Persistence – keep on keeping on dog training


Wishing the barking would stop
Wishing the barking would stop     photo: j. renzoni

A fair number of people unintentionally train their dogs to be really, really persistent at the things they don’t want them to persist in doing. I’m thinking that right now as the dog I’m working with is hollering from her comfortable crate at a level that scrambles my brain and makes my dogs look concerned.

She has been out for a good romp, had an enjoyable training session, had her breakfast as part of said romp and training session, pottied, had a good drink; in other words she doesn’t need anything, except OUT< OUT> OUT. But she can’t be out, she has hardly any manners and she needs to learn how to be quietly in. She even barks, howls, whines at demanding high volume if left briefly in a car. And she is loud and prone to destruction.

This is the third day of our cohabitation and she is much less persistent in her yelling, yodeling, demanding than she first was. Actually, she has stopped now, thankful quiet descends on the household.Well, this is much better, she is learning.

Oh man, she was trained to persist. I started out with her close and rewarded any possible quiet, but her volume and sheer vocal continuing wore us all down…so I moved her to a closed-door bedroom in her crate for her ‘quiet’ times. And she must be quiet  and not pawing the gate or I won’t open the door or then the gate or then put on her leash. The things she values must be preceded by the things I value. I don’t value loud crazy, so she’s got to at least make an effort at impulse control. And although that’s what I first accept, now we’re up to her dropping into a down and waiting for me to completely open the gate before rising to come out.

She is still of the opinion, although I do see her thinking more and trying other options, that barking straight and continuously at me will get her out, that it must and will get me to reach for the latch. She thinks the same way about the leash, pull, bolt and the destination shall be hers, but it won’t, not here anyway. She seems to have practiced her ways a lot in her short existence and they must have worked for her especially if she persisted and did them more. Thank goodness, this most recent trip outside included a dog face looking at my face often, yes!

Oddly enough, teaching dogs to persist in things you want them to do works the same way. Reward early with something they value, then variably later and then only with their persistent effort.

But reward (and a reward may be attention, even bad attention) the things you don’t like and well voila’. So in other words at her own home she made noise in her crate and was let out, later when she made noise nothing happened so more noise and she was let out and on, so she learned to be very noisy and very persistent in her noisiness demanding release. And considering the level she was at it would be hard to withstand it if you didn’t know you could get it resolved.

She’s starting to understand that there are ways to get what she values, just not the ways she has used. She’s starting to realize people are more important than she previously thought. And that there’s a use for the previously meaningless education, i.e. sit, down, come, wait, shake, drink…

It’s fairly easy to think of something as cute, then realize oh no I didn’t want that, have you made a mistake in your puppy training?

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