Sunday, October 16, 2011

It Takes a Village

On Thursday, Bartlett will have been with us two years.
She was such a difficult dog to train, we seriously thought about giving up and taking her back to the dog pound. And we're good trainers!
The only way it even worked out was because of positive reinforcement. Do something right, you get a little tasty treat. Do something wrong, and we will try to correct you. We wore a treat bag on our waist, filled with yummy crumbs of liver bombs to hand out as needed.
I have seen Bartlett in the deepest psychic pain (Cranky was out of the room in a strange hotel.) To keep her from whimpering, I just slipped her a crumb every time she was quiet for a few seconds. And before you know it, she fell asleep beside me on the bed.
It has been a long, long slog. Her youthfulness and genetic fizzy nature meant we were still in high training mode at 18 months. Then one day she seemed to get it. "They like me more when I do certain things the right way."
She never got yelled at, never got a slap on the rump. (Though we have had to say some things sternly.)
I'm writing this because we recently got new neighbors next door. Younger than us, probably never really be friends. The two adults take care of the man's little kids several times a week; some shared custody deal. They are really nice.
But the guy yells at their dog when he's unhappy with its behavior. And, yes, he yells at his kids.
I don't think he's even close to terrorizing them, but I wish I could share my story about positive reinforcement.
You don't just lean over the fence and offer that kind of help, though. Sigh.

21 comments:

cookiecrumb said...

I AM THE 99%

Lannae said...

Yeah, 99% here too. And your Bartlett is one lucky dog. Sorry about the neighbor's dog. I knew someone who yelled at his dog. His dog ran away.

cookiecrumb said...

Lannae: I recently saw a photo of two collies sitting side by side. One had been trained with positive reinforcement, and she was smiling, alert, pretty. The other had been trained the punishment way, and he couldn't even sit up straight, his spirit was so crushed.

Zoomie said...

Bartlett is a lucky pup. Good luck not offering advice over the fence - it's hard not to. But maybe your good example will give him ideas.

cookiecrumb said...

Zoomie: We don't even know their names. He yelled at his dog (just the word "no") so hard, long and loud the other day. I'm sure the dog got it: "This guy hates me."

kudzu said...

First of all, I'm so happy for you and for Bartlett that you were patient and positive. As for the neighbor -- a nearby neighbor adopted an abused "rescue" dog (and not through the Humane Society, where it would have been evaluated) that was a neurotic constant barker. I suggested several times that they take advantage of classes, knowing that owners get properly trained as well, to no avail. They eventually passed her on to someone else. You and Cranky did all the right things, beginning with choosing Bartlett from a safe place.

cookiecrumb said...

Kudzu: Fortunately, the little dog next door to us is a good doggie. I never hear her barking, and the dude doesn't need to yell *much.*
I like "owners get properly trained as well." At Marin HS, the first day of class is for owners only; no dogs allowed.

kudzu said...

No aspersions cast on the little dog: I just hope the owners get trained. I know those HS classes well. (Have been to them with pets, and my daughter was an officer there for several years!)

Hungry Dog said...

You & Cranky are such good dog people. I am so happy for all of you that little Bartlett found a home with you both. What a perfect little trio! I admire your training success. It is very difficult not to yell at a dog but you are absolutely right in that it is the best way to get them to understand. Happy anniversary!

Zoomie said...

My uphill neighbor does that, too. Yells rather than going to the dog. She asked, "Does my dog barking bother you?" and I replied, "I don't really hear him so much as I notice you yelling at him." old age has made me rude. But I haven't heard her yelling at him since.

cookiecrumb said...

Kudzu: Of course you would have a relationship with MHS. You are so very Marin. I admire it.
You ever wonder why there are so many one-year-old dogs with behavior issues there? Because the owners threw in the towel. I suspect you'd get some pretty good one-on-one training, though, if you brought back a dog. Is there a flicker of hope? Yes. Then let's get this dog ready for you!

Hungry Dog: Thanks! Did you find Sophie was very well conditioned and adoptable? That's all it takes. We should volunteer to train pound dogs. Poor little cooties, they're all mixed up.

Zoomie: Ahem! Very well done!

Ms Brown Mouse said...

Well I'm GLAD Bartlett has become a good girl, we feel your pain, we have our own naughty furry thing. Still naughty but not as much. I think only age will slow this one down. Lucky she's tiny ... and adorable.
Yelling at kids, it's hard, it's horrible but better than smacking I guess.

Zoomie said...

Cookiecrumb, I love your idea of volunteering to train the pound puppies. You are exactly right that they are just confused and don't know how to please. Cora was like that when she came to us with her natural buoyancy but overlaid with fear. Now, we rarely see the fear, although it surfaces occasionally.

cookiecrumb said...

Mouse: Pardon the snicker, but I have never heard of a naughty kitten. I thought cats were all about laps and warm windows. Another snicker: it is cute that she is an imp.
Fortunately, no smacking of kids next door. At least not when they're outside.

Zoomie: The Humane Society actually does place animals in foster homes to see if they can condition them into a more adoptable state. And I suspect those are volunteers.
I didn't know Cora had a little fear issue. I know she feels safe with you!

Zoomie said...

When she first came, she cringed if you walked quickly toward her. Now, she doesn't even get out of the way. I like stepping over big, confident dogs.

Hungry Dog said...

cookie: When we adopted Sophie, we were surprised at how well trained and behaved she was. Someone had clearly put a lot of work into her. The only department in which she is absolutely wild is being offleash...which, unfortunately, is kind of a big one.

cookiecrumb said...

Hungry Dog: Understood! I would never run Bartlett offleash. So our solution is leash. She's a little dog. She's fine with it.

bewitchingkitchen.com said...

I remember very well your first post about her...

She is a cutie pie, and worth all the trouble - but we owners of Jack Russels know that way too well... ;-)

cookiecrumb said...

Bewitch: Sally, I am still grateful for the advice and encouragement you gave me. She never did turn into Beelzebub, never did try to dig under the fence, though I was expecting it. :)

The UDG said...

Maybe if you leaned over the fence and offered your neighbor a tasty treat every time he's quiet, he'd learn. Both of our girls were trained with positive reinforcement; unfortunately, you now can't enjoy a snack of carrots without a barrage of good behavior.

cookiecrumb said...

UDG: Wow, what a comedian. It is too early for me to be laughing. Very good. Say goodnight, Gracie.