Thursday, November 18, 2010

Behavior Modification

A very useful skill to learn before you have children. It was one that I learned how to do when age 10.

I’ve always had a dog in my life. My very first dog was a beagle hound named Butch. He was the self-proclaimed neighborhood watch dog. Anyone who dared drive their vehicle down the 4 blocks of Utopia Place in Hyde Park in Cincinnati used to be challenged by Butch. We lived in the 2nd house from the entrance so he had the perfect vantage point to challenge any vehicle. Heaven forbid it was a truck! He had this very bad habit of chasing the trucks that brought us milk and eggs or that delivered the newspaper or picked up the garbage.

The people who drove these trucks had to, at some point, get out to deliver their goods. There would be Butch waiting to get his treat with his tail wagging furiously. The regulars all knew Butch and why he was chasing their vehicle. If this was your first time and didn’t know him and how harmless he was, you’d swear that your life was in jeopardy, especially after witnessing him chasing alongside your car or truck with teeth snarling.

We tried to make Butch stop chasing cars and trucks because he might get hit or we might be sued if someone had a heart seizure or stroke due out of fear. Luckily most of the people who ventured down Utopia Place were regulars. One of the garbage men, however, was taking no chances. When he witnessed the viscous assault on his truck as he approached our house he got out his claw hook that he used to grab and drag the trash cans to the back of the truck to empty it. He used this hook to defend himself not knowing that all he needed was a dog treat. One swipe of that hook was all that was needed to puncture Butch’s back beneath the scruff of his neck and he was down and out bleeding all over the place. The garbage man thought he had killed Butch and rushed down the rest of the street, completed his tasks and left our community. After the vet put several stitches to close the wound it was obvious that Butch would live to welcome next week’s trucks and beyond.

It was clear that we had to do something to make Butch stop chasing cars and trucks so we developed a plan. We talked to the milk man and he agreed to pick me up before he drove into our street. Butch hated to get a bath and to be wet. So I filled 4 large buckets with cold water and took them to the pickup point. The milk truck came to the agreed upon loading spot and I loaded up the buckets of water near the right hand open door. Butch always chased along the right hand side of the vehicles. The milk truck pulled into Utopia Place like usual and true to form Butch took out to chase it like he always did dreaming of the great treats this guy usually had for him when he stopped to bring us milk. The treat that was waiting for Butch was one he never forgot!

I waited until Butch pulled alongside the back tire and poured the water on Butch. He momentarily broke his stride but recovered catching up to the middle of the truck to see who had doused him. He and I made eye contact when he received his second bucket full of water this time realizing that today’s chase was different he let out a couple of yelps but persevered then got another bucket full and tried once more to catch up to the front tire when hit with the 4th bucket full of water. It was at that point he gave up the chase and went back home with a puzzled and dismayed look on his face. He laid down waiting for the truck to return as he was leaving. No move to chase it again. I got off the truck once out of sight of the miserable hound, He saw me coming back home and gave me a halfhearted welcome. He did not realize that it was his master who almost drown him.

In fact Butch wisely decided that it was no longer much fun to chase the cars and trucks if he had to chance another encountering another waterfall. From that moment on Butch realized that all of the people who drove the trucks and gave him snacks still stopped to give him the treat only now he could drop the exhausting chase and still get the treat and not have to experience another flood.

Behavior Modified!!

Little did I know at age 10 that this technique would be come in very handy when redeployed with teenagers. No I never used the “water boarding technique” on my children but the process worked well when redeployed as the kids grew up.

Ralph Taylor - Guest Blogger
For Ed Winkle who today is sailing
on the Danube through Germany

1 comment:

  1. We have had detailed discussion with very educated passengers about the need for behavior modification and how what we are doing isn't working in our country! We are in Nuremburg, watch the movie again. Evil people have killed millions of innocent victims.