Applied Behavior Analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior.
Extinction Burst refers to the concept of eliminating a behavior by refusing to reinforce it. The behavior will get worse before gets better.
Are you with me so far?
I wanted to share something with you, but I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. Applied Behavior Analysis isn’t just for children or adults. It literally works for any living, breathing, being; mammal or not. And sadly, it’s taking me a little longer than expected to put it all into perspective. Here’s my take on it.
A few weeks ago, we started experiencing problems with our dog, Everest. If you’ve been with me for a while, you know that Everest is our son’s service dog in training. Everest is a love. He’s social, loyal, and has a people pleasing drive that could make you want to scream at times (always under-foot). But at the end of the day, we couldn’t ask for anything better. He is our sons shadow, and best friend.
But… Everest has his faults, just like you and me. He doesn’t like to be left alone, ever, and he gets upset and destructive when we have to leave the house, even for a short amount of time. Everest is a Standard Poodle, and is incredibly bright and intelligent. He has figured out my home routine, as well as the routine that I brought into the house for him, and I seriously underestimated his intelligence by a long shot. So, he started doing things to try to get my attention, like, pooping inside his crate, escaping out of his crate, destroying my sons toys, and yes… he even pooped in our bed, just to show his displeasure with me.
Like I said, I seriously underestimated this dog’s intelligence. I didn’t mean to, but I did. So, I made a phone call to the breeder, because I needed help. I needed her help in helping Everest to crate train.
Everest needed some ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis).
Everest was away from us for two weeks. He was kept on a very strict schedule, that constituted him being in his crate 95% of his day. The reason why he was in his crate for so much time, was to get him to learn to except the crate as a safe place; a place that he could relax, know then he is still a good boy, and still be able to train and learn when expected.
When we picked him up last Sunday, I was nervous! I was given his schedule and told to adapted it to our home life, but I had to stick to it, because if I didn’t, Everest would backslide into old behaviors… and I really didn’t want that to happen.
So, on Monday, Everest barked in his crate for about 75% of the day. I completely ignored him, and only brought him out of his crate for bathroom breaks, trainings, exercise, and the occasional snuggle. Then he went right back in. On Tuesday, he barked about 50% less than he did the day before. And I follow the same routine as I did on Monday. I was told to put a blanket over the crate in order to make it dark in there, and also it would help him to relax. And it did! It really did! Today, as I write this post, Everest is sleeping soundly in his crate and his barking is kept to a minimum.
Everest had his extinction burst yesterday, and I think he has finally excepted the fact that his crate is his safe place! It’s a good place for him, and I know where he is at all times. He’s still barking a little, but it’s nothing like it was on Monday… thank god!
And all the while, while I was ABAing him, I was being ABA’d as well. I had to change my behavior in order to accommodate his. And my reinforcer is the sound of silence as well as peace of mind. I’m very proud of both of us, but the true test will be when I have to leave the house to go to work. Will he escape? Or will he find peace?
I’ll let you know tomorrow.