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November 12, 2020: The Dog and Pony Show: The Positive and Negative Senses of the Defining Term

The more derogatory definition of the term: a drama of sorts, one in which numerous people are involved. I have been thinking about this term lately, in relation to the Bright Lights Book Project. I’m despondent because others have determined that my involvement is now a done deal. I have decided in a manner of speaking to let sleeping dogs lie.

One of the most important aspects of positive reinforcement training is this: anticipate what the animal is going to do, and then provide an alternative to possible unwanted behavior. For instance, if Fido indicates that he is going to jump on a

The view of Government Peak from Siggi's Trail

visitor, have him sit, thus focusing on you instead of on the hapless individual. If you aren’t able to anticipate the behavior, at least provide an alternative.

It was with this in mind that I very wisely decided not to add fuel to existent fire. There’s a part of me that for a while eyeballed the wood pile and considered tossing a few sticks into the smoldering pile. But I have opted to instead put positive reinforcement theory to practice and see what happens. Laying low and remaining mum are now my operative terms.

I am fortunate in that, right now, I have other things to keep me occupied. I am now finishing up my bicycling essay, which is now entitled, “The Books I Carried.” The title is in reference to a book that I carried on my trek, entitled The Things I Carried. It is to a large part about my attempting to promote the book project while on the road.

I am also now making headway with more positive aspect in defining the term, “dog and pony show.” Today followed on the heels of yesterday, which was a wonderful day. In other words, it was equally productive. Pete found his rock climbing chalk bag in the Black Hole. Today I clipped it to my jean belt loop and filled it with treats. I immediately foresaw that having this very convenient carrier as well as my clicker on hand would make it possible for me to dispense treats to the dogs and ponies in a very expedient fashion. This is important because then the animal in question is immediately rewarded when it presents the desired behavior.

Dogs and horses both were thus amply rewarded during the course of the day. And working with them seemed to elicit more ahh haa moments on my part. For instance, the dogs have been noncommittal about having their harnesses put in place before outings, so I reduced their apprehension level by let them know, via the clicker, that they had nothing to worry about. Physiologically, what was going on was that I was activating their parasympathetic nervous system and deactivating their sympathetic nervous system. The same with the horses. I set up the November agility course and took all three mares through it. The balloon obstacle – I first worked exclusively on having them put their feet in the rubber bucket, then had them chase the balloon on the stick. All three took great joy in chasing and breaking the balloon.

Pete and I then took Shadow to Puppy II class. After, I attempted to activate the teacher’s parasympathetic nervous system by telling her that it’s been a much needed framework for my animal teaching activities. Did she internalize what I had to say? I wasn’t sure. What I was sure of was that I was again putting positive reinforcement theory to practice.

Next: 314. 11/13/20: The Dog and Pony Show: Remaining Flexible and Agile

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