Saturday, December 10, 2011
Christmas Comes Early
Christmas came early in our house and I got the best present ever: Hurley has stopped barking at and reacting to dogs who come in the shop! Thanks, Santa!! Once again, you knew exactly what I wanted.
It happened one fateful day otherwise known as last Tuesday. Hurley is usually tethered behind the counter with me and normally when a dog comes in, I untether him so that I have more control over him and can work on his barking behavior. But on this magical day, I decided to leave him tethered and position myself, water bottle in hand, between him and the entering dog. I was in position, ready to douse him once the barking commenced. But. It. Never. Did.
For some unfathomable reason, being tethered behind the counter virtually eliminated the barking. It goes against every experience and instinct I have. Tethering would only increase the reactivity of my other two in the same type of situation. With Hurley, tethering has had the exact opposite effect. He now calmly greets canine visitors and the barking that has happened has definitely been excitable "Let's play" style o' barking and not "Hey, you're on my turf now" type of barking.
I'm sure it's not just magic. Our training class has helped Hurley learn how to be calm and non-vocal around other dogs. It has helped him pay attention to us in the presence of distractions. While I had my doubts about Leader of the Pack style training, the sparse use of treats and the focus in the class on using affection as a reinforcer in lieu of treats has helped me learn how to better phase out treats. I've limited use of treats in the shop, which has helped to make it a less valuable resource for Hurley (I think).
Whether it has been fighting fleas or working on Hurley's rotten social skills at the store, I feel that the over-riding theme of this Fall with my dogs is this: Never Give Up. There were many times that I didn't think we'd make it over this hurdle. Many times where I started to resign myself that he wasn't suitable to be a shop dog. I got angry. I was frustrated. I even cried. But I didn't give up and Hurley responded to our continued efforts sprinkled with a little magic. I may never understand why being tethered creates calm and relaxed canine greetings in my puppy and I'm not too concerned with figuring it out. I'm just glad that we made it here, a place where I don't even think twice about loading him up in the car and coming to work with me.