House Training

I feel bad for people living in an open plan house. I mean it must be great for kids to run around AND you’re not bumping into everything. However, if you get a puppy, it’s an uphill battle on the house training.

Just because your puppy happens to pee on the grass when you set them down outside, doesn’t mean that they KNOW they’re not supposed to potty in the house. It will take MONTHS for the puppy to learn this. If your house is open plan and you’re not limiting access to areas with a thousand baby gates and x-pens, then you’re basically screwed. Your puppy WILL have accidents and there will be many of them. Your puppy will pee on that expensive rug because soft absorbent rugs are the very best places a puppy can find to pee.

Also, your puppy might learn HOW to communicate the need to potty (or you might learn the signs) in your own home. However, don’t expect them to know how to communicate at a new location. Heck, even YOU have to ask where the bathroom is.

When you limit a puppy’s freedom to go where they want to go they’re going to be pretty pissed (Covid lockdown anyone???).

So, we have to create an environment where:

  • If they have an accident we’re not going to be stressed.
  • Easy clean up of accidents.
  • Limit their access to the whole world.
  • We can see what they’re doing and getting into.

We’re going to take them out to potty:

  • Every 30min while they’re awake and active.
  • Immediately after they eat or hit the water bowl hard.
  • Immediately after they wake from a nap or we get up for the day.
  • About 10min before we leave for the day to go to work (I’ll explain that reason later).
  • After a play session.
  • During a play session, if they suddenly break off from playing to go and sniff something.

So why am I pottying the dog 10 minutes before I leave for the day? Dogs are MASTERS at learning everything we don’t want them to learn.

Imagine a situation where every time you pee your freedom is immediately taken away from you…Yes, that is EXACTLY the kind of scenario your dog is capable of learning. “Dear Puppy, The moment I get your second pee out of you, I’m going to bundle you into your crate and leave for the day. You don’t mind, do you?”

Your puppy is ALWAYS learning. Unfortunately, we generally only figure out what we’ve taught them once it’s too late.

Letting go of the guilt

Brain in the Game

Mental Management training is as much a part of everyday life, as it is sports.

Some local K9 Nose Work folks have recently gotten into Mental Management training, and I can see why — in all other dog sports, you can normally see the mistakes as they’re happening; however, in the upper levels of K9 Nose Work, you’ll spend the entire day agonizing over whether you or your dog screwed up in some way (btw, the dog never screws up). Often, you’ll know — you’ll hear the dreaded “No”, from the Judge, signaling that you won’t title (and get your shiny ribbon); but, sometimes you don’t know if something was missed, so you sweat A LOT.

Unfortunately, with my busy schedule, I haven’t had a chance to fit in one of Nancy Reyes’ (our local guru in Chicago) seminars, so I’ve largely been on my own. I did download this book and listen to it on Audible:  The Art of Mental Training by DC Gonzalez

While it’s certainly no replacement to a day or two with Nancy, it has helped give me some insight that I’ve been able to apply, immediately, to all of my clients (whether a “Nose Work” team, or an “At Home” pet).

Letting go of the guilt

One of the reasons I got into dog training was because of bad advice — some trainers thought that dogs “needed a heavier hand”.

Now, I’m not saying that it’s all their fault — we didn’t sufficiently socialize our dog, which led to some problems (he’ll always be territorial of our house, but we have a crate for that).  If we had regular visitors, then I might be able to work on that; but, we don’t — so, it’s not a big issue.  With age, and long term exposure, a certain amount of mellowness has come.  He’s more forgiving of ‘stuff’ than he’s ever been.

For a long time, I was hung up on how we had failed our dogs, in one sense or another. There’s always a better way to train a behavior, or handle a situation.  The problem is that when you’re “in the thick of it”, you don’t always make the best decisions.  Things will spiral out of control — and, the next thing you know, you’ve got a ‘situation’ on your hands.

This is where the book helped me.

I realized that guilt was hampering my forward motion: I would often get stuck in it, and the assorted nasty mental states that come with it.  We’ve all made mistakes, but the best we can do for ourselves (and, more importantly, our dogs) is to learn, and MOVE ON!

Yes, we screw up. We’re human!

Though the book was very much about “staying in the moment”, and “keeping a positive mental outlook”, it also talked about how to deal with events when they go wrong — we will frequently get sucked into the awful vortex of utter crappiness, and NO GOOD can come, from that!

I’m not talking about forgetting that the events ever occurred, but resolving to do better next time. I can honestly tell you that every mistake that we made with our next dog was a completely different mistake (I know, “not a great testimonial”, but it’s true)!

I continue to learn, grow and expand my knowledge base, so that I can help my students and the people who call me, distraught, over the events that somehow unfolded without / beyond their control.

To you, all of you, I’m telling you to “let go of the guilt”.

You’ll be able to move forward.

I’m not promising that it will instantly be better (it may get worse before it gets better) — but, you’ll grow through it, and LEARN!

How getting in shape is like dog training. Part 1

You’re probably thinking “Seriously?  That’s a stretch!”  But it’s true.  Let me tell you how.

The last time I was in good physical shape was probably about 20 years ago.  When I was in school!  There have been a couple of times since then when I’ve been at an appropriate weight.  One of those times  I was even doing a lot of walking, so I guess I was in pretty decent shape, that was in 1999.  Then I moved to the US and my whole lifestyle changed, and not in a good way.

I’m not old, (unless you happen to be 16 and reading this, then I’m positively ancient!) but the big 4-0 is hanging out there, not too far off, and being female, I’m feeling a little sensitive towards it.  All of those self-doubts that plague us start digging in and you wonder “What have I done with my life?”.  The concept of being fat and forty was NOT something I wanted to consider, and we all know that the older you are, the harder it is to get those extra pounds off.  Over the years the pounds had started to add up, and when you have sweet tooth as strong as mine you generally end up with big hips.  I know I can blame about 10lbs on the Denny’s Cinnamon Swirl Slam they were serving back then.  A further 15-20lb on a long course of steroids I was on a couple of years ago.  I should probably give credit where credit is due and give a nod to The Chocolatier in downtown Bloomington too.

I don’t think I would have really thought much of it but last year I had a life changing event.  I broke my leg.  Six months after the break we found that the leg had never healed properly so I had to go in and have a steel plate installed.  My entire 2012 was pretty much wiped out.  It sucked.  It sucked having to lug my fat body around on one leg.  My upper body strength was nil, my abdominal muscles lay unused for years were suddenly being abused.

During the several months of rehab after the initial break, before we found out that it hadn’t healed properly, a good friend had recommended working with a personal trainer to get the last 2-3% of mobility back.  Initially all I cared about was being able to walk down stairs without having to shuffle, but strangely I started to enjoy the warped abuse that this hard task master heaped on me 2-3 times a week.

Exercise? Nope, not me.  I’m a lazy bum.  I’m just doing this to fix my leg.  I want to be able to walk down stairs, that’s all.  Really!

Premack Principle anyone?  Premack’s Principle suggests that if a person wants to perform a given activity, the person will perform a less desirable activity to get at the more desirable activity.

Hmmm.  Early evidence suggests that there may be correlations between getting in shape and dog training.

Copper and I do agility.  He’s a very fast dog, over the years we’ve worked on a deal.  He holds a short duration sit stay (long enough for me to get out ahead of him) and then he can start jumping and the real fun begins.  He’d much rather be running and jumping, but he has learned that breaking his stay will not lead to sustained running and jumping.  It will only lead to us leaving.  So he waits until I release him from the start line.

Premack’s Principle suggests that if a person wants to perform a given activity, the person will perform a less desirable activity to get at the more desirable activity.

Yep.  Definitely a correlation.