My poor geese (for tonight, anyway)

By November 2, 2015Uncategorized
Warning: I'm writing this quickly. You can expect typos and other weird things.


For the last month, I’ve been working on this routine with my geese: I open their pen. They follow me to the river. They swim and groom. Then they follow me back to their pen, where I give them their favorite: organic romaine lettuce (which is less expensive than nonorganic. Go figure.)

They love this routine.

However today, the darkness is already here, and my geese haven’t yet been to the river.

Poor things.

Earlier today, I was near their pen, and they were ready to get out. The good news is that their pen is spacious, and it’s set on one of the prettiest spots on Planet Earth. Despite their domicile luxuries, they were honking at me with excitement or urgency: “Let’s go to the river!” The bad news is that I had a contractor here who needed my input. They honked at me, but I didn’t take action.

In Behavior Design terms: My geese honking was a trigger. But my ability was low at that moment. Also, my motivation was higher for a competing behavior. I needed to talk with the contractor, to get details right on a big project. So despite the prominence of the geese trigger me (their honking is loud; you can’t miss it), at that moment, I was below the action line for the “take me to the river” behavior.

Let’s get back to right now . . .

I’m going to post this note. And then I’m headed to their pen. I’ll feed them organic romaine; I’ll even feed them red cabbage. And I’ll look into the darkness.

Maybe it’s time to teach my geese how to take a night-time swim.

I’m back.

The geese and I did not go swimming.

However, I did step things up: I put in fresh shavings, and I found some celery for them, which my geese might just like more than romaine. (I just started giving them celery yesterday.)

The fact that I didn’t heed their honking earlier caused me to work harder later.

Because I’m such a geek about behavior, I can’t help but see what just happened in terms of what I call “Behavior Sequences,” part of my work in Behavior Design.

Here’s how to map it out . . .

Because I did not do the previous behavior (take them to the river), I then had increased motivation for the caretaking behavior I did just now. Higher motivation means I was able to do something harder, like find fresh shavings and line their sleeping pen afresh.

Bigger point –> To fully understand how behavior works, you often need to view the behavior at hand in terms of a sequence. What happened before? And what is expected to happen next? A behavior isn’t an isolated action. It fits into an overall context, which includes time (before/after) and the current environment (what surrounds you). To not take those factors into account is to miss the true nature of the behavior.

And tonight, my guilt made me step things up.

That done, my geese may begin to expect such evening attention from me.

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