Friday, August 27, 2010

Mrs. Drysdale Would be Canonized Today!

I got a puppy about six weeks ago. He's a boxer mix, I don't know what he's mixed with....maybe American Statfordshire terrier...or in other words, pitbull. He's cute, there is no doubt about that but he is also a pain in the ass. Sorry, he is. I know I'm not supposed to say that. What I am discovering is that among dog lovers any negative feelings you might have towards your dog' behavior are totally inappropriate and indicate that you are means a borderline psycho and need to have your dog taken away. But I maintain, he's a pain in the ass...cuteness is not enough to compensate for the fact that he is flat out, freaking annoying.

See, I like dogs but I like an orderly house better. I will tolerate clownishness, tom-foolery,whining if I take away the shoe you are chewing or take you to your corner while I try to mop the floor because I know he has feelings too. I realize that some of his behavior like grabbing anything not nailed down and taking it away into the corner to chew on , jumping up on us because he is thrilled to see us, trying to get on the couch, barking etc is normal and though I need to teach him not to, it doesn't mean he is a bad dog, he's a puppy and needs to be taught. But what I will not tolerate is complete disregard for what I am telling him. He will be a big dog and if he is going to live with me, he will listen.

For you see, I am the boss. This is my house. Yes dear puppy, if you are going to live in this house, you will follow the rules. It is non-negotiable. This is not a democracy, I make the rules, I own this house, not you. Hear me kids obey the rules and so will you. It will make things more pleasant me, but even more importantly will make things more pleasant for you.

You are probably guessing that the dog is basically disobedient and you would be right. Also, the things I do at the advice of the experts, are not working out real well for me. And no, it is not because I don't do anything right. It is not because I don't spend enough time with him or exercise him or provide him with entertainment. It is because the dog doesn't want to listen to me, he is stubborn and exuberant and he is most indisputably NOT anxious to please me. Despite what all of the dog books say about the dogs number one goal in life is to please their owners, it is quite obvious to me that he doesn't want to please me. Did I get a bad dog then? No, I don't think he is bad at all, I think he is a perfectly normal puppy....on the stubborn side, but perfectly normal. What I think is that this whole idea of puppies dying to please you is a bunch of bunk.....they have their own will just like any living creature. Furthermore, if they were so anxious to please their owners then why are there so many dog trainers and obedience classes?
Which brings me to this...I have been all over the internet trying to find advice about what to do about his behavior. And the advice that I find is always the same. Reward him with treats when he obeys, ignore him when he is bad. Know what is age appropriate for a dog and don't expect him to do the right thing until his brain is fully developed. In other words, when my puppy is biting me so hard that my arm looks like an alligator got hold of it, I am supposed to chuckle indulgently and attempt to distract him with a toy. Which for your information didn't work, he was after flesh and that was it!

Okay. I tried the treat thing. As I already indicated, he was biting me. And I don't mean the puppy mouthing and muzzling. I mean outright freaking biting me. I had little puncture holes all over my hand and my arms and legs were covered in scratches. None of us could sit on our couch or walk across the room my 6 year old was completely freaked out by him..... so I got out my trusty puppy training manual with the usual dog training gibberish (at least this is the conclusion I've come to!) which said to watch him and see when he is About to jump. He will obviously tense up and when he does you simply say no and give him a treat when he obeys. Wellllll....Puppy was definitely standing in the front of the line when they passed out brains. Because guess what happened! He didn't learn not to jump. No not puppy! Instead he learned to get ready to jump, not do it and get a treat.

The combination of not having much success with the dog using these methods coupled with the fact that beginning to think that there is simply a lot of flakiness out there in the dog community makes me hesitant to go to a trainer. I already know what they will probably tell me. Because I have been all over the internet and run into this 'politically correct' stance on dogs and dog training over and over without exception. It seems these people seem to think that you should never discipline your dog for anything. You should simply reward him for good behavior. In this way you will be showing him exactly what behavior you expect and because of his desire to please you, once he learns what to expect he will do it. Puh-leese!

I run into people constantly over and over again and ask them about their dogs over and over again and get the same story. He/she doesn't listen, they have gone to obedience class worked with a trainer etc... Now doggy listens a little better, but at the age of nine months is still biting, jumping, taking owner for a walk instead of owner taking him.....they've done the treats, the clicker training but it hasn't taken. But they know it is their fault, something that they are doing wrong because over and over and over pet owners are told if your dog is misbehaving it is ALWAYS the owner at fault....the dog is NEVER at fault. If you don't believe me go on the internet and look.

Bull!!! Dogs (and not just bull dogs, any dog. Har! Har!) are living beings with wills of their own, not empty vessels waiting to be filled or computers that need to be programmed. They have minds and make decisions and sometimes they don't want to do what we say. No-one is going to tell me that my dog doesn't know when I do or I don't want him to do something. He knows perfectly what I want, at least concerning the things I have been working with him on. He wants to do it or doesn't want to, depending on the scenario, and he's going to try to get his way and that's it. I haven't 'done' something wrong. My dog is acting on his will and doesn't want to listen to me plain and simple. Sorry people, sometimes it is the dog and not the owner. So ha!

That being said, I by no means want to abuse my dog or use punitive behavior but unfortunately, as time goes by I find that I am reacting too harshly to my dog. He doesn't listen to me and when I follow the advice in the manuals and on the computer it doesn't work. But unfortunately, when I finally lost my temper and yelled at him, he listened to me for the first time.

When I finally broke down and lost it with my dog and yelled at him, he was as sweet as could be and tried very hard to please me.((While I in the meantime cried for an hour because I was so ashamed of myself.) And guess what? I don't think he was scared of me after that....I think he just realized that he had pushed me too far. For that is another thing extolled by 'dog people'. Dogs don't understand human behavior, when you yell at them, they don't understand what they have done, all they know is that you are yelling and it scares them. Again, I do think my dog knew why I yelled at him. As indicated by the fact that he sure as hell stopped doing it after that.

So what is my point? My point it that I wish I could find advice about how to train my dog that I feel is sensible. I don't believe in all of the sacred cows of the positive reinforcement camp. I believe that positive reinforcement. I believe that with some dogs, it is all you need. But there are other dogs who don't entirely respond to it. They are the dogs that are more hard-headed and willful. While they certainly don't need to be screamed at, sometimes they are because the owner can't find any practical advice on what to do with them outside of positive reinforcement training.