Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Does your dog know what to do right here, right now?

MORNINGS AROUND HERE FOLLOW A ROUTINE. I get up early, let the dogs out for a bathroom break, make coffee, feed the dogs, get online, etc. After their breakfast, the dogs take a nap.

From this point on, each day is different. Today I have a morning appointment, so as I started getting ready, Murphy (my 9-year-old chocolate) got restless. I'm pretty sure his doggy brain was pumping out questions with no answers: am I going? am I not going? if I'm not going, will she come back for me? when?

Mind you, this is a dog who accompanied me nearly everywhere for the first five years of his life.  Then I started traveling on business and he got left at home way too much for a couple of years. Now, I'm traveling less, doing more business locally and Murphy goes with me as much as possible but since each day is an unknown to him, my preparing to depart can make him anxious.

This morning, that anxiety showed up like this: pick up Mom's glasses and take them to the middle of the living room floor. Add one of Mom's shoes to the grouping. Both glasses and shoe removed from floor and returned to Mom's room by Mom. Trying the office, his head went into the trash and came up with cardboard. "Leave it, Murph", I said. "Really?" his look said.

My bathroom, bedroom, and office are all at one end of the hall. I was moving in and out of all three rooms when a late-breaking idea hit me. Duh! 
Me: "Murphy."
Him: "What?" And he looked up at me.
Me: "Down."
Him: "Okay." And down was what he did and he stayed down.

I remind dog training clients all the time: if you aren't clear about what you want your dog to do at this very moment in time - he'll do what he wants. Which may not be what you want.

It's that basic concept that I forgot in my own home with one of my own dogs. Murphy has great obedience skills. All I have to do is ask him to do something. And by doing something ingrained in him since puppyhood, he is able to settle down.

So this morning, I asked Murphy for that down at the end of the hall. He could see me as I was popping in and out of all three rooms. It settled him. And since I trained him to maintain the stay if someone steps over him or walks around him - he stayed put while I did both.

When Cody, my 13-year-old yellow Lab, gets barky because she's bored the same idea applies. I call her to heel (something we did hundreds and hundreds of times before she was a year old), walk her at heel around the house, throw in some downs and sits and stays, toss her a treat at the end and she's happy. The video below is from a few years ago.

So if you notice your dog pacing or panting or getting into stuff, give him something to do or stop what you're doing briefly and engage with him. He'll love you SO much for understanding him. He'll also love it if you put on your comfortable shoes and take him for a long walk. Happy spring!

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