Sunday, May 30, 2010

Taz Talks -- Successive Approximation

OK, frankly this blog has gotten a little too grim and preachy for my taste. I think it's high time that we got back to a subject of interest. In other words, how to train a human. There is a very important concept in training that we have not talked about, and that is called Successive Approximation. In normal people language that means, "I will help you figure out the game by rewarding you for each step in the direction of what I want." For instance, when Mama taught me to jump in the laundry basket she rewarded me for coming near it, then for pawing it, then for putting my head in, then for putting one front paw in, then for two front paws in, then for hopping all the way in and then out again, and finally for jumping in and staying there.

Let us take a more interesting example. (Who wants to sit in a laundry basket, anyway? Actually, the cat does. We had to take the cat out so that I could play the game. Although it might have been more funner to jump on the cat.) Anyways, say you want to get a person to scratch your butt. Well, you could just back on up to them, which often works, but what if they don't get it, or they say "Bug off, Tazzie, I'm trying to work here."? Then you need to train them step by step.

Start by putting your head in their lap. No human can resist the chin on the knee, especially if you do the ol' melting puppy eyes bit. They will at least give you a pat on the head. Reward this with a little more chin pressure, and maybe a deep sigh. That should get them to rub your ears. Reinforce this behavior by leaning in, and maybe giving a little moan. Now turn your head enough that their hand slides to your neck or shoulder. Again, reinforce continued scratching by leaning in, and maybe looking up again with the puppy eyes. From here it should be a fairly simple matter to inch yourself forward until they are scratching that ever-itchy spot behind the hips. Heaven! And so simple. Just take it a step at a time, and reward every step of the way with the kind of expressions of adoration that humans crave.

Actually, the peoples might want to give some consideration to this technique. I notice that when they want a spouse or kid to do something that people get snarkier and snarkier trying to get the other person to comply. But maybe it would work more better to draw the person in the right direction with lovey-type stuff instead. I'm telling you, works for me every time.

Wags and kisses,


  1. As a Siberian who is more bungy than the velkhro you Belgians tend to be, I sit nearby and stare -

    Then I rub along side -

    I might let out with a warning bark of some sort -

    Then maybe a little jig -

    It works fur me khwite well!


  2. Also, if you want to get belly scritches it helps to have a soft and pretty pink tummy.

    Mom says you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but I'm not really sure why she wants to catch flies. They're no fun, they don't play tug, and they don't taste good.

    Also, sometimes I can get what I want when its got something in common with what mom wants. Like: mom wants me to pee outside so she opens the door for me. Handy that while I'm out there I can also eat a few strawberries and beans.


    p.s. Captain's coming to visit for three weeks. You should come too, and we can really fill up the whole house.

  3. love your post, Taz! we definitely have to meet (& dance?) in person sometime... we are two peas in a pod (or two pups in a basket!).

  4. I swear Belgians invented the butt-scratch approximation. They have my husband, The Farmer, finely tuned.