Thursday, 11 October 2007

Using a pleasant stimulus to make a dog like something

Penny likes having her paws washed in diluted chlorhex. We clean her paws each day because she had a rash between her pads and was licking her paws and the vet said to try this treatment. It seems to be working.

She likes it because I give her a small treat at the exact moment when each paw goes into the liquid. I have only to pick up the small container with the chlorhex solution and she rushes over to get started.

I got the idea from noticing that the vet suggests I offer her a treat just as he gives her a vaccination. I must say, though, she still doesn't like injections.

When she was a tiny puppy she didn't like being brushed, so we started acclimatising her to grooming by holding the brush against her skin and giving her a treat; we gradually moved on to brushing and now she loves the actual grooming. In psychology terms I suppose she has associated grooming with a pleasant experience and now she doesn't need treats. I'm not sure it's a case of classical conditioning, as in the original Pavlovian experiements. After all, she might simply like being brushed.

She sure loves the brushes - the toothmarks on the handles show just how much.

In looking around for information on Pavlov's experiments with dogs I came across a discussion of how humans react to a stimulus paired with the smell of peanut butter or vanilla. It seems that we're not much different from dogs.

I must admit that when I walk into the house one of the first things I do is stroll over to the fridge or the pantry to see if there's any chocolate to be had.
The discussion said, in part:
Some researchers think that visual signals encourage certain behaviors. For example, in this latest study, the visual signals were the abstract pictures. However, many things can become visual cues in daily life. It is possible that some people are conditioned to want fattening or sweet foods when they go to a particular restaurant; perhaps other people eat bags of potato chips when they watch TV or drink too much alcohol when they are with certain friends. People who want to change certain eating behaviors may benefit from changing their environment. A change in a person's environment may help to avoid behaviors that they hope to change.

We're careful to make sure Penny has a healthy diet. It's a pity we're not so conscientious in looking after our own health.


Wayfarer Scientista said...

hmmm...aquaintences of mine have dogs that are trained to wash their feet before going into the house! Penny might be up for such a trick.

parlance said...

Wayfarer, when Penny was little I had dreams of teaching her to wash her muddy feet before entering the house and then Nature played a joke on us and it stopped raining. Living in a dustbowl for the last few years, instead of a nice green Mediterranean climate, I forgot all about teaching her to deal with dirty feet.
I'm assuming your friends' dogs wash their feet because they are muddy.

Amber-Mae said...

I don't really like to be groomed coz I'm usually forced to stand still & not move a muscle. If I do, my mommy will be very angry. Anyway, just wanted to tell you that my mommy will be taking a video of me doing the whole Inter OB routine & post in in my blog next week. Have a great weekend Parlence & Penny!

Love licks,
Solid Gold Dancer

parlance said...

Amber-Mae, I'm feeling a bit embarrassed that I couldn't teach Penny to sit or stand still while she is being groomed. She loves it, but she wriggles and dances around and even throws herself on her back to let me know where she wants to be groomed next. It's quite exhausting for me.

I'm looking forward to seeing your routine! You are a credit to your Mum!

Jabari said...

Penny, you will have to be taught to "stand, stay" before grooming. I must admit that it takes my Mum a real LOT of TREATS to get me to stand really still while she is pulling all my tangles with that brush. So I have to continually try to bite the brush to let her know it hurts. But I am getting better.

parlance said...

Penny loves brushes too. It's like playing 'keepings off' as I try to brush her. She's never going to pass 'stand to be brushed' if they bring it into competitions.