Late summer/ early fall in Vermont is squirrel season. And by that I mean that the squirrels are busy, busy, busy gathering nuts to store for the long winter. This frenetic activity drives my dogs absolutely insane. They become obsessed, staring up into the trees. They desperately want to be the first out the door to the yard in the hopes of catching one of the pesky critters.
With two new dogs in the house and this intense prey drive coursing through everyone's brains things began to get a bit dicey around the doors. At first it was just Tawnie and Mamacita jostling to get out ahead of the other...then Tucker got into the competition...and of course Pogo decided he might want to be in the middle of that too. Pogo is old, fragile, has poor balance and is a bit dotty. Add the diminutive Chihuahuas and Belle with her bad back into the mix and it was just plain dangerous.
This situation happened gradually, At first it was a bit amusing. I even used the drive to get out the door to train Tawnie and Mamacita to burst forward on my "Go!" cue (useful in Agility). I held Pogo back by the collar for safety and let Tawnie, Cita and Tucker go. Then the deck started to get icy. I had visions of one of the dogs breaking their leg in the mad dash.
In the mean time the intensity began to transfer to the front door as well (the door we use when we are leaving the house). This made getting in and out of the house a real pain in the ass! With all this excitement and adrenaline, the barking increased in all aspects of our daily life as well. Arrivals, departures and meal times had become very stressful.
Suddenly I had a house full of rude, noisy dogs. WTF?
This is how bad habits are formed...slowly, bit by bit.
To steal from John Lennon : Bad habits are what happens while you're busy making other plans.
I found myself hollering back at the dogs and losing my patience.
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...I had turned into one of my frustrated students!
After whining a bit to friends and making excuses (busy at work...distracted by Cubby's play rehearsals...too many friggin dogs - ha ha!). I reminded myself of my favorite quote.
"TRAIN, DON'T COMPLAIN"
So, there's a new sheriff in town (full of plagiarisms today aren't I?). This new sheriff is calm. She is consistent. She is reminding the dogs about WAIT and insisting on success. She is COMPLETELY ignoring barking. She is rewarding QUIET. She is managing her environment to decrease the excitement and prevent crowding at the door. She is slowing things down - No more rushing around like a crazy woman, which makes all the dogs crazy too.
Amazing what can be accomplished by concentrating on being proactive, rather than simply reacting (and poorly at that) to the chaos. Even dog trainer's dogs get out of control sometimes. By following the same advice I would give my students, I'm getting things back on track.
We're all happier already!
- my dogs, my world
- My name is Lesli Hyland. In my forty seven years on this earth, my home and my heart have been graced with the company of twenty dogs. Many came to me as seniors. All of them taught me something and helped determine the course of my life. I am a dog trainer because of them. I met my friends because of them. My husband and I are are forever bonded by our mutual connection to them. As a dog trainer I have access to other people's dogs and I am allowed to share in their unique relationships. The dogs make me a better person by forcing me to closely examine my motivation, my actions and my choices. Everything I do affects their behavior, safety and happiness. It is an awesome responsibility. The dogs keep me honest.