All owners worry about their dogs, all of us. Although dog trainers are a little bit not-normal in what they worry about. We’re considerably less worried than the 99% of the population who fret about dogs eating poop/sniffing or licking each others’ bits/playing tug with their leashes. And a lot more worried about dogs who don’t come back in the park straight away and quickly.
Serious behaviour and health problems are beyond what I want to talk about here, they really are a worry. I want to talk about the problems we’re not sure about, the things we think could get worse, the things that simply annoy us, the things that annoy us and probably shouldn’t.
So here’s a video of Specs running away with her titbit pouch. The little horror.
I like a problem or two to get my teeth into, if puppy is perfect, I get bored. And hooray! Specs isn’t perfect. There’s the startle response Jackie noticed at loud noises and novel stimuli. And here we have Specs running away with stuff. Not a huge problem, but a problem it is.
If she will not recall with stuff in her mouth that’s dangerous. But it’s curable and we’re all going to have a bit of fun sorting it I think. We’re gonna get constructive.
First thing, manage the problem. Doing our best to make sure she’s not rewarded for the stuff we don’t want. This often requires use of leads, long lines, playpens, that kind of thing. The kind of thing which simply prevents the dog doing, or at least getting away with, the kind of thing we don’t want her to do.
Second and subsequent things: teaching her to do what we want her to do.
We’re going to do a lot of object exchanges with Specs. “Give up the thing you’ve got and we have something better for you.” Titbit pouches are great for this. Specs can’t get the biscuits out herself, she has to let a human do it for her. She’s going to be taught to hand over the thing to get the better thing of its’ contents. And then she can have the thing back. And then we’ll do it again. Over and over. We’re going to teach her to wait patiently for the thing, to control herself around it. We’re going to teach her to recall with it in her mouth. We’re going to teach her to heel past it and recall past it and sit/down/stand stay for it. All sorts of control stuff. And we’re going to do it with a happy heart (or two, or four, happy hearts, there’s a few of us on the task).
What we’re not going to do is get angry with the dog. Dogs do this kind of thing, it’s normal, not lovely, but not unexpected. We’re not going to tear out our hair. We’re going to take it seriously and laugh about it all in the same breath. I’m champing at the bit to get going on it and I’m (not so secretly) delighted my sister’s little saint-puppy… isn’t.