Tuesday, October 6, 2009
I belong to a number of Internet groups and forums and about a month ago a person on one of them posted a link to some of her clicker-educated dog's theatrical accomplishments. Just a couple days ago, a friend of mine who is "fifty-something" and who is not on that Internet clicker list, or any list for that matter, and who does not know the person or the dog, told me about this very funny video she saw recently. Two dogs are sitting together when someone asks "who farted?" and one dog points to the other. That was Chris Puls' canine partner Coyote! You can find his medley of tricks on her YouTube channel, click here.
That video sure got around in a month and I'm certain it's because of that little "who farted?" piece at the beginning. Why is it that we are so in love with potty humor? You'd think that we would grow out of it but I guess we never do. I have to admit that right after watching Chris' video I got an idea to teach a similar bit to Jack – our unique little version of potty humor that's just slightly beneath our sense of dignity and style. It involved a hind leg lift – his, not mine.
I contemplated how I could set up an education session in which Jack would voluntarily lift a hind leg and I could click then reinforce it. I got him moving around using hand-targeting but we were not connecting on the idea. I stopped to rethink my education plan and realized that when we wipe paws at the front door, Jack raises his hind legs as I approach them with the towel. So I started to teach the lift by first moving a towel toward his hind leg (he is left-pawed so I began on that side), clicking and reinforcing even the slightest raise until the leg could be cued up without the towel. I'm chaining another behavior to the leg-lift now and will film the whole thing when it's finished. You may want to subscribe to Jack's video channel so you can see it when it's available.
But I didn't write this article to make a point about shaping Jack into a hind leg lift. And I didn't write it to examine our attraction to scatological humor. I wrote it because I've noticed that so many of us seem to approach our education sessions with dogs as though we're preparing for an important exam or global competition. We are often too success-driven and serious to have fun and it's pretty certain that if we aren't enjoying ourselves, the dog isn't very likely to either. A dog can learn so much more if he's having fun and we can have so much more fun – something we seem to forget to do as we mature. Maybe that's potty humor's special appeal. It gives us a way to giggle like children and have fun without having to actually do anything or spend any money.
So to my friends and followers I issue this Potty Humor Challenge...Come up with an idea for a hilarious little trick with a theme that will make people laugh out loud. It doesn't have to be off-color but if it is everyone will love it! Start thinking about how you can shape, click and treat your canine student to perform it and then get started. When you have a finished product, post a link as a reply to this article. Here are the rules: You must giggle like a child, thoroughly enjoy yourself and make sure the dog is having as much fun as you are – even more. After all, he can keep right on learning for the rest of his life and he will if you make learning fun.