Wednesday, April 28th, 2010


Filed under: behaviourism,Plume,Poupoune,psychology,surprises,training — alison @ 07:17

Plume and I went to school for the first time last night. It was everything I’d hoped for, though I might wish their expectations weren’t so high. Between now and next Tuesday we need to have push-ups (sit-down-stand) with both hand signals and verbal cues, which means we need to practice at least 50 times. Also we need to learn to play dead. And on walks we need to practice dogs sitting nicely beside bosses. And we need to practice our recall. I’d already been working on recalls, but I didn’t have the whole thing: the dog doesn’t get the treat until you’ve touched their collar. So we’ve been practising that this morning.

We have six weeks of this but the fee would have been worth it for just this course. I learned how to walk Plume on a relaxed leash. She’s a puller, so one of the first things we got her was a Halti collar (basically a bridle) so that we could walk her comfortably. Last night I learned how Plume could walk on an ordinary short leash with an ordinary collar without pulling. And this morning that’s exactly what we did. Crikey. We aren’t perfect yet, but the goal is so close as to be looming over us.

Twelve years ago I took Poupoune to a local dog school that used dominance psychology and praise. They gave me big leather gloves to handle her with. She hated class. Last night Plume started barking as soon as she got to class. I was told to move her away from the distraction. I did this several times until there was nowhere else to go, and then we had to stand and watch some very distracting exercises with dogs running back and forth demonstrating recalls. The instructor showed me how to give her a treat every time something exciting was about to happen so that she’d turn to me when the action started instead of jumping around and barking. This kind of behavioural work is exactly what I had been hoping for.

But walking without pulling… that’s just… crikey.

Sunday, May 2nd, 2004

Not sick, just bad.

Filed under: dogs,illness,psychology — alison @ 20:19

Poupoune is my favourite dog. She is alert, attentive, attached and one of the most fully alive of earth’s creatures I have ever known. She is also irritable, ill-tempered and quarrelsome.

This winter she’s been grumpier than usual. Cranky. Snappish even. Things she’s never enjoyed — like having her paws caught during wrestling matches — get snarls and air-bites now. She’s become totally fed up with Pepe, not tolerating his presence anywhere near her. And she’s bitten us three times, drawing blood once. The first two times we could kind of understand what provoked her. But when she and Mark were napping together as usual this week and she bit his leg when he shifted in bed was just too much. I immediately made an appointment with the vet.

As I explained to the vet yesterday, my hypothesis was that she’s in pain and snapping at whoever happens to be nearby. The vet put forth another hypothesis, that she’s becoming blind and panics when approached by someone or something she can’t see.

Well, both hypotheses were eliminated. Her vision is excellent (no cataracts, pupils respond well to light, and she blinks when you tap your hand towards her eye), her joints are smooth, flexible and non-tender, her innards sound and feel perfectly normal, and when she runs excitedly around the room sniffing and leaping she doesn’t hesitate or favour any side or leg. For good measure, her temperature and bloodwork were also checked and show absolutely no abnormalities.

This is when hypothesis 3 was brought out: not sick, just bad. (Or in vet-speak, “exhibiting inappropriate dominant behaviour.”) The first question the vet asked me when exploring this hypothesis was “Does she exhibit this behaviour in one particular place or situation?” The answer being “Yes, in the bed,” the take-home advice was “Don’t let her in the bed any more.” (Recalls the old joke: “Doctor, my arm hurts when I go like this!” “Well, don’t go like that.”) We were also offered psychoactive medication (for her) to help in the behavioural-modification program.

We’re pretty much going ignore the advice. We certainly don’t need drugs to manage her. We were worried she was ill, and $212 later we know she isn’t. We have our answer. She’s 11 lbs / 5 kg (about the size of a cat but without the sharp claws) and bites us maybe once every one or two months. We don’t have kids. It isn’t a safety concern and we enjoy napping with her. We’ll just be a little stricter: she won’t be allowed in the bed without us. And more severe with consequences when she goes too far, because we won’t be worried about her.

[originally transmitted by e-mail May 2, 2004]

Saturday, May 3rd, 2003

Re: Take the Test, sissy!

Filed under: Aspies,fallacies,psychology — alison @ 10:37

Deirdre Wright wrote perceptively:
>OK, where’s the test?

Oh. Um. Well here is an example of low empathy (droning on and on about a topic long after everyone has gotten the point and gotten bored) and high systematising (missing the forest for the trees).

Here you go.

[originally transmitted by e-mail May 3, 2003]

Fwd: Take the Test, sissy!

Filed under: Aspies,fallacies,psychology — alison @ 10:12

——Start of Forwarded Message ———
> From: WASSERMAN Adam <_______>
> Subject: RE: Take the Test, sissy!
> Well, I have to say, these results should not really
> surprise anyone who
> knows me…
> So as per the results, my brain-type is extreme
> Type-S (male brain). Now if you’ll excuse me, I
> need to go alphabetize my underwear drawer.
> Adam
——End of Forwarded Message ———

Now that you’ve taken the test and are wondering what it means…

I took the test: I’m Type-S, but not extreme. Very low end of average on empathy, very high end of average on systematising.

Now I have a quibble. Well, two.

One is calling Type-S and Type-E “male” and “female.” That’s like calling height “male” and fatness “female.” Yes, in a given genetically similar group with similar nutritional histories and activity profiles the averaged height of all the men is going to be greater than the averaged height of all the women, and the averaged percentage of body fat of all the women is going to be greater than the averaged percentage of body fat of all the men.

But it’s still more to the point to say someone is tall and fat than to say they have a gender-balanced physique.

Which brings me to my second quibble. What does “balanced” mean? In the body-type example, both tall fat people and short thin people would be “balanced” because they have equally lots or equally little of the qualities you’re measuring. So saying someone is “balanced” in fact gives you hardly any information at all about their bodies: are they tiny and frail? physically extremely imposing? or so ordinary you would never notice them?

Why would you even want to oppose the two categories? What if you put them together, so you add your Empathy score to your Systematising score. Somebody who scores near zero in this case would have very few tools of any kind for dealing with the world. Somebody who scores near 100 would have lots of tools for coping with a variety of situations. Someone who scores near the middle would have an average level of coping skills of one kind or another: perhaps lots of one kind that they use for compensating for a lack in another kind, or perhaps they have a little of everything.

I see the use of this kind of test when you’re evaluating someone who has come to you for help and you want to know what they’re good at. This is routinely done in psychological batteries. They want to know whether you can read, for instance; whether you have friends; whether you use a lot of drugs, eat well, pick fights, get your exercise, have a complicated living situation, an adequate income, an average IQ, health problems and so on. Someone with a low IQ who gets lots of exercise, has lots of friends but picks fights is going to benefit from different support than someone who reads all the time, has medical problems and weeps over the state of the world.

But even in this case you would want to say that someone has low/average/high Empathy and also low/average/high Systematising skills. Announcing that the individual is Balanced will not help you support them at all.

[originally transmitted by e-mail May 3, 2003]

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