Friday, July 20, 2012

Hey, Who's in Charge, Anyway?

This is our crazy ass dog, Olivia.  I love this dog even tho she is headstrong and a tad nervous.  This summer I am on a mission to train her.  I want her to learn some very simple commands (that's the easy part) and then get her to follow those commands (the challenge) everywhere.  What I want her to NOT do is charge at dogs and people who enter our space with her hair spiked up all along her spine like a blond Mohawk, growling and looking like Cugo.   I want her to say, with tail wagging as she saunters up to a new dog or person, "Hey, hi.  Watsup?"  I want a little more namaste and a lot less "bring it on."

I have watched enough episodes of the Dog Whisperer to know how important a daily walk is for some dogs.  I know Olivia has to give in to me being in charge and I can give her the chance to do that on a walk.  I pick about 10:00am for our training walk because most other dogs and owners have already been out for their morning tour round the neighborhood.   When I first started walking her, I was excited that this might be an opportunity for both of us to get our daily exercise in.  This has not turned out to be the case.  I am very busy on our walks.  First, I have to hold the leash across my body so that I can easily yank on it with the strength of two arms,  if she charges a random person or strains to run over to a barking dog way across the street. Throughout the walk, I find myself also pulling her along as she buries her nose into every blade of grass we pass by, commanding her to, "Leave it.  I think I need to leave the smell fest to before and after the walks from now on.  When we walk, that's probably all we should do, walk at a comfortable pace.  When we walk across the bridge where there is no vegetation soaked in mesmerizing dog urine, I reinforce her with a "Heal" as she trots along in style.  All the while, I grope around in the little red bag that hangs from my belt loop, for treats. The walk, at least for now, is all about Ms. O and I leave my exercising to the gym.  

We are making progress, tho.  Last night when my husband came home and Olivia heard the "ding" of the elevator, she charged forth barking, hair on high alert, as usual.  I yelled, "Leave it," and she actually stopped, turned around and looked right at me.  Her hair was smooth and no longer at attention.  Not expecting her to actually listen to me, I was momentarily stunned.  OK I have her attention, I thought to myself, now what do I want her to do?   "Come," I commanded her, and she came to me!  Once in front of me I gave her a tiny piece of cheese and said, "Relax" which she did by laying down with her hips to one side, tail still.  Cool, I thought to myself.  But, what I really wanted her to NOT do was charge my husband barking away with tail wagging, skidding across our hardwood floors, so I told her to "Stay."  With eyes focused intently on me, she did.  Success.  I can feel the success.  Leave it, come, relax, stay.  I got it and so does she! 

I remember a dog trainer once saying that Olivia was the second smartest dog she had ever seen.  So, learning the commands is easy.  Getting her to follow the commands is the whole problem.  With a strong-willed dog it's just easier to not go walking, to put her in a back room when somebody comes over.  But I worry that she may accidentally charge somebody, sometime and hurt them.  I can hear Ceasar Milan, "You got yourself a red zone dog, lady."  Plus I get tired of the high anxiety everytime she hears the ding of the elevator, a knock on the door or the buzz of somebody ringing from downstairs.  And, I would really like us to both get our exercise by taking a daily walk together.

I get it now that Olivia needs to feel that I am in charge. I need to set up her world so that she listens to me.   Ms. O needs a pack leader and I need to step up.  Got it :)

No comments:

Post a Comment