Sunday, August 30, 2015

Doggy Boot Camp

Rudy was the dog whisperer in our family.  He was the alpha dog in charge.  I was happily second in command and my role was mostly sweet talking.  I benefited from his discipline.  He was good at keeping the dogs in line.  He was firm, but fun, and they all loved him dearly.  They towed the line because they wanted to please him.

With Rudy gone, I'm sure there's been uncertainty in our pack.  Six dogs.  Three males.  Two young ones who didn't get to spend enough time with Rudy to clearly understand the rules.  And me?  Grieving and lost, I've  mostly wanted to snuggle with them all.

George, one of the young ones, has been showing signs of possessiveness and aggression.  His last incident got my full attention and I'm happy to say I'm stepping up and letting them all know I'm in charge.

The six dogs and I are in the midst of what I'm calling doggy boot camp.  I need retraining as much as they do.  I'm reading articles and spending time reinforcing our new rules.  I'm amazed at how well it's going.  I think Rudy may be helping me somehow.

I don't know how well I can get them trained or how far I might take this, but I consider this phase one.  Phase one includes basics.

1 - I'm boss.  Today when I told the family about my new system, my sister-in-law, Nancy, said I was the Alpha Bitch (which could be taken as referring to a female dog or a very assertive female).  The family cracked up over that one and sweet Nancy tried four different ways to make that not sound bad.  It was finally decided that she's been living with her hubby, Mike Alford, for way too long and his craziness has influenced her.  It really was funny.  But, on a deeper level,  it's sort of sad that just when I've become a fairly mellow person, I am having to step up in all areas of my life to become strong, independent and assertive even though I was really happy with being mellow.  (Sigh)  It is what it is.  I guess I'll have to claim my new title.

This is Nancy while she tried to back track and make my new title sound nicer.
Nancy - never, ever insult someone with a blog.  LOL
Truthfully, I thought it was quick-witted and funny as all get-out.
2 - Nothing is free.  Since I'm boss, everything belongs to me - food, treats, toys, etc.  If they want any of it, they have to do something to earn it.  Mostly, they have to come to me and sit.  Sitting first is making treat time and meal time much calmer.

George sits and waits for his turn to get a treat.

3 - No means no.  Most of the dogs respond decently to me saying no.  I am occasionally reinforcing my NO with a quick squirt from a water bottle.  George is the main one who needed that to start with.  This is just day three of boot camp and I only had to squirt George once.  Just one quick squirt quickly redirected him.

I'm going for long walks with them twice a day right now.  That's been a great opportunity for training.  I take doggy treats and my squirt bottle.  We've been walking for about 35-40 minutes at a time. I stop about 10 times to hand out little treats.  They have to come to me and sit calmly to earn that treat.  They are doing a great job. Annie has always been the hardest to hand feed - she gets excited and sometimes it seems fingers might be at risk.  I've been getting stricter with her on this and demanding more calmness.  She's really done well.

We're going on training walks twice a day - rain or shine.
Today was rainy.
I'm having to work on my behavior just as much as theirs.  I'm learning to be firm and consistent.  I'm learning to promote calmness.  I'm learning to be loving and full of praise without relinquishing my alpha role. I don't want these dogs to be fearful or anxious.  I want them to feel secure and loved and to understand what's expected.  I'm determined to make it work. I'll bet Rudy is proud of me.