OMDoodle! Last week I experienced the negative side of Pavlov’s Theory with Harley while he worked his shift as a therapy dog…
Upon entering an ICU area, he literally went on strike – shut down (in terms of commands) right before my eyes waiting for a treat. #baconbeforepatients
Homeboy was off the preverbal “chain” with his antics. Filled with multiple emotions (annoyance, embarrassment, frustration – to name a few) I decided to –
- capture his tantrum with photos
- come home and do some serious internet research
Which has ultimately resulted in writing this post.
THE BEGINNING –
As a volunteer, Harley’s first assignment was the Pediatric Procedure Unit. That’s where he met Jennifer…
He adored going to that unit. In addition to the children, he quickly started to enjoy the nurses station. There he always received loads of attention…
Each week, the nurses would offer up “top shelf” treats from their secret stash in the overhead cabinet behind their desks…
As soon as we’d exit an elevator, Harley would hop down those hallways, ears flapping in the air with excitement galore. He was about to cross the threshold of what equated to the “Willy Wonka Factory” of dog treats!
FAST FOWARD TO EMPLOYEE STATUS –
Once our status changed from volunteer to employee, so did Harley’s schedule. He was now at the hospital at least three days every week.
This, I believe, somewhat contributed to his weight gain, because every time he was with me, we went to Ped’s Procedure.
It wasn’t long before other units caught on and every floor just about turned into a “dog treat” festival…
Fast forward to present days – specifically a couple of months ago when I noticed this paradigm shift in Harley’s willingness to comply. He was slow to follow commands, which required me to repeat myself more often.
This was not his usual behavior at work, and certainly not at home. When a nurse came by with a treat in her hand, Harley perked right up and I quickly caught on.
I was now hip to his game. #pickingupwhathewasputtingdown
SPEED UP TO LAST WEEK –
Last week was Harley’s first week back after much deserved vacation days and his behavior was both shocking and atrocious! Yep, I said it!
He was at his absolute worst. Stubborn, defiant – refusing to do anything – without a treat first. #howdoodledarehe
He ignored staff and pulled towards every nurses station he saw…
It was the battle of wills – and even though I won (no one was permitted to give him a treat) – I feel as if I lost because I was psychologically drained – spent – done!!!!
He wore me out, so much so, I couldn’t wait to search the wide world web for information.
CLASSICAL CONDITIONING –
Classical conditioning (also known as Pavlovian conditioning) is –
learning through association and was discovered by Pavlov, a Russian physiologist. In simple terms – two stimuli are linked together to produce a new learned response in a person of animal.Simply Psychology
Pavlov discovered that any object a dog learns to associate with food would trigger the same response.
Harley’s devoted attention to the patients was actually triggered and driven by the treats he received when he entered a particular unit. It has since become something he expects when he enters ALL units.
REVERSING CLASSICAL CONDITIONING –
The more I read – the more I drank – but the more I also wanted to learn, especially when I found information about reversing classical conditioning.
I already understood how we got here. But now I wanted to know how do we get rid of this behavior.
Interestingly enough, there’s a reverse side to classical conditioning. It’s called “counterconditioning.”
I can reduce the intensity of a conditioned response by establishing a incompatible response to the conditioned stimulus.Wiki
But REALLY – what in the Doodle does that mean?
It means that the unwanted response doesn’t actually disappear. I need to replace it with a new, wanted response. In essence – I’m trying to “up the ante” with a better reward then him receiving a treat from the nurses.
Since this is all new, I don’t have all the answers yet, This solution is truly a work in progress!
WORKING ON A PLAN –
At the end of the day, I know Harley enjoys visiting the patients…
AND the incredible medical staff…
He makes a difference when he’s there, and I have no intentions of discontinuing his work as a therapy dog.
Giving the reversal technique much thought – I may be able to “up the ante” by taking these steps –
- continue to prohibit the nurses from giving him treats
And when that becomes a learned behavior –
- increase the praise when he does what he is supposed to do
And when that becomes an acceptable reward –
- provide treats myself once we return back in my office
One can only try.
Monday here we come…
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
If you’re reading this then I hope something good happens to you today ❤️