R is for Redirected Activity

R“A redirected activity is an activity, recognizable from its form as being usually directed toward a particular stimulus, but on this occasion directed toward another stimulus. The classic human illustration is the aggressive man slamming his fist into the table instead of into an opponent.”

Unfortunately, in the animal world, redirected activity can result into aggression towards another animal. To be fair, this also occurs in children. One individual gets upset for not getting their way, and takes it out on the nearest individual. Redirected activity can be a positive thing as well. I’ll use my dog as an example.

Like most dogs in this world, Mattie is thrilled whenever I come home from leaving the house. Whether I’ve been gone for 20 min or several hours, she’s just as thrilled when I walk through the front door. Of course, this excitement can translate into her jumping on her hind legs and against me. She can paw at me with her feet. Though I certainly appreciate her excitement, I don’t necessarily wanting her to jump on me, especially if I happen to be coming home in a dress and pantyhose. So I’ve gotten into the habit of not reinforcing her for this behavior and pretty much ignoring her until I’m ready to receive this excitement of hers.

I’ve made it a point to keep a few of her toys downstairs, not far from the front door. So now, Mattie redirects her activity. Instead of being excited on me, she runs for her toys and starts playing with them. She gets all excited and squeaks her toys and rolls around with them on the large rug. It gives me a chance to verbally greet her and remove my shoes and coat, hang up my keys and put my purse away. Then when I’m finished, I can either play with her downstairs or encourage her to come upstairs with me. This may sound a lot like incompatible behaviors, except redirected activity kind of happens on its own. You don’t necessarily need to “train” it. I didn’t have to train Mattie to start playing with her toys instead of giving me attention, I just presented her with the opportunity and she took it. Playing with her toys when I get home, is more reinforcing than jumping on me.

© Semi Charmed Life

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge

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10 thoughts on “R is for Redirected Activity

  1. I love so many things about dogs, but one of my favorites is how happy they are to see me when I come home. It just fills me with warm fuzzies that my presence makes another creature so happy. Fortunately, my current two dogs are not jumpers (especially since one is 90 pounds), but I’ll keep the redirected activity idea in mind for any future issues.

    Hope you’re having fun with the A to Z challenge,
    Jocelyn

  2. “This can happen with children too”

    Oh yes!

    When they are in the mood, they seem to be akin to The Twits – working harder and harder to out-evil each other!

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