Whoops, it looks like I missed a week – getting my business set up has been eating at my free time. This post is going to be pretty good though, so maybe that will make up for it.
We’re going to talk about changing behavior. Ranger, in this example, was just getting too excited at his training class. The week before last, he was hyperfocusing on me, throwing behaviors at me, bouncing around, and barking the second he stopped earning treats. In fact, the entire time we practiced the Supervised Separation part of the CGC test, he spent 3 brutal minutes barking and bouncing at the end of the leash, barely restrained by the poor innocent handler with whom I had exchanged dogs. Excitement turns to frustration quickly if a dog does not know how to handle NOT getting something he wants or has come to expect, and when I, the source of reinforcement, disappeared, he just had no idea how to cope.
What do we do? Here’s the way I see a lot of people try to tackle an over-excited dog:
“NO. Bad dog. :yank on dog’s collar:”
Punishment can certainly suppress behavior, but it leaves a void that can then quickly be filled by any other behavior the dog thinks might work to get attention or a treat. In addition, it creates negative associations. I don’t want my dog to associate training time with escaping or avoiding pain!
So what do we do? Instead of using pain, let’s use our brain. Step back and look at all the moving parts with me…
The (almost) dauntless Ranger has made some great strides in his kitchen exploration practice! With patient counter-conditioning we have tapped into his inner confidence. Take a look at where Ranger will comfortably go now:
Yes, she is a person. She is an adorable little human puppy. But Ranger is a dog, and he is just starting to figure these things out. So for today, she shall be deemed Rolling Lumpy Squeak Thing (RLST).
The baby has begun slow-mo flopping and flailing and can migrate herself from one end of the living room to the other, without crawling, over the space of a few minutes. And Ranger is quietly curious, but so far unconcerned. This is fabulous, but we are still starting to take greater precautions. So what does one do with a RLST and a dog in the home?
One of the ways we have re-organized the house to create a well integrated and safe environment for the baby and dogs is to set up a couple of safe spots for dogs to go when the baby is playing in her playgym or bouncy seat.
It has been quite interesting to really hone in on the behaviors I need Ranger to know to live politely with a baby, and I’ve had some thoughts bubbling in my mind like porridge that may be useful to other trainers or families searching for ways to integrate their furry and less-furry family members.
Since it has been a month since RangerBlog was birthed, I’m going to check in on Ranger’s problem behaviors and make some notes on how I have been addressing them and how they have improved. It would take a lot more than one post a day to truly dig into the “whys” behind each of these, but a little overview may help prod others in the right direction, and show the progression of Ranger from Naughty to Nice.
We are three weeks in! I’ve slacked in blogging the last couple of days due to pitiful excuses like “I have a newborn baby” and “I need sleep so I don’t zombie all day and make my poor innocent husband do the dishes”. But I am still working with Ranger! Here’s where we are at with a few of his behaviors.
In The Sound of Music one of the beautiful things is how individual differences and family dynamics are respected and become the basis for the “solution” of how awful Maria is as a postulant. She may not ever make a proper nun, but she is a wonderful governess, mother and wife.