One man's trash is another man's treasure - Anon.
So I did a dumb.
Needless to say, it was a rough year for pets in my house. Yes, they were all seniors, but still! I don't think Orion died of old age; I think after Sparta left us Orion died from lack of opposition.
So now it was just Ellis and me. And two cats. And two rats. But hey, who's counting.
About a month ago I was contacted about a Border Collie who needed to be rehomed. She had been purchased most likely from a puppy mill, and she couldn't stay where she was. She was a beautiful 5 month old girl, who was sweet as could be. I told them I'd think about it.
So I thought, and thought, and thought....
Obviously, there's a lot going on in my house, and sometimes it's chaotic. Introducing a new dog into the mix wasn't something I wanted to do anytime soon. Maybe I'd start thinking about it when the weather warmed up. Perhaps we should consider being a one dog family. Ellis was content, and so was I, so why rock the boat.
I played every scenario out in my head. How would I exercise her? How would Ellis do? The cats, (my husband)...I kept looking for issues that might arise if I took her in, and how I could address them. In other words, I had a game plan.
Yes, she'd be a lot of work, but I'd always wanted a Border Collie ever since my childhood dog Pebbles, a Border Collie, died when I was 19. They are always one of my favorite breeds to train. And FFS, look at the Darwin Dog's logo! Yes, I named my company after my sweet Darwin (RIP 2007) but I included a Border Collie to commemorate Pebbles.
So, I guess I have another adolescent dog now.
Okay, so I had a dog with a lot of problems. How am I going to fix them, and help her not be the neurotic, hyper, destructive bunch of neurosis? What I was expecting was a young Border Collie . What I got resembled more of a humming bird on meth.
As with everything, you start with Piloting, Activity and Work, or what I call the PAW Method.
Now, not to be breed profiling, but I think we can all agree that Border Collies have a penchant for being over achievers. They require a high amount of activity, and a crazy amount of mental stimulation/work. They're intelligent, wonderful dogs, but unless you give them what they need, you'll never get what you want. So Activity and Work are paramount to working with this high energy, hard working breed. Obviously I'd already thought about that, and had a gameplan (and a contingency plan) in mind to address those issues. But when starting out with any new dog, first and foremost, you start out with Piloting.
There are three steps to Piloting your dog:
control the situation, and
start answering questions.
Each question your dog asks you is worth a specific amount of "money". If you answer that question for them, and they accept the answer, you get the money. You can then use that money to spend on the next question. Pretty soon you have a big enough bank account that it doesn't matter how much money your dog's question may cost: you're rich, and it's now pretty easy to answer that $10 "Can I jump on you?" question your dog has, whereas previously, it was pretty difficullt to scrape up that $10.
You are going to keep cycling through these three steps over and over again. So let me give you an idea of how this looked for the first 24 hours wtih Arwen.
I start by grabbing money wherever I could with her, without scaring her with harsh, painful "corrections", nor suffocating her with non-stop negatives. So what it looked like was gental answers, both negative and positive. (Hint: learn how here)
Arwen: Can I drag you on the leash?
Arwen: Should I jump into your truck?
Me: Yes. Nice jump!
Arwen: Should I bounce around the backseat?
Arwen: So I should be calm, then?
Me: Yes. Good job. Here's a small treat.
Arwen: I’m nailing this!
There was no big negative, or big money item in our conversations on the way back to my house, but the number of small ticket items created a workable bank account for what I faced when I got home. Furthermore, my positives were calm and gentle, and occaisionally marked with a treat as well. Now on to our life together at home.
First was introducting her to Ellis. (For information on how to safely introduce pets, check out this link.) Since Ellis is very trusting of my answers to his questions, it took about 20 minutes before I was confidently letting them play together off-leash. It was a match made in heaven, but sometimes introducing your dog to another dog doesn't always go so smoothly, hence always make sure you have control of the current situation before you move forward with more stimuli.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a well-Piloted dog before you add another dog to your pack. Don't think getting another dog will help with your problem dog's behavior; it won't. I've had Ellis almost 2 years now. He's had plently of Piloting. He doesn't just love me...he trusts me as well, and that's just as important, if not more so. Love is what makes a dog want to protect you from anything and everything. Trust is what makes him realize he doesn't have to. I've worked hard on having Ellis trust me.
Arwen isn't housebroken, so water bowls came up off the floor. She would be getting water at specific times throughout the day so I could get an idea of when she'd need to go outside. I blocked off a room in our house so the cats could get some peace from her, and I wouldn't have to deal with her getting cat litter box crunchies yet.
I've never really been a fan of "training". Some dog trainers believe that repetition and consistancy are the key. That's fine, but I'm not going to schedule 15-30 minutes every day to work on the "stay" command with my dog.
Plus, once we start scheduling and orchestrating, it feels too much like a chore, and a chore is work, and I avoid work at all costs. So I take the foreign language approach to helping my dogs learn behaviors.
The easiest and most efficient way to learn a language is through immersion.
So rather than spending 20 minutes going over the "come" command, I'd wait until it was dinner time and when she saw the bowl and starting coming towards me, I'd name that behavior "come". Rather than training her not to plow past me as I was going up the steps, I would just take a few extra moments each time I went up and down the steps to make sure I was facing her and giving her a negative/stay back body language. Rather than scheduling time for her to learn "sit", I'd just randomly come up to her and gently push her butt down while saying "sit".
In order to recreate a behavior, we have to catch the behavior and name it.
So all I was doing was catching behaviors she was already giving me, and occaisionally creating those behaviors, and then naming it and moving on with my life. That way I didn't feel as if I was constantly training her; instead I was just constantly living life with her, and answering her questions about how life with me works.
As I always say, you don't train kids, why would you train a dog? Our job is to negate the behaviors we don't like, positively respond to behaviors we do like, and answer questions when they get confused. That's it.
So now, 48 hours later, what does Arwen know? Remember, when I got her, she barely knew her previous name, didn't know any basic commands, had a terrible case of submissive urination on top of not being housebroken, and didn't walk on a leash. So, here we are (with 100% being goal hit):
- 50% leash trained
- 75% no jumping
- 80% sit
- 90% don't pass me on the stairs
- 50% door manners
- 65% "to me" come up to my left side and sit
- 95% don't beg
- 100% her name
- 80% sit politely before I let you outside
- 50% housebroken (2 pees and 1 poop in the house, 6 pees and 4 poops outside)
- 90% following calm only protocol when in my office
Not bad for our first 48 hours.
Keep Calm and Pilot On
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio