Last night was Cricket’s second training session. Her owners want to be able to have her out of her kennel when they’re working, but because she gets destructive [because she’s bored], they can only have her out for very short periods of time. So, we introduced Cricket to some easy enrichment games to encourage more engagement between her and her owners, and occupy her brain when they have to go back to work.
A total of three different games were introduced to her. All of them were challenging enough to get her brain engaged, but not so challenging that she would get frustrated by them. With each game, Cricket showed a very clear unwillingness to solve problems. Rather than work to get the treats, she would go into a down position and wait for her owners to do the work for her.
Recognizing that Cricket was controlling the games, I encouraged her owners to give her silence and wait her out. This confused Cricket; she is accustomed to having her owners do everything for her rather than letting her figure things out for herself. She tried barking in demand; that didn’t work. She tried forcing the goodies out of their hands; that didn’t work. She even tried walking away in protest, expecting to be called back; that didn’t work for her, either. Her only option was to do the work herself. She made it very clear that she wanted the goodies, but she couldn’t understand why her owners were suddenly making her work for them. The way she was looking at us, we could almost hear her saying, “Hey! This isn’t how this goes! You are supposed to give me what I want, when I want it!” 😀
Cricket’s overall confusion with these fairly easy games was understandable. First, she’s never had to use her brain like this. Secondly, when she’s demanding and pushy, she’s always been rewarded in some way. The idea of thinking for herself and solving problems – even really easy problems – is not part of her skill set. This, combined with some struggles her owners have been having with clarity, has created a lack of confidence that makes her uncertain about whether she should even try.
For the duration of our time together, we’re going to be working on providing better clarity for Cricket, as well as building confidence in all of them. The games we initiated with Cricket last night will help in all of these areas, and eventually lead to the goal they have for Cricket to stay with them while they’re working, without worrying that she’ll become destructive.
Have a great day, and remember to stay calm and lead on.