Sirius Training, Serious Fun!
Sirius Training, Serious Fun!

How I came to hate right turns…and how that connects to dog training!

I think I have mentioned it before, but I drive a Ford Focus ZX5.  I love my car, the biggest complaint I had when I first bought the car was that it has the most annoying turn-signal noise ever.  I mean it.  It sounds like an exaggerated Snapple bottle-cap … or… well, it sounds similar to a box clicker.  Very harsh and super annoying–almost all of my passengers end up mentioning how annoying that noise is… and I don’t disagree.  It’s this annoying, sharp, and loud click—clock—click—clock—click—clock.  Nowadays I don’t even notice my turn signals anymore, I’ve just learned to ignore them.

Well, until late last week when something awful happened.  I was driving to training when I turned on my right turn signal and this horrible noise attacked my ear drums… click.click.click.click.click.click.click.click.click.click.   Oh-My-Gosh… it was awful.

I guess it would be helpful to know that I’m one of those drivers who always uses turn signals… I feel like the more information I can give fellow drivers about my intentions, the better.  I may be merging into not a huge space…but at least you know I’m coming over!  (For the record I’ve never been in or caused an accident as a driver).

Within 24hrs of having the most awful turn-signal noise ever, I started to cringe about any right hand turn I had to make.  I’m not going to lie, I tried to think of ways to make a few left hand turns to avoid making the right–but was never in a place where that was possible/practical.  For the first probably 2 days (it happened on Friday night right before my super busy weekend so I didn’t have time to get it fixed) I was suffering through listening to the awful fast-paced clicking for every right hand turn/merge. At this point, the risk of being ticketed was far greater than the annoyance/pain in the ear of the rogue turn signal.

On day three, however, I couldn’t take it anymore.  Unless I was in a situation where it was a safety factor that a driver in front of me could benefit from knowing I was going to turn, I simply stopped using my turn signal.  I couldn’t handle the noise anymore… and since no one behind me could tell I was turning anyhow, I quit.  (*On day three I tried to get my light fixed but it was a minimum 2 hour wait to get into the mechanics and I didn’t have two hours to wait).  At this point the fear of getting a ticket was not as punishing as listening to my stupid turn signal.

This got me thinking about punishment in dog training and some of the aspects of punishment that I don’t often think about.  How the level of punisher can dictate behavior… initially the punishment of hearing the awful noise was not as bad as the potential hit to my wallet should I be pulled over.  Eventually there was a shift in the level of punisher and the noise was more punishing than the potential hit to my wallet (or we can talk about reinforcement/punishment schedules).

It also served as an example for some of the things I do talk about on a regular basis.  I know I’ve written about it before pretty regularly, but I think it is incredibly dangerous to correct/punish a growl from a dog.  The growl is a warning/communication of future behavior and keeps people who don’t read lip licks or slow blinks safer.  Growls are very similar to turn signals in that sense… there is a good reason we have turn signals and that’s to warn/communicate to other drivers our intentions.  It took 3 days before I pretty much stopped using my turn signal.  Every time I tried to communicate with other drivers I was punished by that awful noise… eventually I stopped using them.  Even though I stopped using my right turn signal, I still made right hand turns and merges.  Correcting the growl does the same thing… it doesn’t change the end behavior (me turning or the dog biting) but it does remove the warning/communication.

Funny how non-dog real life occurrences have crazy implications in dog training (and how I immediately think of them LOL).

Oh, and yes I did get the turn signal fixed.  It was a mix between “OMG I can’t deal with that noise again” and “not being able to communicate to drivers that I’m making a right hand turn is quite dangerous.”  I finally had 2 hours to sit at the mechanic’s to get it done–that is punishment in its own right!

3 Comments
  1. Dog growling…turn signals…of COURSE there’s a connection! How come I never thought of it before? 🙂

    Thanks for hammering home this important point about our pups’ growlies!

  2. I love this post, it’s so true!
    While my turn signals aren’t incredibly obnoxious, the “left the key in the ignition/seat belt isn’t buckled/door is open/lights are on” sound is terrible! EEEEEEEEEERK! Constant, loud, very annoying and doesn’t stop until you “fix” the problem or wait about three minutes.
    At one point I wanted to break into the electrical system and disable the warning, it’s that bad, but I didn’t because I knew it would eventually come in handy and warn me of something I forgot, or something someone I lent the Jeep to forgot. I’d rather not come out to a dead or stolen Jeep or get into an accident without a belt on, so the sound stays.

    It’s the exact same with dogs. Take away that warning system and something will go wrong. People get angry at me when I don’t correct my dogs for growling, until I explain to them WHY I don’t correct and actually thank them for telling me they didn’t like something.

  3. Okay, the only obvious solution to the issue you were having would have been to have someone reward you every single time you heard the click. The reward would have to be something about the size of a normal M&M or smaller due to the high rate of reward from the rapid fire directional. But then you’d look forward to every right turn, and might even make some extra ones in hopes of a reward. Perfect solution!
    In all seriousness I hope it was something simple like a blown bulb.

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