Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dreaming of the day I eat a Banana

Sadie-pops' story not related to the above and below pictures: the last dog I owned, or really had any relation to other than petting someone else dog and feigning interest in the pup, was Noah. He was my parents dog who was a flood rescue dog. Get it? Noah? He was a golden retriever and smarter than just about any dog I've ever met.

When I was bored and at home I learned how to teach him tricks. Give the command. Have him do what I wanted with my assistance. Repeat each time giving a lot of encouragement for good behavior and lessening the assistance from me with each command. Noah inevitably would get it within 30 minutes. I taught him "shake" and "drop/give". Really the "drop/give" command was my own inconsistency in remembering what command it was that was taught and him just being plain smart enough to figure out what I wanted him to do - drop/give the ball so I could toss it with him bounding after - indefatigably.

Staring at Sadie this past week an idea came into my head. I wonder if Sadie can learn tricks like dogs? Give a command, show her behavior, lots of encouragement and then hope she figures it out. I decided on every kids favorite trick: gimme five.

Well, it went okay at first. When Sadie is in a good mood she sort of runs on her back with legs kicking and arms pumping. The plan went into action, she was in full happiness with legs and arms flailing in ecstasy. I started by staying "gimme five" and having her arm run into my hand. Then "YAAAAY!!!" which elicited a small grin and a coo. This went on until I was sure she got it. Triumphantly I left feeling like she achieved quite an accomplishment. A new trick!

Later in the day I tried it again. "Gimme five!" and held out my hand in the exact position it was previously. Limp, she just stared up at me. I said, "Gimme five" again and forced her hand into mine. This followed and gleeful "yay" from me. Sadie whinnied and tensed. Foolishly I tried again. Sadie went into full protest and wailed prompting me to pick her up and swing her around in effort to quell the maddening cry.

After some reflection, I came to the conclusion that my daughter is not nearly so eager to please as my previous dog. This parenting thing might be more challenging than I was led to believe.


  1. LOL, what you stumbled upon is actually called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and you just described prompt fading and social positive reinforcement ;) Sounds like she ended up no longer being reinforced by the social praise, but keep those concepts in mind! Research shows ABA works! :)

  2. Carolyn, I think it's more likely that she didn't even know what she was doing (high-fiving), she tends to wave her arms around when she gets excited and Brian just took advantage of a response she already has...who's training who I wonder? haha