Pavlov chain reaction

We’ve had our border collie Holly for six months and the chickens for nearly three. Despite Holly’s best efforts I still have four chickens, but Holly is intensely jealous of any attention I give them. A routine has settled into our household that I can only think of as a Pavlov chain reaction.

Ivan Pavlov was a Russian scientist famous for doing unpleasant things to dogs in order to study their learning behaviour. He found that if dogs were given a stimuli – such as a ringing bell – with food, they would anticipate the food when presented with that stimuli, even if no food was present. We know this today as Classical Conditioning.

Our household fun unfolds thus:

  • I approach the front door.
  • Holly jumps up to the window barking madly.
  • The chickens hear Holly and run to the front door.
  • I open the front door and go outside to feed the chickens.

First Holly learned that if I headed towards the front door I was probably going to give the chickens some attention. Then the chickens learnt that if Holly was barking, the front door was probably going to open. So Holly barks more and the chickens run faster. Sometimes in our house it feels like a chemistry experiment is about to get explosive.

Holly and a chicken

Holly barks at an oblivious chicken


About Yasmine

After working with horses for many years I came to my senses and got a 'proper job'. I now live in Weardale with My Taller Half, a mad border collie and 5 chickens. Still wishing I could spend all my time in the great outdoors
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5 Responses to Pavlov chain reaction

  1. Zara Hamid says:

    an eddi izzard sketch comes to mind, cat rings bell, i eat food!! lol

  2. Zara Hamid says:

    sounds like yu might have a reincarnation of meg on your hands xxx

  3. Zara Hamid says:

    mum had a similar situation going on with meg and the ducks at the park, mum would take bread to feed the ducks on the pond, meg would bark and try to steal the bread, eventually the ducks began to associate meg with bread and used to bring their babies to see her, but meg was only interested in eating bread, not ducks, have you thought about training holly in agility or working dog training, got too much brain that one xx

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