The window film… Extinction burst?

February 13, 2012 at 9:37 am 4 comments

About two weeks ago, I applied window privacy film to the windows in my living room. The plan was to manage Boogie’s running to the window and barking/growling his head off at whoever is outside in the shared yard of my apartment building. Following on from the theory that the barking is reinforced each time a dog sees the trigger LEAVING, if Boogie can’t see outside, then he would not have any reason to continue barking.

For the first week, I saw a big improvement. Boogie would run to the window, bark once or twice, not be able to see, whimper, then go back to his bed. Overall, he was quieter.

But then something else started happening a few days ago. Boogie would suddenly growl, jump up from his bed, run to the window, not be able to see, then continue barking, and start to restlessly pace around the living room, then going from room to room, moaning and crying and barking some more. The barking was no longer the aggressive “If you don’t F-off, I will kill you!” type of barking directed at people outside the window, but a “Help! I can’t see! I can’t see! There is something happening outside and I don’t know what it is! I don’t what to do!” panic-stricken type of barking.

I kept asking myself… is this an Extinction Burst?

Definition of Extinction Burst: If someone’s gained some reward every time for a particular behavior, the behavior will persist.  If suddnely the reward stops coming, it’s likely that the person or animal will not immediately give up the behavior. Instead, they’ll try it again and again, harder, faster, more emphatically.It’s a burst of activity.  If the reward still doesn’t come, eventually the behavior will extinguish, or become extinct.  So, the burst of behavior before extinction of the behavior is called an “extinction burst”. (via this site)

Clearly, Boogie is so used to chasing people away from the yard, is he stressing out because he no longer has this sense of control? Or… is he feeling more insecure from not being able to SEE what the trigger is?

I almost feel bad for covering the windows. What bothers me too is that he has been extra trigger-sensitive on the streets. 😦 We need more distance from strange dogs…

So, I am working on a solution to this problem.

Fortunately, I did not cover ALL my window panels with the frosted film. I only covered the window panels that Boogie usually looks out/barks out of. If you look at the quick and rough doodle above, the reactive-barking window is  WINDOW #1 and the greyed-out panels have the film on them. These windows face the neighbors.

Not too far away, WINDOW #2 remains uncovered by window film.. this is the window closest to my desk that Boogie rarely visits. I usually leave this window open to let fresh air into my apartment. These windows face the street.

Boogie knows he can look out of Window #2 but by force of habit, he is still running to and reacting at Window #1 whenever he is triggered by a sound. Even though he can’t see a thing out of Window #1. And if he is too over-threshold, he will continue to stay at Window #1 or at the door,  barking and crying, forgetting that there’s that second window….

Backtrack several months. I taught Boogie the cue “Who’s there?” He would run to the Window #1, look outside, turn back to me and get clicked and treated. We did many repetitions to the point where I could effectively 90% of the time have Boogie GO LOOK OUTSIDE then voluntarily TURN AWAY from the window. Treat or tennis ball to follow. Basically, the Look At That game.

It occurred to me recently that I need to re-teach “Who’s There?” at the less-familiar and forgotten Window #2, and so I have started doing LAT games with Boogie at Window #2. I want Boogie to know that he is not trapped in a room without a view… he can still see outside, but in a structured way, without going over-theshold.

I am also going to play more music to drown out triggering noises. (Tip from the BAT book)

Tip from Sarah: Because Boogie is such a visual dog (he needs to SEE to feel in control) I could use “looking outside” as the functional reward. She suggested that I may want to tether Boogie to me so that as soon as he is triggered and before he goes over threshold, I can call him to me and then reinforce his recall by taking him to the window/door to look outside. See? Nothing. Nobody. All done.

Never a dull moment with dog training 🙂

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Entry filed under: Training.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. teresavet  |  February 13, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Maybe is just frustration… like a baby throwing a tantrum?
    I like Sarah’s tip!

    Reply
    • 2. lili  |  February 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm

      Yes it was clearly frustration but I don’t want to go through this “just another tantrum” everyday!

      Reply
      • 3. teresavet  |  February 14, 2012 at 8:51 am

        No, if it’s frustration, they will subside.
        You can try play “king of the hill” and run alonside him, to the window and back to the dogbed, treats in the bed, run to the window… and little by little give more time in the bed, less time and less times to the window, till Boogie goes to the window, barks a couple times and goes back to the bed for his treat!

      • 4. lili  |  February 14, 2012 at 10:23 pm

        Actually, it has subsided. Ever since I wrote this post he hasn’t had any more of those ‘tantrums’, just the regular barking and I am calling him and running with him to the window. (That’s a good suggestion!)

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