Friday, September 21, 2012

A Dog Does Not Come Pre-Programmed

Why won’t my dog do "that"?

When I'm not working with dogs, playing with dogs or sleeping, I am programming web applications for the fitness and health industry. Those who know that I do this, ask me often "why won't my computer do that?" I've been a programming since the early 80's, before PC's became popular and long before the Internet and I've never had a computer that was pre programmed to do what I wanted it to do. It's easier now of course, computers come from the store with software already installed for a variety of purposes. But unless you've used those programs or programs very similar before, there is a learning process that you have to go through.

Why is it that people think that both dogs and computers come pre programmed to cater to their every whim?

Why are a lot of people shocked when the adult dog they adopt and even the puppy they bring home barely weaned, doesn't know how to sit, stay, get off the couch and even not pee in the house? Dogs, unfortunately, do not come pre-programmed to do those things one sees other dogs doing. What they DO come pre-programmed to do is bark, play, bite, poop, pee, whine, lick, dig, scratch, roll in things, jump, wrestle, and trot much faster then we can walk. Dogs do have programming, just as all living things on this planet do - it's in the genes as potential and only manifests if the environment demands it.

We have got to remember that we are asking our dogs to live in a world that we created not the natural world they evovled to operate in. Even dispite 1000's of years of domestication, the genes remember and survival is paramount. We are asking our dogs to have patience and "wait" or "stay" even though there is no rabbit hole. We are asking them to do things just because we want them to not because there is survival involved. In short, we expect dogs to be more human then we are.

To go back to the parallel with computers. Many of my clients over the years have asked me to create software that will make their lives easier or that they can sell to others making lots of lives easier. Most of these programs have involved millions of lines of code, complex algorhythms, all with user friendliness on the front end. None of the projects I've done have been shorter then a year and that one was a simple program that kept track of inventory, ordering and sales of that inventory. When I say simple, that's in comparison to most of the other software I've created. But even that client could not understand why it took so long when he could have done it all with pencil and paper in much less time. What he didn't figure on was that sure, it took only a few days to figure out what to order based on prior sales and what was in inventory at that time, but he had to take those few days every time he needed that information.

Just like with dogs, we are asking our computers to be more then human, to do all those things for us that we don't have the time or energy or inclination to do. People seem to expect a dog to come to them with programs already written - go get my slippers, get me a bear, sit, stay, down, roll over. Second to that, people don't want to take the time to train their dogs, they want trainers to do it. There are many trainers with ads that read "leave your dog with us for 2 weeks and get back a perfect robot". They are never told that that training will never stick if not worked on in life, they are never told that they will have to bring the dog back for a refresher every year.

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