What a roller coaster these past 20 days have been with this girl. This dog has affected my life in so many different ways, I can’t even begin to list them. She has reminded me to appreciate the little things, and she has taught me to dig deeper when I feel stuck. She’s taught me that the answers are there, deep within me; I just have to reach for them. I will be forever grateful to her for these gifts.
What We’ve Achieved
Kennel training: 20 days ago, Peach refused to have anything to do with a kennel. She fought it like a tiger and she kept us awake for several nights with her howling, yipping, and physical efforts to get out. Now, 20 days later, she’s happy to go to into it at bedtime, and she even asks for it if she’s not bedded down within an hour past her bedtime. She sleeps through the night – no muss, no fuss.
Potty alerting: 20 days ago, Peach was doing her business whenever nature called. In-house accidents were frequent because she wasn’t alerting me that she had to go. Now, 20 days later, Peach has finally found a clear way to alert: She whines, paws my leg, looks at me very intently, and then grabs either my work shoe or the longer leash I use when I take her out.
Food possession: 20 days ago, Peach was pushing and shoving to get to her food, and she was trying to take food right out of Glimmer’s mouth by shouldering and shoving at her to force her to drop it. 20 days later, Peach is giving space when I’m getting her food ready or offering it to her, and she is waiting her turn calmly and politely when I give her and Glimmer their banana shares.
The walk: Peach walks beautifully on the leash in the house and in the back yard, but on the main streets, she is still pulling and weaving. Using the 12-inch traffic lead has helped tremendously, as she has nowhere to go – and, although she’s still trying, she can’t drop her head down to try and eat anything off the ground.
Greetings and general interactions with people and other animals: Peach is still getting overly excited when people come in the house or I get home from teaching a class. She is still trying to force play from Glimmer and she’s still trying to chase Violet – not to hurt her, but to smell her and try to engage her in play. When she first arrived, Peach was doing really good following and respecting Glimmer’s cues, but as she’s become more settled, she’s stopped doing that.
Kennel release: Peach is still learning to come out calmly and stay calm once she’s out. This is really hard for her to do. She’s so happy to be out with the rest of us that she completely forgets herself. She jumps and crotch-punches, and when she’s corrected, she becomes more intense and forceful, not less. The only corrective measure that seems to have any effect is to return her to the kennel for a couple of minutes, and then try again.
On the suggestion of a dear friend and fellow trainer, I initiated a new system that involves using Peach’s food portions as rewards. She still gets her normal rations, but rather than a scheduled meal time, she’s offered the food throughout the day as a reward for good behavior. Peach is extremely food-motivated; food has a higher value to her than her humans. Not only does this method teach her that she no longer controls when she gets food or even how much she gets [one or two pieces, or a handful], it also helps her learn that she is no longer in charge of it; her humans now decide when and how much she gets “paid” for good behavior. The result is that her only option is to surrender to their authority and abide by the rules they set out for her.
Along with this method, I have stopped using sound, and I rarely use touch. The only time I talk to her is to tell her “no”, “yes,” “okay”, or “good/good girl”. Occasionally, to reinforce praise, I give her a quick pet on the shoulder or a light touch on the top of her head. This new method of randomized food delivery is very hard for her to process and accept, so giving her touch on occasion to reinforce the rewards lets her know that despite the strict measures, she is loved and valued.
Overall, Peach has come a long way in 20 days. She still has a long way to go – she’s a very stubborn girl, and she’s been practicing unacceptable behaviors her whole 8 months of life. Everything has changed for her, and learning to adapt to and accept those changes has been very hard on her. But, just like every other dog, Peach’s happiness and self confidence demands consistent structure and strong, assertive leadership from her humans.
I have had the most amazing journey with this beautiful girl. She’s funny, she’s smart, she’s incredibly loving, she’s sensitive and compassionate… Peach offers so many wonderful characteristics that it’s impossible to not fall in love with her, and I’m so grateful to her owners for choosing me and entrusting me with her care and training. I have no doubt that if they continue the work with her that I’ve started, Peach will mature into a truly awesome life-long family companion.
Have a great day, and remember to stay calm and lead on.