Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Boot Camp

In dog training you call it "the breaking point." This phrase refers to the exact moment when the dog's behavior becomes so offensive it prompts the owner to finally address it and the relationship dramatically shifts.

This weekend we hit the breaking point with Xochitl.

It happened in Dolores, again (first bad episode in Dolores resulted in Xdog losing all off-leash privileges). We took her there and she began barking at everything. And I mean everything: dogs, people, balls, kites, food, etc. We tried all the different tricks we learned, but she was obviously making it a sport.

We went home, Aaron crashed (he had just flown in from Germany earlier that day), and I did some research. Low and behold, I realized that we'd allowed Xochitl to run the house.

I blame myself a little. After Paco died it was just too hard to be strict, and with a little dog it's easy to allow them up on the furniture and in the bed. If she was larger, we may have noticed sooner, but when it's kind of cute when a little dog is being bad. Behaviors you wouldn't allow in a big dog, like tearing across the couch, harassing the cat, or ripping up anything that looks like a dog toy are adorable when done in miniature. During the months after Paco's death we needed a good laugh, and little Xdog provided it.

But now things were out of hand. As I poured through training materials, I realized we'd totally let her run our lives. It's hard to step outside yourself and get a good read on the situation, but, as I did so, it became very clear what was going on.

So now it's boot camp.

No furniture privileges and no bed privileges. She is either crated or on leash, attached to a human or a table leg. Off leash time is spent working on her homework, highly monitored, and exercise is more regular. It's good for all of us, really, and her behavior is improving rapidly.

The first night I fought with her for an hour, making her settle on the floor versus the couch. She would settle for a minute and then try and get up again. The theatrics were incredible, as she flailed like a fish and whined like crazy, alternately attacked the leash or pawed at my leg. All the while I quietly stood on her leash with just enough slack to make the only comfortable option for her to lie down. Eventually she gave up, but now I had a measure by which to judge her bad attitude. See, I've done that exercise with many a dog before, the most stubborn of which was one of my other favorite dogs in the world, Boodles the Boxer. She fought me for 30 minutes before she gave up, but Xdog put that record to shame.

Now she settles on the floor instantly and doesn't even try and get up on th couch, but this is also just a couple days into boot camp. We'll see how the progress goes and, until then, this is a thing of the past:

Gandul squared


J said...

little dogs get away with everything! it always bugs me when people think it's cute when their little dog jumps all over them (and everybody else). if it was a 50 lb. lab, there'd be nothing cute about it. bahhhh.

now i'm inspired...sammy could use a refresher course. also, he could use some help with his recall. i've got to get some tips from you.

Home2k9 said...

Good you for you! Been there, done that and it's worth it! Be strong, those big eyes will tug at your heart eventually and you'll have to resist. :o)

smartdogs said...

Good job! IMO one of the most important issues in dog-human relationships is whether the human is proactive or reactive. When YOU are the one guiding play, walks, furniture etc. in a proactive way, it's a good thing.
But when the dog guides the action and you are ust reacting to what he does, he thinks he's in charge and it's a bad thing.

And as you correctly note, with adorably cute small dogs like Xdog - it's far too easy to slip into that "oh it doesn't matter" reactive place.

Morianart said...

I can relate, I too let my little dog's behavior slide when he was a puppy, (and am trying to be more strict now.)So go you for working on X-dog's training! I do the "settle" exercise with both my dogs as well, and it helps SO much(course, the little dog put up way more of a fight about it in the beginning..)

If you figure out how to keep a little dog from harassing cats, I want to know!