Monday, April 5, 2010

If a man answers

While I am still waiting for Dario to to give me a hint that he has noticed this recurrent click sound, that he has noticed food tends to come at the same time, while I am waiting -- and I am patient -- it is a good occasion to further my education.

Monica told us the other day of a movie. Chantal complains to her mother about her failing marriage. The mother proudly reveals her secret: the book "How to train man's best friend."

And it works (plot spoiler: until the husband is tipped off by an ungrateful friend of Chantal. What follows is what give the movie its title, "If a man answers", and is of no relevance to this blog).

What works? Very little is said, but this 1962 movie is resolutely modern.

1. When you call your dog, always make it a positive experience, and give lots of praise.

Chantal calls her husband Eugene to the bedroom (his studio is also his home), he arrives annoyed. She gives him displays of affection with a sexual undertone, and while you are here, hey, can you help me position these frames on the wall. Oh, perfect, I couldn't have done it without you.

In animal training, timing is everything. As soon as Eugene holds the frame on the wall: Oh perfect!

2. What to do if your dog is pulling on his leash? Let him drive you for a while, then finally pull him in the direction you want to go to. Unclear? Indeed.

Chantal can't get Eugene to go to Bloomingdale with her to choose some new drapes for home. So on she goes: breakfast in bed, and mon cheri (Chantal's mother is French), today is your day, I'll come with you anywhere you want to go. We follow an annoyed Chantal at the museum of photography (the movie is set in New York), at a camera store, then at a tobacco shop. Oh, mon cheri, we are two blocks from Bloomingdale, let's go. Why don't you go while I choose my tobacco blend? Unclear indeed.

Chantal calls her mother to get the missing instructions: at this time, you need to pull on the leash. Oh well, so much for positive reinforcement. But it works... until the ungrateful friend destroys this marital harmony.

These are alas the only two examples of the application of animal training. But still, it highlights the use of positive reinforcement and the strict application of operand conditioning. If the movie were to be done today, about fifteen years after clicker training has taken the dog world by storm, how would it go?

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