Happy Pet.
 by Laurie Buckley!

Passion 4 Pooches, Articles by Laurie Buckley

A Trained Pooch.

I talk to alot of people about training their dogs. Everything from basic obedience to problem-solving of behaviors such as pulling on the leash, barking and jumping. Often, I think they are disappointed with my response. There is no magic bullet when it comes to training a dog. Sure, I can sometimes offer a tool or technique that will get dramatic results right away. But in the large majority of cases, the answer is practice, consistency and patience. Those are not words that we as a society are eager to embrace. We want it to be fast and easy. And, nobody can do it for you. Sure you can pay me or somebody else to train your dog. But if you do not consistently do the follow-up work, the result will always be the same.

And here is the point in our story where I tell on myself. Trixie, the two-year old Shih Tzu, has been with me for 8 months. If you’ll remember, she was an extremely unsocial dog. She was terrified of everybody and everything. Going on our walks was a major ordeal. She spent most of her time hiding. In fact, she barely qualified as a dog.

Eight months later, Trixie has made great strides. She has widened her circle of people that she loves. She makes eye contact, she plays and gives kisses. She begs for attention. She and Mae are now the best of friends. For all intents and purposes, she is a happy and fun dog. But while some of the old behaviors have lessened, she is still frightened of strangers. Her first response is always to run and hide. Now, I know how to fix this. She must be socialized among strangers more. This isn’t that complicated. If I had the time, I would take her downtown in Fernandina every day, and sit with her outside the coffee shop or the ice cream shop. I have no doubt that if I did this consistently, over time, she would be less frightened of strangers. Especially if we brought along treats. But because I don’t have the time to do this, she has only progressed so far in her fear of strangers. And any time we do manage to walk downtown, it’s a bit of an ordeal.

My original hope was that bringing her to the Spa with me every day, would socialize her to strangers. That brings up problem behavior number two. You may recall that when I first got Trixie she had very few normal dog behaviors. The first time she growled, I was overjoyed. While another dog would be corrected for that behavior, she was allowed it. At least it was a normal dog thing. Well, she hasn’t shut up since. She has become an all out barker when she is at the Spa. Now here again, I know what the answer is. She is a very trainable dog. She learned to heel on the leash almost immediately. After watching Mae sit and wait for her dinner only once, she did the same. In fact, interestingly enough, if I forget to ask Mae to sit and wait, then Trixie will also try to skip that step. So, she is a smart girl. She’s not the problem. I am. I don’t have the time to work with her consistently on her barking. So she’s not getting any better. It would be very simple. If she’s quiet when a customer comes in, then she gets a treat. If she barks, she gets a correction. She is VERY food motivated and if this was done each and every time someone came into the Spa, her behavior would change. But because my priority is dealing with customers and running a business, this doesn’t happen. Her training is hit or miss. And she continues to bark. And what’s worse, now she’s gotten Mae to bark too. Apparently modeling behavior can go both ways.

The temptation is to leave her at home and avoid the problem all together. But of course, that would just undo the progress she has made. So we plod along with her inconsistent training. She may eventually get it but it takes a lot longer. And I fear, she’s learning to not take me seriously. Training is simple but not always easy. If a dog is poorly behaved and ill mannered, I can almost guarantee you that it’s not him. A dog’s behavior is directly proportional to the time, consistency and patience that we invest in him. And it is an investment. Time spent now yields a wonderful companion that will be by your side for years to come.