'Not only is punishment risky, but it also fails to teach the dog an acceptable alternate behaviour. The dog does not learn what to do the next time he is in the same situation. He only learns to fear the situation.' Emma Parsons, Click to Calm p73

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Control Freak.

Yesterday, my mother made a comment about how I am 'very controlling' with Lola (probably compared to how I am with Jess, and how she is with both). And she's right - when it comes to Lola, I have high expectations, and in order for her to make the right choices I have to be controlling. Some examples:
- No dogs in the kitchen when food is being prepared (whether it be human or dog). Mum lets the dogs in the kitchen when she gets treats for them, and Lola spends the whole time leaping constantly up at her. She doesn't mind it and Lola doesn't do it to me, so I can deal with that.
- 'Leave it' means under no circumstances do you continue/take that. Too often, I see rotten food, or half eaten chocolate, whilst walking. I can cue Lola to leave these things and she'll barely even look at them; Jess, on the other hand, has to be physically removed. Lola's controlled experience of 'leave it' (and 'come') also means that if she goes after another dog, I can get her back immediately in the vast majority of the time.
- Playtime ends when I decide. (This is what prompted the comment from my mum.) If I'm playing fetch with Lola, I have to end it simply because she won't. When she gets to the stage that she's lying down to pant and chew the ball for a few seconds, playtime ends immediately, though I try to stop before then. Lola must drop toys on the first cue to do so, no matter how amped up she is, and she does it. If she does, playtime continues - if she doesn't, the toy is removed and I ignore her.
- Dogs eat nothing except what they are given. This means that if I give them something to eat, they can eat it - but they cannot touch someone else's food. This is specific to Lola, since Jess is an ass (and has taught Lola bad habits in the past regarding people's food), but I can now go out of the room for a few seconds, still watching the dogs, with my dinner on a plate on the floor, and it's only ever Jess that dares to try and creep forward if I take my eyes off of them.
- Listen to what you're told to do. Generally, I think of my dogs' cues as that--cues for behaviour, not commands. But there are instances when these things cannot be permitted to be broken, and I have used punishment (positive and negative) for when they are broken. Yes, they have all been situations when I should have taken things slower, but it has worked, too (not advocating punishment, still). Refusal to come immediately when called means being put on the leash; continuing to bark at guests when cues to stop means being put in the kitchen for a few seconds; breaking a stay means being penalty walked back to the dog's original placement; and trying to take something when cued to leave it means a shout. For perspective, I've only had to shout at Lola two or three times for trying to steal things, and she's only been penalty walked for breaking a stay twice. She has a rock solid leave it and stay now, and she's barely nine months old.

But it's not all work and harshness in the house. The dogs can play, correct behaviour gets more food than is probably permitted (though both girls are at a lovely weight right now), and when a certain puppy's reactivity is more manageable she'll be given more freedom. I may be a control freak, but a young, reactive terrier needs that. I dread to even think how awful she would behave if she was in a home with no boundaries and no rules. Instead, she thinks: she makes good choices, generally: and in return I trust her and give her as much freedom as I possibly can.


Below is a video of Lola following cues - down, wait, okay, blitz. If she refused to follow any of those we would have a discussion about it; but she knows that cues must be followed. And does this look like a sad, suppressed dog to you?

5 comments:

Sara said...

Dog, like children, WANT boundaries and structure, it makes them feel better. I think you're doing an amazing job with Lola.

And, she is a very happy girl :)

E. said...

I'm sending Bea to live with you. Ian may cry and I will be sad but we must be brave for the Greater Good aka, dogs that don't fake you out to steal a napkin out of your hand.

Sophie said...

Sara, thank you :)

E, don't even tempt me, or I'll have Bea away from you before you can blink! I bet she'd get on well with the resident idiots.

Ricky the Sheltie said...

totally agree with sara!

and i am a control freak too btw!

E. said...

Sophie,
Bea would be terrier-harassing your terrier to shame. She has been stalking the cats all morning. The cats she has lived with for over 2 years. She will NEVER stop mauling the cats.

Poor Bea. She is so game and yet I am so apathetic about focusing it on anything that she eats my cats.