Reader "e" made this comment on the last post; I started to answer there, and it kind of grew... so it's here:
Hi, I wonder if you could explain your thinking on this: "Bruce- was on the chain all day....Punishment."My understanding is that you can teach dogs that what they are doing "now" is wrong but that the concept of getting tied up the day after doing something is too abstract/far removed for them to understand.
This is why punishing them when you come home for peeing/chewing in the house if you've left them alone doesn't work. They only learn to associate your return with punishment.
e - you're totally right, that's the standard advice. I really disagree with it, though the reasons are complex.
Very quickly- SOME dogs are much much smarter than others- and Bruce is one; he's very smart indeed. I don't think he's got ANY trouble understanding cause and effect even when disassociated.
I'll point out here- I've got tons of formal training in animal behavior, from the academic side- actually both of the papers I presented for my MS degree were behavioral. And I train my cats. I can't tell you how many visitors we've had who have been astonished at our cats; who I do train to have reasonably good behavior. Most folks consider cats essentially "untrainable"- living with one is a matter of mutual adaptation and tolerance.
A good chunk of my approach is to recognize that animals are very much individuals- what is true for this one, is not necessarily true for that one. Our current cat, for example, is allowed to meow at the door to go out; the previous cat was not. For this cat, it's an actual request based on need; for the previous cat, it was mostly a bid for endless attention. No cat is allowed to meow to come in.
In the specific case with Bruce, he was not just stuck on the chain, and left to suffer. The chain is right by the door of the Little House- he sees us coming and going. And he's quiet and resigned about it, when we are in the house. What he hates is when we all go somewhere, and he isn't allowed to go too.
When we were leaving to work in the fields- he can tell what we're doing- I took the remains of the chewed up surveyors tape; and the shredded gorp bag- both carefully preserved for this purpose; and presented them to him, yet again. And talked- "Bruce. THIS is why you have to STAY - at HOME. THIS. Bad dog. You know you're not supposed to chew just anything."
And some more talking. And petting. He knew immediately when I showed him the evidence of his bad behavior that - it was bad; he'd been naughty; and his gaze dropped, his stance changed to submissive- he was clearly embarrassed. There is no question in my mind that dogs, and cats, are totally capable of real embarrassment.
Then I'd put the evidence back out of sight; and we'd go; leaving him behind. He would cry. "No. Not today. You were bad. I can't trust you. You stay home. No chewing." He knew. That whole scenario was repeated all day, every time we came and went.
At the end of the day, I let him off, and of course he was delighted. Next day- as we set out to work, he came along, but in a much quieter, more reserved way; unless specifically encouraged to play, which he's wildly enthusiastic about.
The books, mostly, stem from days when animals were newly regarded as black-box machines- that concept was considered a major "advance" in our understanding of animals. They're all the same; input this; and you get this output; totally predictable. Everybody likes simple rules.
Today, there is, finally, growing scientific acceptance that animals are NOT machines; they can be individuals; and they are both far more "intelligent", and have much greater "self awareness" than previously believed.
Lots of pet owners and lovers, and farmers, and hunters, have known that for a long time, of course. Guess what? It's true. One possible excuse for the scientists' failure to see this- many pure-bred dogs and cats are -genuinely- mentally retarded; white mice and rats definitely are. They've been bred for docility, and inbred out the wazoo- and lots of them are really just - dumb. Mutts, mongrels, and alley cats- have their mental functions intact, and are far far smarter than science has allowed. They can easily remember events and causes from past days.
So far, Bruce has been well behaved now regarding tapes.
A previous similar episode- he had a propensity for chewing electrical extension cords; not something we approved of. A couple weeks ago, he chewed up an important one- carrying current to the brooder light for the chicks. He's never managed to shock himself, I think, or trip the circuit breakers, but it was just dumb luck; the cord was really trashed.
The actual chewing took place the day before we found it. I took the chewed cord, and confronted him with it; slapped him with it (he's really sensitive about that- he knows it's punishment even though there's not enough force in the slap to hurt; he cries like a baby from the humiliation) and explained repeatedly that I was SO not happy, and he was not to do this ever again. He knew I was angry, at him- and the chewed cord was why. He hates that.
He hasn't ever done it again- though the replacement cord is just as vulnerable to him, and he has 100 opportunities a day. It makes a huge difference that he WANTS to do "the right thing" - and make me happy.