Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Training Continues...

Apparently, training your pet is an ongoing thing.  Kinda like raising kids.  So the dog trainer told me today after our visit.   He's coming back for the next four weeks to work with the person in the house that is most responsible for him but the least consistent in training him.  That would be me.

I hate to even tell this story because this dog is so sweet, that I don't want you to think badly of him.  Like he will ever know, right  Anyway, he bit my Bubby.  In defense of the dog, my son was trying to take away a can that Elmo got out of the recycling bin, he was being chased by several kids who were also trying to get the can and it was over Thanksgiving when his home had been descended upon by 7 more people and another dog.   I think he was a bit stressed.

As I was cleaning up my son and after I got over my anger toward the dog (because it's really hard not to be mad at your dog who just bit your child), I just got sad because I've heard that once a dog bites a child that he will do it again.  And we have tons of kids in our yard all the time.   I was really afraid that finding a new home might be necessary.  

So, on a recent vet visit, she recommended the dog trainer and some encouragement that a young dog/puppy can be trained not to bite again.  Whew.  

The diagnosis for our sweet Elmo is that he has fear-based aggression.  Both the vet and the trainer have said so and that we need to work with him to fill him up with confidence so he won't be fearful.   Think obstacle courses!  He already knows very basic commands so we just need to reinforce those.  Also, the trainer suggested we not give him bones and rawhide and thinks they actually can cause some aggression in dogs.  They look to the bone as prey, they hide it, they guard it - makes sense.  

He actually has always been submissive and it hurts me to think that he might have been abused as a very small puppy but if I so much as raise my voice at him, he rolls over, lowers his ears and often runs and hides.   This dog is not aggressive by nature.  Why why why are people mean to animals? 

Anyway, I haven't been consistent training him.   I've made all the mistakes.  For instance, the first question the trainer asked me is, "Where does he sleep at night?"

Really?  I'm going to get the first question wrong? 

Yes, we finally succumbed to letting this 38 pound dog sleep at the foot of our bed.  I knew it was not a good idea.  He just has the biggest brown eyes and I felt sad for him being the only one on the floor.  Because yes, our 11 year old, 6 pound Maltese also sleeps with us and that dog will never be sleeping on the floor.  'Cause you can't teach an old dog new tricks - for sure.   But 6 pounds vs. 38 pounds is a big difference in many ways.  A 6 pound untrained dog is easy to pick up and just ignore.  A 38 pound dog is not.   Oh, and by the way, he is 8 pounds overweight according to the vet.   sigh.  Could I just do one more thing wrong with this dog?

Apparently, you cannot treat dogs like humans.  They are unique creatures who have their own habits and need to be trained according to those habits.   Again, I know this.  Really, I do.    Just like I know that if I allow my kids an inch, they will take a mile.  The dogs will too. 

It's just easier sometimes to give in.  Easier at the moment.  Harder later when the dog starts to think he is equal to other people in the house and bite them.

So, here I go - working with my dog some more to make him the most confident, obedient, sweetest dog ever.    The trainer is very confident that we can train him just the way we want with lots of practice.  I have homework each week.

Anyway, I learned this week that teaching a dog is ongoing.  It's not something you can do the first 4 months and then forget about.  I have to be consistent and not take the easy way out for the moment. 

For More Lessons Learned this week, head over to Musings of a Housewife.

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Viki said...

Not that this is exactly the same but I had a dog before I had my child. When my son was about 1 1/2 years old, he was walking and holding onto the front of the couch. The dog was laying there and I think my son might have grabbed for him (he actually probably hit him) and the dog bit him on the forehead. I thought I might have to make a choice. From then on for a while I watched the dog when he was around my son and it didn't happen again. It seemed in my case it was an isolated incident. Hopefully, since your dog seems younger with training it will work out.

Sandy said...

We love to watch "The Dog Whisperer" & over the summer while my son was gone, his girlfriend used that program. She turned his "formerly-mistreated" (he was rescued & very thin) boxer from a way too enthusiastic, nervous, insecure, no-discipline dog into one who is calm (but still fun), obeys commands, & is SO much nicer to be around. He does still sleep with my son.. but he is single & likes to have Gus up there with him. Hang in there & stick with the training, because it will be so worth it!

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