Ya’ll know the Golden Destroyer, EmmaLou – her pic is my blog header most of the time; she has her own page here on this blog, and that shot up above is actually her, but in hiding one day. EmmaLou, the well-trained pup. Okay…not so much.
I was reading an article the other day which gave the reasons why your dog won’t pay attention to the commands you give. I immediately perked up as I was about to learn why EmmaLou simply refuses to obey basic commands.
The article suggests your dog needs more training. More training? EmmaLou passed basic obedience with flying colors. She did all her commands right on cue during the sessions…even to the point of staying at the door to the facility until we gave her “the release” word, then she dragged our sorry butts to the car, forgetting all she had learned in class. I don’t recall how many weeks we went through this — practice, practice, practice, reinforce, reward, praise, praise, and then when it really mattered I would give a command and EmmaLou would look at me and I knew she was thinking: “Have you lost your mind? Moi Come? Where’s my treat, dumb human?” By the time we arrived home, EmmaLou had forgotten every command learned. Oh yeah, more training was definitely needed.
For several months, EmmaLou had her own Dog Whisperer. She doted on him and would do whatever he wanted. Then he would patiently explain to me how to get her to respond to a basic command such as “Come”. I would try it, EmmaLou would respond properly and off the personal trainer went w/my $50 in hand. As soon as he exited the driveway, I would command of my pup, “Come” and EmmaLou would promptly turn her back on me and go chew a couch cushion. Obey commands? Not interested. The personal trainer cost us a fortune and he did not understand why we continued to have behavior problems. He finally decided the problem with EmmaLou was, in fact, ME. Big mistake. I fired his a$$ faster than he could say “Come.” EmmaLou continued to stick out her doggie tongue at me at every opportunity but at least I was no longer paying $50 for that particular experience.
Back to the article…when you call your dog and she comes to you, reward her. This little nugget is known as “reinforcement.” I’ve mentioned EmmaLou does not respond to “Come.” She does, however, respond to “Treat,” and will come inside with that one word…reinforcement. I must bribe my dog to return. BTW the word “Treat” no longer works if she has already counter-surfed that night’s roasted chicken. Then “Treat” becomes moot.
Adding insult to injury, the article discusses “competing reinforcers” which is fancy trainer-speak for my dog has a colossal case of “Ooooh Shiny!”(or in her case “Oooooh What’s That Over There?”) EmmaLou gets away every once in awhile; the gate may be open, the garage door up, or she rips the leash out of my hand and takes off. How do I retrieve my retriever? I holler at the top of my lungs….”EmmaLou, wanna go for a ride in the car?” That dog will stop dead in her tracks leaving puppy paw skidmarks if she hears that question. All it takes is a car ride. She returns…and off we go for a ride around the block. Then she calmly walks back inside and with a doggie smirk on her face gives me the look. The look that says…”You are the most pitiful excuse for an Alpha Female on the face of the planet and I can bend you to my will whenever I wish.” Yup – competing reinforcers at work here.
Finally, the article claims I don’t understand my dog’s needs. Not true; her needs are simple. She has a need to be out in the backyard rolling around in dessicated chipmunk remains, or frolicking in fresh squirrel urine and rabbit poop on a regular basis. If it smells horrid, she’s on it in a flash. The article states I should not rush her; she may need to sniff around a little longer or search for a good bathroom spot. Wait. The entire backyard is one big bathroom spot. I’m the one left standing on the porch tapping my foot while she sniffs every blade of grass. Oh…did I mention she won’t (repeat WON’T) go outside unless I go outside first? It’s true…my dog won’t go pee unless I step outside first and lead the way. We accidentally taught her that behavior when she was just a little puppy as we thought it was cute when all of us went outside together. She “needs” for mom and/or dad to go out the door first, then EmmaLou will follow. Many a day I have been on my deathbed begging her to go out alone because I’m sicker than a leper with dermatitis and will she go out? No. Oh, I understand her needs alright.
I’m afraid at this rate EmmaLou will never get her Good Canine Citizen Certificate. I can accept that because EmmaLou is simply so danged cute she makes up for any and all bad behavior…it’s those big chocolate brown eyes – she had me at “Woof.” sigh…