Saturday, November 14, 2009

Emotional stages when your dog misbehaves

It happened to me just the other day. I looked out my bedroom window and saw my pup Jersey and foster dog Tux digging a hole in my newly sodded backyard. I was furious. So much so that I immediately put them both in time out where they stayed for about an hour. I stared at this hole in my yard.

A few months before: I had my four girls in the front yard to go potty and have playtime. No leashes. The neighborhood dogs came towards us and off went Jersey chasing after them. I did her special recall command and everything, yet further she ran. I followed her in my pj's furious the whole time. Once I caught her it was angry mommy all the way home ( my pj's.)

So here's my stages of emotion:

1. Anger! Boy was I furious "how dare they dig a hole in the yard I spent so much money on?!! They have this whole yard to run and play yet they dug a hole!" "How dare Jersey not come when I call!! She knows this command!"

2. Fear and relief (only in some cases). Once I settled from the chasing Jersey incident I felt fear and sadness. She was so close to the main road, what if she had gotten hit. How scary. I would be devastated if anything happened to her.

Now if you're a good dog parent, especially if you're a dog trainer, hopefully you will end with the following emotion:

3. Acceptance and guilt. Once all the anger settles, the nerves calm down, after all is said and done and you can look at what happened, I mean really look at what happened. You realize it was all your fault. You accept it, feel guilt and do better next time.

Wondering how it was my fault? Let me explain using the above two examples.

-Hole in yard. I put a foster dog into my backyard in the morning. The very reason he was with me was because he is an insanely high energy dog and is driving everyone nuts at Pawtropolis. I then put my 8-month old puppy out there with him. So what did they do? They did what dogs do. It is natural for them to explore and play in nature. Smell a strange scent? Let's dig to investigate. If I didn't want them to dig the hole I should have taken them for a long controlled walk before just throwing them into the yard. But I didn't. So it was my fault. They didn't do anything wrong. They were dogs. Now, yes, I should have disciplined them and used it as a training opportunity to teach them not to dig, but I shouldn't have gotten as angry as I did.

-Jersey not coming. Yes, I had trained Jersey with her recall command. I trained her everyday. I trained her at Pawtropolis and I trained her at home. But I had never trained her not once to come to her recall command when the neighborhood dogs were inticing her to play. My fault. My solution, get a long training line, hook it to her and wait till the dogs came around again. When they did, I called and when she didn't come I pulled her in with the rope. Did this a few times and now her recall command is stronger than ever.

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