Two steps forward, one step backward

When the water level is low, Grace loves to meander on the rocks. She is constantly making choices about going forward or going backwards — or sideways — to move ahead. I guess she does that a lot, not just with her rock-jumping adventures.

This past weekend, I continued my experiment with Grace in the car. You may recall in a recent postI talked about my success in getting her to decide to lay quietly in her bed—a decision she made on her own versus me luring or commanding her to do so.

The next time we did this it didn’t turn out quite so good.

She very clearly remembered that in order for her to get some yummy deli turkey meat, she had to be in her bed. This time, she figured something else out about this new set-up. Almost immediately upon starting out on our ride, she would get up and out of her bed—make a turn or nudge me, anything to let me know she was out—and then returned to her bed. The first few times this happened I gave her a treat, thinking she was going back to her bed as was my intention. But then I realized that little devil had outsmarted me. She was intentionally getting up, just to go back, resulting in a tasty snack.

After a few times of this and I realized what she was doing, I stopped giving her turkey when she got back into her bed, opting to wait until she was there a while. She didn’t like this part of the game and she started to whine. It was a “turkey whine,” accurately coined by my husband, silently observing this charade that Grace and I were exchanging. Now her whines in the car were because she wanted her share of the turkey versus being stressed. Was this what progress would look like?

I was feeling a mixture of emotions. On one hand, it was funny. On the other, I was irritated. And mostly I was disappointed that my sense of accomplishment from the previous week hadn’t prevailed. I so wanted her to have learned this new way of riding in the car and I also wanted to feel a level of success with a new way of interacting with her.

But I had to take a deep breath and remember that we all learn by challenging the boundaries of our new experience. It’s no different from any of us making a mistake as we learn something new. We’re trying to figure out all the angles. I can’t really fault her for trying to maximize her turkey treats!

As we manage, we need to remember that people will stretch their boundaries. They will make mistakes. They will often take longer to learn something than we hope it will take. Things will go back before they go forward.

Grace and I took a couple of steps forward last week and then we had a step backward on the next round. But we’re still moving ahead and learning together.

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  1. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide on August 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    She seems like such a sweetie. And smart too.

  2. lifewith4cats on August 11, 2011 at 12:59 am

    heheh. I used to give Babyboy treats every time he came in from outside. Till he started doing exactly as Grace. I still treat once in a while. If Grace is like him, she knows the humor in what shes doing. Don’t be disheartened. She now knows what you want. You just need a happy medium. Funny girl she is. 🙂

    • PeopleSense Consulting LLC on August 11, 2011 at 8:47 am

      I hadn’t thought of her having a sense of humor about this, but I bet you are right. And I love that you said she now knows what I want. I believe that’s true, which helps me stand my ground in not giving too many treats.

  3. didiwright on August 17, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Oh, dear…They’re much clever than we think, aren’t they? I understand how you feel…It’s almost funny and sweet to see how smart Grace is, but then it’s not quite so funny to see your progress reversed…I’m sure you’ll figure this one out eventually. Maybe it’s a constantly changing game, where you have to always be on standby and adapt as you go… It’s OK, as long as you’re still moving forward 🙂

    • PeopleSense Consulting LLC on August 18, 2011 at 7:01 am

      I think your point is right on target — that it’s a constantly changing game. Which makes it both very interesting and very challenging! She certainly keeps me on my toes!

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