Our new Silver Lab puppy, Iris, is in dire need of some discipline, so we have been checking out training techniques. Personally, I think the clicker method, using positive reinforcement is the only way to go. My husband is leaning more toward a punishment-based approach that corrects behavior via a zapper collar.
It’s a proven fact that behavior that gets noticed gets repeated. The key to either system is to "mark" the exact moment the dog does something right or wrong respectively so the animal learns exactly what behavior it is you want them to notice and learn. Click v Zap
This has got me to thinking. Which system would be best to train a husband? Oh you love my haircut? CLICK. Wow, you’re making dinner. CLICK. You brought me back a Diet Coke! CLICK. I look gorgeous in this outfit? CLICK. Scratch my back a little to the right, now down a bit… Ahhh! CLICK. You apologize? Really? DOUBLECLICK. Wow! This is getting good.
Now let’s try the zapper method. You seriously forgot our anniversary? ZAP. You’re so not listening to me! ZAP. You’re late. ZAP. This could be fun.
Buuut… problem is Dee could use either method on me as well. Not cool. So what if we each used our own preferred method? Sheesh! You’ve been watching football all afternoon! CLICK. You spent how much on those shoes? ZAP. This isn’t working.
In a perfect world dogs and spouses would always behave nicely and this communication thing wouldn’t be so hard. If only I were more fluent in Bark-ish and Husband-ese. I forgot to mention that during the training portion every time Iris hears a click she must get an immediate reward. CLICK, REWARD. CLICK, REWARD. I suppose that should also apply to a spouse.
I look beautiful today? CLICK… You look pretty great yourself. You want to talk about it? CLICK… Yes, and I want to know how you feel as well. Thanks, it’s the perfect gift! CLICK… I really won’t mind if you want to return it for something else. It was all my fault. CLICK… I’m sorry too. No zap necessary here, but in very serious or dangerous behaviors it might be quite appropriate.
We’ve decided to go with the clicker method to teach Iris good-manner basics and tricks and only use the zapper when she runs after a car or a cat or something. It feels like a sensible approach. After all, like a good spouse, a trained pet is a joy to live with, care for and cuddle with.