Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Pavlov For People

BOUNDARIES... In the continued saga to settle Sasha, my 12 year old border collie, into our new house, we had to address the boundary issue - both literally and figuratively. In a nut shell, Sasha, being quite set in her ways and extremely stubborn, did not want to be confined to the area (the back garden), which was already fenced in and more  than suitable for a little dog. Instead, she wanted to be in the front, roaming free and doing exactly what her single-focused mind wanted to do. We realised very quickly it was not a battle of the wills we stood any chance of winning! 

So off to the vet we went, where we dropped an earth shattering R3000 (a big ask after the never ending moving expenses that literally appear infinite!), and bought a system called "Pet Safe" (an American product guaranteed to put us in a win-win situation). How this works (and please - NO JUDGING!), is a literal interpretation of Pavlov's Theory. The no-go areas (in our case, the top of the driveway leading onto the road, and the open hedges), are cordoned off by an electrical cable, which is buried under ground, and is demarcated by little white flags. Sasha wears a new collar, which is connected to the system,and has a little probe touching her neck. Should she attempt to cross the forbid territory, the system emits a little shock (a small zap - I did try it on myself first!) After a training session, and two little self-inflicted zaps as she explored her new boundaries - we had success! Without the collar even on, she WILL NOT cross the magic line.Such a clever dog!

Without turning this into a lengthy commentary about the ingeniousness of my four-legged child, this process had me thinking about the practical use of Pavlov with people. Imagine the success rate in churning out well disciplined kids?! Fight with your sister? ZAP! Back chat your mom? ZAP! Lie about homework? ZAP! Open the fridge and stare blankly because you are bored? ZAP! Slam your bedroom door in a rage? ZAP! Before child line is called, I would never do this to my kids. But I do dream about a system of reinforcement that has an instant effect rather than the grounding, losing a marble out the Being Good Jar, banning of X-Box etc.. discipline methods we rely on at home!!

And what about the errant  husband? Eyes straying in the wrong direction? ZAP! Looking at the watch, ignoring the cell phone and having the fifth absolutely last beer at the pub? ZAP! Reaching for the wallet to buy one more bank-breaking-will-die-if-I-don't-have-it piece of equipment for his mountain bike / golf bag / motor bike / or car? ZAP! 

On a personal note, the positive effects this would have on ME would be insurmountable! Not being hungry but have to have the last piece of Aero Bubbly - ZAP! Needing to go for a run but making up excuses to avoid it - ZAP! Buying yet another vase / cushion / photo frame / decorative piece of useless something just because - ZAP! Facebooking / Twittering / Pinteresting/ blogging instead for plowing through the piles of CV's in my inbox - ZAP! Reaching for the Bar One / Cosmo / bag of Chuckles conveniently placed in the queueing aisle at Woolworths- ZAP! Buying one more gorgeous journal / notebook / diary because it is beautiful (I have a drawer FULL of unused ones already!) - ZAP! Or my most indulgent (yes, I am a nerd!), spending money at Waltons / CNA / any stationers to feed my stationary obsession - ZAP!!! I would be thinner, richer, and far more productive if Pet Safe was designed as a pretty bracelet for people, instead of a black dog collar!

Pushing, or ignoring boundaries (self - or sociably imposed) is something we are all more than familiar with. Until some Pavlovian follower invents a socially acceptable Zapper for People, I have to be content with spending a large amount of time thinking of ideas to either reinforce positively, or punitively, my kids, myself and in a small way (;)), my husband. And although the results may not be as instantaneous as the ZAP to the arm would be, I have seen success with banning the x-box, and rewarding with marbles that have a monetary value; the bathroom scale and the credit card statement; and the threat of being banished to the couch for the night! Pavlov in longhand - I'm Just Saying...


2 comments:

  1. You zapped your dog!??? Lesley!!!! :-)

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  2. Yes Jen - I Zapped my dog. For the greater good!! I did ZAP myself first though, if that makes it any more humanitarian! xxx

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