9 August 2013
This evening we went to one of our favorite dog parks and, as usual, Milo greeted old friends and new - the two legged variety. He got scratches and pats from all and made sure that no one had an idle hand for too long nudging them into action on giving him love.
After about an hour of walking the trails it was time to head out and get home for some dinner. However, it was about this time that several new groups of people and dogs entered the park. Milo was intent on greeting and charming them into getting some love from them too.
So... here is the scene. I am walking towards the exit gate with Leo and Sabrina. Milo is about 40 feet away fully focused on his new groups of people. I call to him and he ignores me because these new people are petting him and falling under his polite, but relentless charm and he is being full on rewarded right where he is so there is no value for him to leave this heavenly situation.
I call to the people to stop petting Milo. Then I call to him again. Milo, intent on getting his new people to pet him again moves from person to person nudging their hands. The well meaning people touch his head, talk to him, pointing to me saying, "Your mom is calling you". As if a) he will understand and b) that pointing at me will help - as if he just doesn't speak English so pointing will help. What they don't know is that they are still rewarding him for not listening because they are giving him attention.
Subversive that I am, I see this as a training opportunity for human and canine. I ask the people to ignore Milo - no touching, no eye contact. Several of them confess to finding this difficult as he is pretty hard to resist, but are nice enough to play this game. And... voila! No reward for Milo with the new people and he willingly trots to me for big hugs and great exclamations of what a good boy he is. Huge, exciting dog party reward ensues!
I thank the people for their help and explain to them how they had been contributing to Milo's "bad" behavior by rewarding him for not listening by giving him attention.
I hope this was a good lesson for both human and canine.