Greyhound Mind

I probably don’t need the 2 shots of espresso I am currently sipping, but they were unavoidable.  Without some kind of distraction, my brain was about to explode.  Surely you can guess the problem?  Yes, of course, I am trying to teach myself brand new software.

Learning new software, for me, is a bumpy, painful do-it-yourself process.  Hunting through bottomless drop down menus, crammed with as many options as possible, I feel like screaming, “Just tell me what you want from me!”  Eventually, the need to get away grows so urgent, no reward or cookie can overcome it.  Nothing Is Worth This.  I Think I’ll Go Take a Nap.

In the eyes of animal trainers who modify behavior using the clicker method, this avoidance behavior is, paradoxically, a positive sign.   Clicker training substitutes a symbolic I O U for a food reward.  The click of a cricket toy nudges your animal in the direction you want him to go, promising food later.  The task can be as simple as a dog touching his nose to your hand, or as complex as a dolphin writing its name (I’m sure they can).  Silence means no reward.  Click means you are getting close.  Using all the powers of his brain in the hope, hope, hope that you have Something Good To Eat,  your dog will fumble in the dark to figure out what sets that clicker off, until he just can’t take it anymore.  The moment the dog walks away, the books tell you, you can be sure he is thinking.

Seeing this phenomenon in action, as Craig and I did when we rescued our first Greyhound, was unforgettable.  Quickly grasping the equation click =  food , Bumper moved on to an important dog skill, “Go to your mat and lie down.”  Lying down on a mat may not seem like a big deal to us, but if you don’t speak the language, it can be hard to decipher What The Hell Those Dogs Who Control the Food Want From Me.  Just as the books predicted, Bumper gave us about 10 minutes of clicking and concentration before wandering off, having reached his limit.  His bewilderment was palpable.

We stayed near the mat, leaving him to relax alone.  After a few minutes, his lanky figure reappeared in the living room.  With absolute confidence, he trotted directly to the mat and lay down.  Liver treats flowed, and many, many kisses.  I have come to think of this moment as Greyhound Mind.  He was so smart, Mr. B.  He knew how to give himself a time out, and let the little grey cells do their work.

We tried to make the effort worth his while, and our reward was abundantly clear – we had opened a dialogue with our wonderful friend.  Faced with a Super Foe like software, however, my reward seems mighty far away.  Considerably more encumbered by self critical thoughts than Bumper (the dog never blames himself when the cookies run out), my brain needs no less freedom to disengage from the Problem At Hand.  Just a thought… programmer degrees should be in the College of Animal Behavior Studies.  Because powerful though it may be, Adobe Lightroom still lacks a Preferences setting for treats and kisses.