The Bell Tolls for Thee. A Story About Classical Conditioning.

Most of us know the story of Pavlov’s dogs and his theory of classical conditioning. He rang a bell and called the dogs for their food. After a short period of time the dogs would salivate when they heard a bell ring. I’m just wondering if there isn’t more to that story.

Learning new tricks

The reason I wonder is because my husband Jamie thought it was a great idea to train Cleo to ring a Christmas bell that was on our front door and give him a snack. It was his modified version of Pavlov’s dog experiment. So he worked with him for several days. He would get a treat bring Cleo to the door and get him to ring the bell. In no time at all whenever Jamie went to the cookie jar Cleo would run to the door and ring the bell. A cute trick indeed.

Be careful what you teach the dog

What we didn’t count on was Cleo thinking that was a great way to beg. Soon after he would run to the door ring the bell and stare at my husband. Jamie would get up and bring him a snack. Once Cleo realized it worked he did it all the time.  I thought it was hysterical and every time he would ring the bell I would laugh and say, “Train Jamie!” Jamie would roll his eyes and go grab a treat. In no time at all whenever we would watch tv the dog would get up and start ringing the bell or we would sit down to dinner and he would run to the bell. Each time Jamie got up to get Cleo a treat. Smart dog!

Ding, ding, ding

Once Jamie decided he no longer wanted to be at Cleo’s “beck and ring” he would ignore the ringing. We would watch a movie and the bell would ring for 20 minutes before Cleo would give up, flop on the floor, and give a big long sigh. It was at least a month before he gave up. It’s been a long time since Cleo rang the bell on his own, he knows it doesn’t work, but every once in a while I say, “Train Jamie!” and Cleo rings the bell, Jamie rolls his eyes at me but gets up to get the dog a treat. Jamie, the bell tolls for thee.

© 2012 StinkDog Photos by Deanna Hurt All rights reserved.