Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dog whispering in the springtime

A couple of years back, we purchased and read Cesar Milan's first book, "Cesar's Way."  Which admittedly, is not a dog training book.  Cesar clearly states he's not a dog trainer.  The book is chock full of theory, but nothing practical or concrete for the novice get a hold of.  We both read it with interest, and I thought we got it.  And I'm always trying to keep it in mind when I'm dealing with our small pack.  So, doggone it, why weren't our dogs getting it?  We know we can train them, as witnessed by how calmly they wait to be fed.  So why can't we stop the madness when the doorbell rings or visitors arrive?  Why can't we go on a pleasant walk?

On our last trip to the library I picked up another Cesar Milan book, "Be a Pack Leader."  Again...lots of theory, 250 pages of it.  But wait!  There's an Appendix (37 pages!), with practical guidelines to becoming a better pack leader.  Yessss!  This is more like it.   I'm not a particularly intuitive person.  I need concrete instructions on how to do something.  You know, the type who needs diagrams drawn for her.  :-)

So this is Training Day 1, for both the dogs and me.  I really want to enjoy every minute with them so something has to give.  As I started to work with Ngaire and ready us for our walk this morning I began to realize that though we had carefully listened to the trainer when she was a puppy and had read the books and watched the TV shows we are "whispering" much too quietly and the dogs aren't hearing us.

I lay out my jacket, keys, gloves, the leash and the backpack which, as usual, made Ngaire run around in circles crying anxiously and the dogs being left behind go apeshit in the kitchen.  (sigh)  And I just stood there with my back against the front door.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Got out the cell phone and read my email....and facebook.  And waited.  Finally the racket quieted down and we got to the point where Ngaire stopped fussing and trying to push between me and the door and actually lay down at my feet.  Woohoo!  Had we reached that nirvana called calm-submissive?  I reminded myself that I didn't have to hold my breath :-) and started to put on her backpack and leash.  So far so good.  Oh yeah....breathe woman, breathe.  Then my jacket etc.  We usually let Ngaire sit and lean against the door until she is quiet before we go out.  Now I know that I should be closest to the door.  So I sent her back into the hallway to sit and wait.  It took at least six tries opening the door before she could keep her butt on the ground.  I went out first, waited a moment, and invited her to join me. 

Then the magic happened.  According to Cesar, the goal is to have your dog follow you on the walk, not you follow the dog.  Ok.  This is the part that was making the walks miserable for us all.  Our attempts to keep the dogs beside or behind us meant lots of leash yanking and sore shoulders and say nothing of the high anxiety level of all of us.  Apparently, Ngaire was so impressed by the leadership role I was taking she immediately started walking a little bit behind me.  I was speechless.  Amazed.  Thrilled.  (you have no idea!)  And so we had about 45 minutes of just about the pleasantest out-of-the-house companionship I can remember.  I am so looking forward to being able to do this with all three of them together.  Stay tuned.  (reminding myself it's only day one...sigh)

As a bonus, though it was pretty dull and cold this morning, there were new signs of spring absolutely everywhere.  (note to the dog is cooperating I should carry the better camera)  I saw camellias in bloom.

What is this?  Redbud?

Something else.  :-)

This homeowner has pathways winding all through their property.  Out front is this broken winged statue and the rock says Wounded Eagle Trail.  Cute!

Forsythia.  I want some!

The storm drains in our neighborhood are marked.  Makes you think.

Cherry trees maybe?

The willow is suddenly green.

I'm assuming these are cherry, they are all around the pond, and they had berries on them.

And daffodils, in my own garden!  Yay!

And after the walk, breakfast.  Feeling empowered, I even got Maisy to take her eyes off her food for a bit and look at me.  :-)

"EAT girls".  Like pigs at a trough.  :-)

Next step is to get a remote doorbell so I can hide the button in my pocket and work on doorbell etiquette.

Now....if only the same methods could help me dominate the dog hair on the floors! 


Lynn said...

Interesting story. I have to remind myself when I watch that show that it's condensed into a 1/2hour, all problems take some time and lots of patience. Sounds like you have the patience and it paid off.

Bonnie said...

Congratulations on being the leader of the pack. Now, let us know how goes the don't bark at the door routine. I am currently trying to teach our dog to bark on command. And, then I can teach him not to bark. Or so I was told. I'm not consistent enough. But he sure picked up rolling over much faster. I want full directions on the door barking business... please.

Lorraine said...

I need to do some work with Rose with regard to people coming to the door! She goes a bit berserk I am afraid! GOod news with the walking routine! well done!