ClickerSolutions Training Articles

Eliciting Cooperation from Other People

Cheryl, thank you for the excellent operant response, and also, for the lovely click for me. To know that something I may have written helped you to explore ways to operantly respond in difficult human situations--really is just about the biggest gift anyone could give me. To know one may have made a difference in one person's life is just the warmest click imaginable.

You made some really fine points here, in asking us to look at how we can turn escalating situations around by applying clicker training principles.

You also explained how we are normally compelled to ask people NOT to do something---it's part of our daily reinforcement in society, after all. But you then asked us to think about how we could appeal to that person, asking his cooperation in doing something else in a training realm, that's incompatible both with the dog jumping and him kicking in response. Your plea was to abandon verbal leash pops, and model a better method for him.

I just can't think of a finer approach, or one that has more potential to change unwanted behavior. By soliciting COOPERATION of a NEW behavior that has nothing to do with his kicking or your asking him to ignore the dog jumping on him--you gave him a way to save face, a chance to offer a more appropriate response you both can enjoy, and a chance to help you help your dog learn.

There's lots of creative options for incompatible behaviors to seek cooperation with. One might be to ignore the kicking, immediately offer an apology for your dog's behavior, and follow up with asking the man to help by doing something totally different that won't trip the man's defense triggers.

Perhaps the man could be asked to stand and distract the dog while you walked your dog by him a few times on leash, getting closer and closer and keeping your dog's focus on you. You could explain that "obviously my dog finds you to be someone he really wants to greet, so would you mind trying to get his attention while I try to get him to maintain his focus on me?"

Then you can do just that---starting out at a distance away, and slowly moving closer and closer to the target man. Then when the dog can pass by without being overly exuberant, you can ask for a sit 3 feet from the man. Then 2 feet. Then one foot. And finally when the man reaches out to pet.

This accomplishes at least 10 very positive things here:

  1. Teaches the man who doesn't want to know---that there IS a different way to handle inappropriate human greeting rituals
  2. Allows the man to save face
  3. Sets the man up to be an accomplice at success, with him being part of the training solution.
  4. Allows him to do a movement-oriented behavior instead of a passive one, which can be difficult for some people.
  5. Gives information to the man in a visual form, that is far more effective than words.
  6. Gives both of you a chance to focus on something happy and positive, instead of the emotion you both are feeling.
  7. Exposes the man to a whole new way of looking at extinguishing unwanted behaviors.
  8. Leaves the man feeling like he is the winner: he got to do something to change the unwanted response, and he got to leave a hero.
  9. Prevents an escalation of unwanted human behaviors, and sets up a more positive communication environment for the next time you should happen to meet.
  10. Buys you time to teach your dog proper human-dog greeting rituals.

    >>Now, all this is assuming you still want to interact with this guy. I couldn't tell from your email exactly what happened, so please clarify for us. You said he kicked/kneed Zoe "like three times." If he kicked her repeatedly for one jump, I would seriously avoid this guy and not try to interact with him in the future!!! <<

I agree this is likely not a fellow you'd like to cross paths with again. But if the man lives in the same community, and exercises his dog in the same area at the same times of day, then there is a likelihood they will meet again. So it makes good operant sense to try to at least keep the peace enough that there is no hatred being spewn from either party during future meetings. But I agree---try not to get around him, and leash your dog if he is around until your dog knows a new behavior during greeting rituals with humans, when he's in happy excitement mode.

I think this is such an important topic for this list, and one we don't see enough posted on:Sharing ideas for ways to use the principles of clicker training with human interactions.

I don't want to appear to be jumping on the poster here---this is not about "...Should Haves"---don't you just hate that? "Should have" "Must do" "Gotta do"---ughhh! It trips my triggers right away, and mentally, I'm already replying with, "Oh, yeah? Who sez?" even if I happen to agree with that person's advice! <G>

I just am looking for an excuse to open this thread again. And Cheryl's very effective idea got me all charged up. I didn't mean to do it at the expense of the original poster! When the poster asks, "What SHOULD I have done?" I can only say that words are cheap, and it's real easy to say "You should have done....." after the fact.

Here on clicker solutions, we aren't really telling people what they SHOULD HAVE done, but rather, opening up new doors to other options available if they should choose them. Ideas they may want to try at other times. Or not. <G>

Debi Davis
copyright 2002 Debi Davis


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