I mentioned last week that some good things were happening with regards to our dog, Piper. A little background first: We adopted Piper a little over a year ago, when she was only 6 weeks old. She was a rescue puppy, so they really had no idea what her breed was. We have come to believe that she is partly Australian Cattle Dog. This explains the big ears and the high energy. High energy is kind of an understatement, hence the hyper reference. I swear she wasn’t like that when we chose her, or when we named her. I guess it was just a coincidence that it rhymes.
The other part of this story is that I am not a dog person. I am far from it. I am related to dog people, have numerous friends who are dog people, and yet I got none of it. But here I am, a dog owner, because my husband and children love dogs. I find it nearly impossible to say I love dogs (just being honest here), but especially impossible to say I love THIS dog. BUT!! I am slowly but surely coming around to, well, not hating her. I’m even starting to feel some level of affection for her.
How did this happen? Well, it all started over Christmas break, after an enlightening conversation with my mother-in-law (one of the best dog-lovers I know). I was complaining about Piper sticking her nose in our laps during dinnertime, and so she explained to me how she trained her dog to leave the kitchen when she said “OUT”. That simple. She would say it and point, and he would leave. Just like that. I was kind of dumbfounded that this could not only be possible, but could also be that simple. Nevertheless, I went home with a new sense of hope and purpose.
The next week when we sat down for dinner as a family and Piper tried to insert herself into our laps, I got up and steered her right out, pointing my finger and firmly telling her “OUT.” Three days in a row I did this and on that fourth day do you know what happened? We sat down for dinner, said our prayer, and proceeded to eat without distraction – !because she was gone!. I was halfway done eating before I realized she was nowhere to be found. She knew our routine and had sent herself out of the kitchen! Victory!
That dinnertime victory was just the beginning. As it turns out, she’s a pretty smart dog. But I’ve gotta believe that I can be smarter. I have a college degree for Pete’s sake (and access to the internet lol). We have since taught her more tricks, like going to her “spot” (a corner in the kitchen), touching an outstretched hand with her nose, barking on command, and even playing dead when we say “Bang!”. We’ve noticed since teaching her these things on a regular basis that she has mellowed down a great deal, and seems overall better behaved. She doesn’t bark at the windows nearly as much during the day and she doesn’t pull on her leash the way she used to when we walk her.
Now the real end goal here is to teach her how to properly greet guests who come to our door. This is where she struggles the most, and the times when I most despise her. She is what I like to call “aggressively friendly” and wants to bark and jump on everyone who comes to the door. From everything I’ve read up to this point, a key in teaching dogs not to do this, is to ignore them until they are behaving properly (that’s a simplified version, of course). Of course all of my dog-loving friends and family love it when she comes to the door and they pet her and talk to her and when I’m standing behind her shouting “Piper, no! Down, Piper!”, they just say “oh it’s ok, she’s fine, I love dogs”. They think they are helping, they really do. But they really are not. I’ve only recently learned this. The reason they are not helping is because she is being rewarded for her bad behavior. And the older she gets, the harder it’s going to be to change the behavior. So, I’ve decided to be more intentional about my training with her, and to educate our wonderful friends and family on how to respond to her, as I am learning myself.
I realize that up to this point, I have no one to blame but myself. But I am taking control! I have unofficially enrolled myself in puppy training 101, and I don’t care how long it takes. I am going to train this dog to be a good dog. You know, so I can love her, for real.