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Mending Marley

DSC_9260Marley is a sweet 16 month old Africanis blend currently residing in the MY School rehabilitation section at Dogtown.

She does unfortunately have a huge impulse control “deficit” especially when excited, which manifests itself in vigorous jumping up on people. Turning ones back and ignoring her only intensifies her efforts to attract attention and escalates to nipping hands, arms etc.

With this in mind, the behaviour modification program (bmp) usually implemented for correcting unwanted jumping up, has been customised to suit Marley’s specific behaviour. The aim of the program is to give Marley an alternative behaviour to practice before she can engage in her unwanted conduct. Her extremely high food drive tailored the form the customised bmp took.

Armed with a full treat bag her caregiver enters her run. Marley immediately runs to the caregiver and tries to jump up. Using good timing J the caregiver scatters some treats on the ground just in front of his feet just before Marley reaches him. She in turn immediately goes stiffing for the treats and as she finishes the last one, the caregivers holds another treat out for her – level with her mouth – so she can take the treat without having to jump up.

The caregiver then throws a further treat a few metres away from her and on her return to him again offers a treat at ‘mouth level”. This procedure is repeated until Marley is readily running out to get a treat and returning for another. At this stage a control command like sit is introduced before she gets the treat.

After only two 5 – 10 minute sessions with Marley she is readily running up to the caregiver and sitting for her treat without waiting for a command to do so. (Classical conditioning).

She does have moments when she squeals a little from excitement and is a little impatient if the treat is not offered fast enough for her liking – all of which will be corrected with a few more training sessions. After all, miracles we preform instantly, the impossible takes us a bit longer.

By Gordon, Behaviourist

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