Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oh, How I Do Love A Good "Bahloo"

How is that spelled?

I've had a bloodhound over for a few days of Daycare, and I was smitten within minutes.  He blended so well into our little family pack within a half hour of being picked up, and his personality has been shining ever since!  My goal with all of my clients' pups is to get them to a place where they're relaxed and happy.  Where they're comfortable with these strange new arrangements.  After all, who is this weird lady and why are we in this place?  And most importantly, why did my owner not come with? 

Owners always ask me how their pup did, especially on their first day.  Although everyone is different, there is definitely a trend.  So in case you're wondering what your dog did at first, let me describe:

  • When we started up the car, he looked around, wondering why we were taking off, and why you're just standing there.  You fool, we're leaving!
  • A few minutes into the drive, I glanced back and noticed that he's ... pouting.  
  • When we unloaded the car and walked to the front door, he was either a) super excited, since he knew you were behind this new door! or b) a little worried... he doesn't like surprises
  • As we walk inside towards the play area (outside or in my office), he's looking around with hesitation.  He takes in the smells, walking tenatively.  Hmm...

Social Etiquette Teachers

Then we've got a break in the type of experience your pup may have had.  Very few (we'll say 5%) of the pups remain in this hesitant, concerned state.  Those days are sad for me, since there's just nothing I can do to help them relax.  As much as I hate to lose a client, those are the pups that might benefit from another care option. 

But let's talk about the positive!  Most pups start to let loose within the first few hours.  They play hard, then nap hard.  They slurp up some water in between.  Their bodies; their breathing; their eyes are generally relaxed, and they share their time equally between the other pups and myself.  Oh, and they settle themselves down for some private time (usually a nap or looking around calmly). 

They try hard to let the other dogs know what they like and what they don't like.  This is the most fascinating thing that I get to see during my day.  It's the amazing talent that dogs have to encounter a new friend, to assess their personality, to determine how that pup likes to play, and then work so hard to get that pup to play in a way that's more compatible with their style.

I'd love to use this blog to share more about that idea.  I mean, talk about "Positive Punishment"!  For those that don't know, positive punishment is the idea in training that if you add something to the dog's experience when he's doing something unfavorable, he'll be less likely to do that naughty thing in the future.  Bella is great at this (I'll try to find a video to share).  If another dog is playing too rough with her - let's say that the pup loves to chase, but takes it too far by pushing or biting at B - she stops the chase and flops on the ground.  If he wants to play, he has to play nice.  Game over.  Sorry.

Have you ever seen your own dog do this when another pup is getting to be too much?   

All this is good, but the amazing! part is how dogs are tenacious about trying to teach the other dog how to behave with them.  They are really tolerant.  Over and over, the other pup tries to slip in a bit of naughty, and your dog has to correct them again and again, or flop over, or whatever else they do.  Sometimes things escalate, where your dog may need to give a little "lip," or even a lunge-bark ("Stop it!  I mean it!"), but think about this:  They keep at it.

Do you keep at it?

For those who are working at training your dog, put yourself in Bella's "shoes".  If you've got one of those pups who throws in a bit of naughty every now and then and keeps testing your limits, are you tenacious, too?

It's rare that a dog uses dominance to put another in check, to teach the other pup how it must behave in order to be friends. 

But whether you use dominance, positive, or natural dog training methods, you as the human have a choice when teaching your own pup how to be friends with you:  you can be tenacious, or you can give up, saying, "It's no use, he'll never learn."

Think about Bella.  She can't give up.  This other dog is in her world and unless I separate them, she's stuck with him.  It's like that annoying co-worker at your office.  He just doesn't get it that you don't like him to stand so creepily close to you as he asks how your weekend was.  So how do you deal with this situation?  Do you keep at it?  Do you try all different sorts of tactics to get him to give you more space?  First you use body language, but he doesn't get the hint, so maybe you try avoidance, but that still doesn't work (he just finds you wherever you go!), so you have two choices: be tenacious and try something else (perhaps running away screaming like a crazy person?), or give up.  After all, his breath isn't that bad.

"My dog's digging in the trash - barking - peeing in submission when meeting other dogs - toy possession - food aggression - whatever - isn't that bad." 

Is that you?  Come on, now.  Let Bella be your inspiration towards tenacity.

Back to the Bloodhound!

Here's a little video of Daycare today.  Watch at the end for a little doggie-collision!  I don't think you can hear it, but there was a seriously loud "Thud!"  I was cracking up for some time after that happened.  Dogs are funny.