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  • K-9 Magic

Managing Dogs

My exciting event of last week was finally getting a new gate in place between the kitchen and the living room. It is a wide doorway and the majority of dog

gates out there are not made for that size. We did buy a gate before but it was mostly metal fencing with a small gate section. The gate had a lip and since Quincy has lost the ability to walk and is dragging his hind-legs, it was difficult for him to get through. The new gate is so much better. I don't know why I never thought about making one before. It was a lot easier then I thought. I did end up running into some issues getting it attached to the wall, but since I had a contractor come in for something else he was able to fix my mistakes (including with the original gate I had made) and get the gate up. It suites our purposes much better, so for all those out there that say you can't find a gate... there are options.

I am a firm believer in managing my dogs. A gate is a big part of it. I feel it makes for better relationships. I want my dogs happy and able to think for themselves. I don't want a robot. But thinking dogs can and do occasionally make bad choices. I always start my new dogs with crate training and spending time mostly in a puppy proof room. As our relationship grows, and they start learning my rules and I learn what their instincts are, they gradually get more and more access to the rest of the house.

Baby Indy in her office playpen

I have always been surprised, when I find people bring home a new dog that they know nothing about and give it full access to their house. Then they act surprised when it's chewed up the couch or eats their socks. Would you hold the door wide open for a stranger and give them complete access to everything in your house? Would you put a baby unsupervised in a room with things that are dangerous to it? That is essentially what you are doing. What often happens is the dog misbehaves in some way because it doesn't know any better or it just can't help itself. The person ends up running around yelling "no, no bad dog". Is constantly being frustrated with the dog's behavior and yelling at the dog going to further your relationship with the dog? Is it going to fix anything? No, it won't. Things often continue to deteriorate once they enter this type of mode. There is a much better way-control the situation from the start.

For me I have designated the kitchen as my puppy proof area. The floors are easily washable, I don't have anything out of value, there are no cords, etc. While every once in a while a puppy gets creative, for the most part there is nothing in there that the dogs can hurt themselves with or that I will be overly upset about. We start slow. At first they are supervised. I can set rules of behavior and expectations for them in that room if I am there directly supervising. I can see what they do to get into trouble in that room and teach alternative acceptable behaviors.

The pack has learned office time is time to quietly nap or chew a bone

When they prove to do ok with supervised time, I start gradually allowing them short bits of time unsupervised. And by unsupervised I mean distracted or in another room. I very rarely leave my dogs full access to every room in my house. I know my dogs and I know its asking for trouble. For the most part they are pretty good. However, these are high drive working dogs. They get bored. Little Ellie can not resist shredding paper. Indy loves to display the contents of the bathroom garbage all over the house. I know these are their habits because I have spent the time with them to learn their habits. There are occasionally other things they do when they are bored to get up to mischief. They don't do these things when I'm watching, but these are the things they do when no one is watching. Yes, I could probably extinguish those behaviors if I really worked at it. But why should I? It's part of their charm and really not a big deal. I've got much more pressing things to train them for. These are also things that they are impulsive about.

I have things I'm impulsive about as well. I really don't want someone to train me to turn away from a something I desperately want. For example, it is a lot easier to make sure I never see an ice cream sundae then it is to resist and turn away when it's put under my nose. I try to be good and watch what I eat. But if it was right in front of me, in all likelihood

I wouldn't be successful at turning away either. Similarity, it is a heck of a lot easier for me to be aware and manage my dogs. I don't pretend to understand why Ellie finds shredding papers or Indy finds raiding the garbage so rewarding. But I know they value it like I value the ice cream sundae. They try to be good but sometimes temptation is too much.

It is simple enough to keep the bathroom door closed or to use the gate to block Indy from going that direction. It's simple enough to make sure paper is always above Ellie's level or limit her unsupervised access to the office where there is lots of papers. By knowing my dogs and managing it, I'm setting up my dogs for success. I'm not yelling at them or going crazy. I simply prevent a problem from happening in the first place. I'm also re-framing the problem. I know my dogs and know they have these tendencies. If Ellie shreds something or Indy raids the garbage, I don't get mad at them. I know it is my fault for setting them up for failure. They are happy and I'm not frustrated by their misbehavior. Much better for all involved.

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