Tuesday, 6 August 2013

It's amazing what you see when you learn how to look...

This is a nice, positive, if a little wandering and possibly a bit deep n' meaningful... you cannot say you were not warned!

I am a bit scared of things that fly at my head...

There, I've 'fessed up. Things that fly around (I mean insects, not, half-bricks!) and hit me in the head cause me to go 'arrrgh' and 'eeeeeeeeeearrrrrrrrrrgh' and 'FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKGETOFFME' and other such things.

My reaction ranges from 'crap I don't like this' to 'full scale meltdown' depending on what the thing is.

If it just flys near me, I am wary. If it flies near me AND it goes BZZZZZZZ I am on the verge of panic.

If it flies AT me and is silent, I flap around and move - if it flies AT me and goes BZZ  I am close to filling my pants, I run and scream.

If it goes BZZZ and it LANDS on me I become completely irrational, I'll run around, scream, strip off clothing, smash myself in the head trying to make sure its not in my hair. I can't listen to stuff that's said to me either.

So, moving this story along - whilst clearly, bees and wasps and their various brethren are no friends of mine.

Moths on the other hand are cause for a little concern, which grows with their size and desire to fly at my head.

Where I live, we have a lot of moths. Probably because there is a lot of wild scrubby woodland and fields behind my house, and I live in the West Midlands where its marginally warmer than the Frozen North that is my native land (ok ok, Manchester).

The other relevant points here are - our terraced house requires we have windows open or it is too hot in summer. Even if its not actually that hot. Windows closed results in a vile, stale, airless abode.
Also, our upstairs toilet is a tiny room, with an open window - and we tend to leave the light on as its the least annoying light to leave on so you can see where you are going for your middle-of-the-night-wee (or otherwise you trip over an Ellie dog on the landing).

The net result of course is that our tiny tiny loo with its pale walls and electric-moon, is a veritable Mecca for Moths!

It was just NOT sustainable to carry on being so worried about things that fly at my face, when this affected my ability to go for a wee, so Something Had To Be Done...

I started to learn about Moths.

Moths are quite interesting - theres a huge variety of colours, shapes, sizes, flying habits... males tend to have ridiculous feathery antenna, there are some with incredibly furry faces, and their common names tell of times gone by, when to keep slightly odd young men busy, moth collecting was thought  a good, upstanding activity. I feel that moth collecting was then, to butterfly collecting, what goth music is to chart pop... still a bit weird!

The names really inspired me - I wanted to meet the Dingy Footman, The Setaceous Hebrew Character and The Snout and all their friends. Looking through pictures of the species found in the UK, I thought 'wow... I have never seen almost ANY of these before....'

And I know why  now - and it isn't that I was blind, and it isn't that these are particularly rare creatures.

It's simply because I wasn't looking.

In the last fortnight I have found:

Dingy Footman
Common Footman
Buff Footman
Clothes Moth (common/various)
Scalloped Oak
Early Thorn (many!)
Lesser Rustic
Carcina quercana (has no common name)
Common Plume
Light Emerald
Willow Beauty
Poplar Hawk Moth
Riband Wave

I haven't set foot outside my house to see these, these are just the moths that were drawn into my home by the lights we leave on!

This brings me to two thoughts.

Firstly - when we look, when we know what we are looking for and where, and how, we will find it - we WILL see things that were always there... we just never noticed them before.

Secondly - when we pair something we aren't keen on, with a reward, we become much happier about that thing.

So thats how this relates to dog behaviour modification, because really here, I was counter conditioning myself to moths.

Using a functional reward - my love of learning about wildlife, my human desire to collect and collate and list the things I find - I have changed my emotional response to moths from 'urgh yuck' to 'ooh, interesting!'.

We can and should do the same with our dogs.

I am constantly amazed when people watch various tv shows and youtube clips, and they don't seem to see the things I see. I talk to clients and they have never noticed for example, the difference in a dogs mouth when he is panting because he is a little warm, and when his mouth is open because his lips are drawn back, tension creating wrinkles at the corners, ears back and tight, caused by stress or fear.

They don't see because they are not in the habit of looking - because they don't know why they should look, nor how or where, contextually, these things are important.

Once people DO know how to look though, it can be quite a revelation!

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