Monday, October 25, 2010

What have you conditioned your pet to do?

I recently came across this post on the Mental Floss blog
“I like to chew gum when walking the dog. At this point, simply opening the cabinet where the gum is incites a “WE’RE GOING ON A WALK!” happy dog dance. Unfortunately, the same cabinet is where we keep the black cardamom and take-out menus. What are some of the weird things — intentionally or not — you’ve conditioned your pet to do?"
So it got me thinking what we’ve conditioned Otis to do – and not surprisingly, it all revolves around food.
When we go for a walk or even just outside for a quick “business trip” before bed, a “pee” = a “biscuit”. And lest we forget, a cold, wet snout repeatedly bumps our leg (directly below the pocket where treats are stored) until a biscuit is produced.
When I get into bed, Otis will come running from where ever he is. Even before I’ve pulled the covers up to my chin, he’ll leap onto the bed, flop across my lap, and stare at me until he gets his “good night” biscuit. But I can’t dawdle getting the biscuit out of the nightstand drawer, because once Otis knows I’m reaching for his treat, the drooling starts.
If we use the can opener, we can expect Otis to soon be underfoot in the kitchen. He got trained to come running because when tuna sandwiches are being made for lunch, a little bit of tuna somehow ends up in his food bowl.
We live on the third floor of an elevator building. And those times when I’m too lazy to take the stairs, and Otis is with me, he’s come to expect a biscuit when he enters the elevator and sits down.
And when we eat our dinner in front of the TV, we always have to give Otis a biscuit, or else he’ll just stand in front of us and stare us down.
An observation: man, that dog gets a lot of biscuits during the course of the day. And a more sobering observation: have we conditioned Otis, or has Otis conditioned us?


  1. This is called Pavlov's Law. It happened in the 1800s when Ivan Pavlov did a study on behaviors (such as drooling) triggered by signals (reaching for the biscuit drawer, even if you didn't pull out a biscuit). Unsurprisingly most relationships between creatures in the Kingdom Animalia are susceptible to Pavlov's Law, even to a degree Human/Human interaction. It's cool you've found what elicits a response from you dog and your dog from you.

  2. You've opened a HUGE can of worms here....I'm afraid any pet owner, any parent, and nearly any human being, is conditioned. Mason lives and breathes for our every beck and call...every move, every door opening or closing, nothing gets by him. I loved this writing!

  3. Yup. We've got them right where they want us. ;)



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