the patience of the person working on changing the behavior. Do you have the patience and understanding to stick with the program so you do not reinforce the extinction burst? In Bella's case that meant not telling her "quiet" because that was like barking back - or looking at her - or getting her a toy to settle her.  We had to totally ignore her.  It worked but it was a test of both our wills.
This is the point where training or using leadership programs breaks down. It is not easy to ignore the barking or nose nudging to get attention.  It can really drive you crazy!  Counting the number of barks or nudges  before they settle, helps to see that the program is working and keeps you going on the ignoring.  I won't say it is easy.  Overall she is much less reactive and settled at home, so a few breaks are not that bad. Keeping the big picture in mind is really important to saving your sanity.


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