Pavlov Where Are You?

If there are any regular readers (are any among them truly regular?) you might remember that on more than one occasion, our arboreally-named yellow lab Tsuga, has exhibited the most neurotic behavior on hearing computer tones.

He especially dislikes the DINK of instant messages. And now with the new Mac, there are odd noises coming both from the speakers (which I cannot for the life of me remember to turn off each time after listening to YouTube or such) as well as from the sound card in the CPU.

His paranoia has reached new levels with this to the point that for the first time in his 4.5 years here, he has run frantically up the forbidden stairs in an attempt to escape the dreaded tiny sound. And this is not okay. We need to maintain our relatively dog-hair-free zone on the second floor, and besides, he goes UP with much more grace than he comes DOWN the steps, and lord please, no hip dysplasia.

So here’s the plan: I have a yogurt cup full of dog biscuit pieces on my desk. And every time I fail to prevent the dreaded noise and he begins his agitated panting dance around the room, he gets a treat.

With a great amount of luck and dogged (ha ha) persistence, can I condition my subject to approach rather than to avoid?

Or will he eventually train me to shut off all “sounds” in program preferences; keep the speakers off; and never let the yogurt cup run dry?

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Oh my! Poor Baby Tsuga!

    I wonder why he does that. Only thing I can think of is maybe the tones hurt his ears. Good luck, I hope the treats work.

  2. Yogurt cup o’ treats, yes, and some sort of kid-gate at the bottom of the steps in the meantime. We can relate: I think I’ve told you about Pepper, our beagle, whose fear of “the Monster” — our central air heater — has reached pathological proportions. Poor thing can’t feel comfort in her own home, neither night nor day, and constantly paces with tail between her legs every time the Monster roars to life. I’ve thought of sitting over near the Monster’s intake grate — apparently its fearsome mouth, to gauge Pepper’s reactions — every time it roars, but I’m not sure: Will this help her to see that the Monster’s safe, or will she just think I’ve turned to the dark side? Keep us posted, Pavlov.