Getting away with it

On a recent trip to Perth WA, I noticed some people doing their best to get away with stuff that was against the “rules”, rules that are mostly in place for safety reasons. People were prepared to risk potential consequences for their immediate wants.

There was the guy who didn’t put his phone into flight mode and messaged someone the entire flight. The lady who was asked to take the iPad out of the seat-back holder for take-off, took it out and put it back in immediately the flight attendant moved on. The man with the tray table & window shade that did the same thing (did as requested but went back to how he wanted them when the flight attendant moved on) before landing. On Rottnest Island, there was the older couple who patted a Quokka and the large tour group luring several of them into their selfies using ice cream.

My #quokkaselfie on Rottnest Island, July 2018

Most of the potential consequences of these actions could harm the individual making the decision (like a tray table in the throat if it’s a bumpy landing), some the consequences were not immediately evident (I don’t know why we have to close the window shade either), and some could have impacted the entire plane or population of Quokkas, and the social context of the actions was not considered – they could get away with it as long as an authority figure didn’t see.

I was frustrated witnessing these things. Especially with the Quokkas (I wanted to touch one so badly, I bet they’re soft). And I realised there are areas I flout the rules too sometimes – usually when I think they’re silly, when I’m fairly certain I will get away with it, and always when the social context allows. Social context can be more powerful than an authority figure. For example, a plane full of strangers is going to be less influencing on behaviour than travelling with in a group; I watch my speed more carefully with mum in the car than when I am alone. Largely we do what we can get away with, and what works for us in that moment.

This is true for our dogs. As social animals as well, social context is important to them. When we’re not there as an authority figure, it may be that all bets are off on bench-surfing, bin-diving, and other behaviours we consider undesirable or unsafe. And like us, if they risk the potential consequences and get away with it, they’re more likely to do it again. If we’re guilty of this behaviour, we need to go easy on our dogs. The difference is, they don’t “know it’s wrong”, they’re just going with what works for them in that moment (and social context).

If you’re struggling with your dog getting away with stuff, revisit your training. Call me, I can help.


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