3rd Quadrant: The Swear Jar

Long ago and far away I recognized my greatest strength in learning something new is through visual and kinesthetic experience. Hence I model for clients, handling their dog in their home, how best to achieve learning for the dog during a training and then work with the owner to transfer that knowledge to them before I leave. Practicing the newly taught skills enough, along with truly understanding a lot of useful information about how dogs actually operate (which is often antithetical to the average person), helps ensure a transition to a better behaved dog if the individual is motivated (which I assume they are by having hired me to come into their home for 3 long hours or more!). I also give a lot of written material to clients, including a manual I am always updating for those who are more reading/writing learners. But I’m always on the creative and visual lookout for new ways to inspire myself.

Certainly in overseas adventures of my youth in countries utilizing languages other than English, it was always the “bad” words, the curse words, I was taught by my peers. I freely admit I have a potty mouth which works as a catharsis for me because I don’t engage in physical violence. But lo and behold, my 3 daughters were annoyed and dare I say embarrassed when I might curse in front of a friend, so I agreed to work on Quadrant 3 of Operant Conditioning, positive punishment:

Every time they caught me swearing, I would put twenty five cents in a “swear jar” in the hopes that I would either

1. Stop swearing
2. Earn us enough in fines to subsidize a vacation.

Sometimes in a fit of that cathartic need, I just whipped out a dollar and made an advance, or checked how many quarters I had fished out of the dryer and slipped into my pockets to give me permission to be less inhibited when provoked to open my mouth and say an inappropriate word or phrase per our agreement.

And I dare say I’m greatly improved, but certainly not cured. After all, we’re talking about a very long history of this entrenched “bad” behavior, and I can do it when the environment is appropriate (i.e., I’m alone or with people who don’t care), and I’d probably wish it had taken longer so I could have earned more than a few gallons of gas for the improbable future vacation, but I dare say it worked, even without them praising me for having a cleaner vocabulary!

So if you’re trying to clean up your own act, or live in a reality based universe about how best to communicate what really matters to you about your dog’s behavior, fish out some change and start clinking it in jar of your own. Maybe by the new year, but a mere month away, as resolutions become forefront in your mind, you too will have saved up for something special!