Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Naughty or Nice? Positive Training For Both Sides of the List

When I had a regular babysitting gig back in college, I had the kids I babysat convinced that I was Santa's elf and that I regularly sent reports back to the North Pole. That made babysitting a breeze throughout November and December. Unfortunately, that Christmas magic doesn't work on my pets.

Soth has pretty much been the perfect boy since his surgery. He's eating well. He's using his box consistently. He's snuggly and playful. He's definitely on the Nice list this year.


And even if he wasn't, Santa Paws delivered his present a few weeks early because there was no way we were toting it to his grandparents' house and back.



The girls, on the other hand, are walking a fine line between the Nice and Naughty list--one of them is working extra hard to solidify her position at the top of the Naughty list.

Rye has been wound up and on the go non-stop for weeks. 

She's spending extra time working out to make sure she can be super fast with her zoomies.

She's been into everything. One day, I came home for lunch and she stayed beside me for most of the meal hoping for a morsel of something, but somehow she still found a way to sneak upstairs and have a little fun with the toilet paper while I was eating. She's also got ninja-like speed and stealth and has jumped up under my elbow while I was putting syrup on a pancake and stolen a piece of bacon. She grabbed three slices of cheese right off the counter when I was adding crackers to my plate.


She's also spent a lot of time howling out the windows. During daylight hours, it's usually because there's a squirrel in the yard or in the trees. At night, though, I have no idea what's possessing her. She'll be snuggled up beside me while I read and the second I turn out the lights, she's off to the races going from window to window letting that beagle bugle sound.


Barley has been up to her fair share of naughtiness lately, too. She has been diving into dinner before I tell her she can eat. She's eaten cat food any chance she's gotten and she's climbed to get to a bag of treats on top of my dresser. 

Rumor has it that Santa Paws has picked out some fun new toys for these pups and I'd hate to have to tell Santa that he has to turn the sleigh back around. So, we've been focusing on training that will get them back on the Nice list.

Dedicated Training Time. A year ago, we were training hardcore. I was determined to get my girls to be able to co-exist. We were doing 2+ training sessions with both dogs, plus individual training sessions on self-control and obedience every single day. We've been slacking on setting aside time specifically for training with the exception of our agility class each week. We have our daily rituals like sitting to get the leash on and off, self-control at the front door before walks and at dinner, and reaction to distraction on walks. But we haven't spent much time doing extra training. The last couple weeks, I've been trying to do better at that. Training time doesn't have to be long--and probably shouldn't be since you don't want to break your dog's brain--but having 10 or 15 minutes a day just to train helps wear your dog out mentally and a tired dog is a good dog. And a good dog is on Santa's nice list.

I've started working with Rye on noseworks. She knew the basics from watching Barley. She knew that find it means that you start using your sniffer to find something--often treats--and that if boxes are out and your hear find it, you should be sniffing those boxes. But she didn't know what she was sniffing for. So, we started training with Birch and she's doing a great job. Usually, we use about half a stick of string cheese and then I swap her out for Barley and give Barley a chance to do a little training.

We also need to get our mats back out--when Soth was really having health problems, he peed on all of our mats, so we haven't had them out and haven't done any of our beloved mat work in ages. We have been doing self-control work, though, and making pictures and spelling words with the treats while the dogs wait patiently.

Adventure Time. We've also been trying to make the most of our few hours of daylight and going on adventures. We've spent time at the lake after work and we spent one of our weekend days at the arboretum. Both dogs have been more reactive than usual on walks--for a variety of reasons--and going on adventures for our walks gives us a break from the neighborhood distractions, gives the girls new smells to sniff, and gets them physically worn out as we wind our way along the trails. They are much more content to curl up while I grade after an adventure than they are after a walk in our neighborhood.


Management. Sometimes, naughty behavior can just be avoided with a little management. If I take the trash out more frequently, Barley doesn't get into it. If I have Rye in a down while I prepare meals and snacks for myself, she's less likely to jump up and steal my food. If Rye is howling out the spare bedroom window, I can shut the bedroom door so she can't watch out the window. 

Of course, there are still moments when management fails--as Barley made very clear last year.



I have faith, though, that with a couple more weeks of training, adventuring, and managing, both of my girls are going to find themselves solidly on the nice list. After all, they are the very best snugglers and have been excellent company as I've been grading papers during the last two weeks of the semester.


So don't write them off yet, Santa Paws! They're trying really hard to be good dogs.


This month, our theme for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop is Naughty & Nice: Your Dog's Good Points and Bad Points and How You're Working to Improve Them. We welcome any positive training posts, though, and the hop is open all week, so please join us with your positive training posts and be sure to check out all of the great blogs linking up with us and our co-hosts Wag 'n Woof Pets and Tenacious Little Terrier.


12 comments:

  1. Some days they can be really frustrating! When Nola acts up I often find myself reverting back to what I did when she was a puppy: tethering her to me so she can't get into anything, haha.

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    1. There are definitely days when I leash Rye up, too! She knows now that if I pick up the leash and it's not time for a walk and she'll hop up on the couch beside me ;)

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  2. Our gates have the "cat" door too, but we can't use it because we can squeeze through. Mom puts our gates up and leaves a few inches on the bottom for the kitties to go under and it works for us. Thankfully, we are all pretty much on the nice list right now which is rare, but a real nice thing as Santa makes out his list! So happy for Soth doing so well. He must feel so much better!

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    1. Oh yeah. That cat gate hasn't been used since Rye joined the family. Barley needs a little effort to squeeze through it, but Rye can just trot on through without thinking about it. Soth just jumps over it now.

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  3. When you have smart and active dogs, it can be tough to try to revert to a less challenging training schedule. They invent things to do.

    Sounds like you have some fun things for Barley and Rye. Hope it keeps Santa visiting your house.

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    1. Barley is pretty good at settling down after a little training and exercise, but I can count on one hand the number of times Rye has actually been tired, so she's always inventing something to do.

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  4. I'm currently injured and going back and forth to a million medical appointments but Mr. N has been coping pretty well with it. We've even skipped a walk here and there and he's handling it. I guess he's going to want something big from Santa this year!

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    1. I'm glad Mr. N is being a good nurse--even if he is going to expect something extra nice from Santa in exchange!

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  5. Rye is such a character! Though I'm sure it's more fun reading about it than living with it (especially the howling). :)
    I see such a difference in Luke's behavior on the days we don't go for a walk. Even a short walk keeps him happy and less whiny (he whines at me when he's bored in the evening).
    It sounds like you're keeping your girls pretty busy,and they should be back on that nice list soon!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. Most of the time, living with Rye's crazy is entertaining, but with the end of the semester and all of the extra grading and chaos that comes with getting through finals week, it's easy to lose patience with her. I'm trying to keep reminding myself that we're in this together and I have to help her be good, but sometimes I'm the naughty one, too, and I'm not very successful at that!

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  6. What a little devil that Rye is! Love the pic of her training with the stability ball.

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    1. She is ridiculous with that thing! I brought it up out of the basement because I was sitting too much while grading and needed something to switch things up and she decided it was a toy for her. She'll put her feet up on there and roll it all over the room.

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