January 28, 2014

White Dog began training when she was a wee pup. But even at her young age, she quickly discovered Steve's soft side and tried to manipulate him during classes. Jesse, her trainer, used to walk beside Steve and coax him. "Don't ask her to leave it, TELL her." Steve's learning curve was a great as the little White Diva.

Taiko has been with us four months now and is accustomed to the routine and personalities of the family members, two- and four-legged. He is, of course, completely devoted to Steve who also dotes on him. As a result Taiko has developed some issues with possessiveness ("He's MY dad! Get Away") and with exhibiting poor manners (especially at meal prep time). It is time to establish some boundaries and begin training.

Steve has begun to gently but firmly insist that his boy respect the rest of the White Dog Army and their right to ask for his attention. He must wait when he comes charging up to intercept one of the others until Steve has offered pets and conversation. During this time no mean faces or growling are allowed. If Taiko stumbles, Steve places a reassuring hand on his shoulder while continuing to focus on the other dog. After a successful exchange, every pup is praised and Taiko gets his patented full body rub as he buries his head in Steve's lap.

Dinner time calmness is proving a bit tough to instill. The shy honeymoon is over. From the moment Steve begins meal prep for the Army, Taiko barks and jumps and carries on. This gets YoYoMa excited and Puff begins pacing; poor little Oso is often trampled. We have established and worked our boy through four levels of consequences in our attempts to break the cycle.

The first is the command that he "Walk away" which means he must leave the kitchen. The point is to disrupt his pattern of behavior. Interestingly, this has also become a cue for YoYoMa to take himself out of the kitchen to sit outside of the doorway in a "stay" position. This command is a tough one because it requires Tai to focus enough to stop the inappropriate behavior.

When Walk Away fails to work, Steve simply leaves the kitchen and sits in the living room. He refuses to continue the tasks all of the WDA know will generate dinner. The is initial a surge around Steve and some demand barks but Steve is firm in his "Not until you have better manners." When all sit and are calm, he returns to the kitchen.

For nights when Taiko just cannot seem to break out of repeating the barking and jumping, Steve shoos the WDA from the kitchen and puts a baby gate across the entrance. The Army is moved far enough away from the action that they crowd the gate and just watch...waiting to be allowed to their bowls.

This is the method we started with and the usual failsafe return to reason. Puff, our little old lady, figured out how to scale the gate about five minutes after she moved into our home nearly four years ago, but it is by mutual contract that she respects the boundary. When she is really worked up, she WILL put her front paws up on the top rail and peer over. YoYoMa although he is big enough never challenges being blocked. White Dog is above such silly exertion...both in clamoring for her meal and in jumping the gate although my former agility dog could. Bella and Oso are simply too small.

Tonight Taiko, already unhappy about Steve's not being home and pushing poor Michael at his attempts to get meals in place, stood up with his paws on the gate's top. I saw the light go on and knew what was coming. Tai in standing on his hind legs realized that he really wasn't constrained by the gate. His muscles tensed and he simply leaped over taking the gate down as his back feet caught it! Then it was like a movie scene of pirates boarding a ship, Michael was overwhelmed and the ship was lost.

If our Tender-Heart tries that when Steve is home, Steve will know to replace the gate and put Taiko back on the other side. Then he will stand close by to gently stop the leap by pushing our athlete back. Tonight I am certain that Tai thinks he has beaten the system.

The fourth method is the one most dreaded by Eskies, a very social breed. Time out in isolation. Since the WDA is made up of rescues with lots of issues, we try not to use this if it can be avoided. And when we must it is isolation usually on the sunporch which has a glass door so that the jail has line of sight that we are still here...and we try to limit the time. Most times, just the threat of Time Out is sufficient. But Eskies are also stubborn...and in those cases, patience and staying in charge are true challenges (and that is when my furbabies most remind me of a teenaged me).


Jo's World said...

What an interesting look at multi-dog meal time!

Its pretty peaceful here except when Stella decides she didn't get enough and eats Zkhat's food.
Zkhat gets so mortified, she leaves and goes upstairs to get away from the food hogger! We have solved this and I will write a little blog about it. It took $$$ to solve and not learning.

Cheers and hugs to all,


meowmeowmans said...

It sounds like a battle of wills, and that Taiko sure has a lot of will. ;) We know love and patience (not to mention experience) will win out in the end.


The Florida Furkids said...

We hope things calm down soon.

The Florida Furkids

Amber DaWeenie said...

It sounds like you're all well trained at getting things under control. Well, most of the time anyway!

Happy Thursday!


haopee said...

This is just too cute. I truly admire your patience. I know how it feels to feed a number of canines at one time.

Dear heavens! We haven't perfected it yet. We usually have them tied on a corner so that nobody steals anybody's food. Once they are done eating, everybody is loose again to do their own bidding.

I just envy the patience and perseverance you have with the white dog. How I wish our pack had the same control and patience.

Brian said...

I know y'all will get there because you are a smart bunch!