I seem to remember saying that I chose Specs because I wanted the calm, cuddly Cavalier temperament. Well she’s still very young, and still oh-so-cute, but she’s really not as calm and cuddly as I’d hoped (though I am besotted more than ever).
This weekend’s challenge was the whining. And the screaming. And the trying to climb out of the play pen. And the general crazy madness that comes with being a 10 week old puppy who isn’t allowed to go for a walk yet (rightly so, but it is frustrating for both of us).
I decided to have a proper housework morning on Saturday morning. I gave Specs her breakfast, toiletted her, then did some training with her for a good 20 minutes, before putting her back in her pen and getting on with the housework. However, the problem with the housework is that I have an open plan living room/dining room/stairs, so I was constantly in and out. And every time I came in, Specs thought she was going to be picked up, so when I didn’t, she screamed. Boy did she scream. For hours.
My first technique was to ignore her – my basic training principle is to ignore the bad behaviour and reward the good – but it really didn’t work. So I brought in the big guns. Lunch. In a little bowl. In plain sight. I sat quietly until she calmed down, clicked and treated. But of course one biscuit wasn’t enough for little Specs so she screamed for more. Again, I sat down and waited for her to calm down, clicked and treated.
I did this a few times, then I started moving about. If she screamed, I turned my back on her and walked away. If she managed to stay even vaguely calm she got a click and a treat.
It took about an hour and a half of this before she finally realised that she had to sit calmly and patiently if she wanted that treat, but at the end of that hour and a half I could get on with the housework in peace and quiet.
Is that job done? No way. I had to repeat the process on Sunday morning too, but it was a lot quicker this time – just a few minutes before she worked out what was going on.
The slight complication was that we had guests for dinner last night, so when I got Specs out of her pen to show off her tricks, what did she do? You’ve guessed it – she just sat calmly and waited for the treat! That is always going to happen when you use reward based training, but it really doesn’t matter. She’s at the point of being able to follow hand signals (no words yet), so I had to forego the free offering for a couple of goes, but she eventually got there and ran through her full repertoire of tricks.
She’s a clever girl. And a much quieter one now.