behaviour-self (get it? it’s a pun.)

I’ve been thinking lately about how Lu is a giant turd of a dog in a lot of ways. For example:

  • picking on the black cat, Darcy, for no reason
  • spazzing out when the cats do something like sneeze and/or hiss at each other
  • barking at people who come to ‘her’ park
  • running off after wildlife and animal smells

 

They’re probably the main, most annoying ones. And I thought: well, gee, anybody adopting a dog from a rescue with these kinds of behaviours would work on those behaviours, not accept them because ‘that’s who she is’ or ‘she has a history’ or whatever – they’d do something about the behaviours, right? And so I’ve been feeling like a pretty crappy dog trainer because what kind of dog trainer has such a poorly behaved dog? Well, I do. So that’s doing a lot of good for the confidence, but I’m thinking that I should maybe approach some of these issues as if Lu is a rescue dog, right, and she’s come home and this is what she’s doing- a sort of ‘blank canvas’, if you will.

And look, Lu is the most … interesting… dog I know. I don’t think I’ve met many dogs who are so much of a paradox as Lu. Most dogs I think you could sum up in a couple of sentences pretty easily: Mal – happy-go-lucky jolly kind of guy, worries about getting in trouble, always wants me to be happy, likes to sleep. Loki – will do anything for food/toys, happy-go-lucky kind of guy, a dog who thinks about what’s in his best interests, I think, but not in a self-serving kind of way.

Lu on the other hand is so much like a cat. Everything is on Lumen’s terms. For example, this morning Loki’s crate door was left open and there was a tasty bone inside. She stuck her head in and I told her to ‘leave it’, which is a well-known command for her. She stopped, head still in the door, and just stood there. “Seriously, Lu,” I said, “Leave. It.” she takes a step back, looks at me, then stands, staring at the crate, trying to figure out how she can get in without ‘getting in’. This is why so much of agility, I think, has been half-hearted – because she’s always felt like ‘what’s the point?’

. Although she doesn’t often give me the proverbial finger and just not do what I’m asking, she does it with absolutely no enthusiasm or enjoyment, because she doesn’t want to. See, Mal (or Loki) on the other hand, would say: “Ok… I don’t really want to, but since you’re asking, sure thing!!!”. If Lu wants to sniff a smell, she’ll sniff the damn smell. Despite walking Lu as a puppy and never stopping to sniff smells while on the lead, do you reckon that ever worked and she doesn’t sniff now? Nope. And yet, at home, she is a gorgeous, happy dog who smothers us in licks and sleeps curled up right beside us (or, as last night would have it, on my pillow next to my head) – there is a sweetness there, and I think the knowledge that she can be ‘good’, but she doesn’t seem to often want to… and I think part of that, of course, is that there’s never been a reason for her to want to. She’s never cared enough about food to make her do anything and everything to get it… there’s no amazing toy that would make her stop what she’s doing to come and play with, and me alone certainly isn’t a strong draw-card… so I suppose it makes sense that everything is on her terms, because she’s never had a reason to work any other way. I have hope for her, however, with her recent and newfound interest in food, that maybe there will be a reward she’ll actually care a little about that I can use.

So back to her issues- if I approach them as if she were a rescue dog, I suppose there’s a few things I can go back to/begin doing:

  • rewarding with a food game/food bag/thrown food when making decisions to be calm around the cats, especially the black one.
  • The sneezing/hissing response is tough, actually. Her response is to go and bark at the offending cat/s, and this seems deeply ingrained in her because she does the same thing if dogs are fighting. So whether it’s enough to call her back and reward her then… aside from keeping her on-lead all the time when inside and rewarding for staying with me, I’m not sure what other options there are, here. Because it’s so unpredictable. Unless! What if I found a sound-effect of a hissing cat and a cat fight, and played it quietly in another room and rewarded her for being calm and staying with me… and gradually made it more audible. That might be the way to go.
  • We’ve been doing some ‘look at that’ work when I spot people at the park before she does… but again, it’s fairly spontaneous and I can’t control when there will or won’t be people. Possibly if I see someone arrive at the park, I should see if we can go say hello before they leave so she can understand that people at the park don’t need to be barked at – it doesn’t make them go away.
  • Running off after wildlife: I think this is something that will never be solved. Seriously. She is so, so obsessed. In safe, off-lead places, we’ve been looking for rabbits, and if we see any, I’ve been asking for a sit and then unclipping the lead and giving her permission to go chase.. but I won’t do that with roos or wallabies- they just go too far and don’t have burrows so I don’t know when she’ll stop chasing them. Lately she’s been on-lead for walks where there’ll be roos but I think this has just been making her more crazy for them. If Garrett does her recallers course again I’ll enrol her in that, but until then I’m not sure there’s any way I’m going to get through to her on this issue.

 

And of course all her issues calls into question whether I want to breed her one day… I’m thinking more and more ‘no’ but then that makes me sad. What if there’s a high-drive, highly biddable working boy around for her, and maybe that would cancel out some of her crapness?

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