Today's blog was written by BRAD
Luigi with a summer haircut:
Our beloved Luigi is not perfect. He’s often good, but he’s often not, as well. To be honest, he’s a bit of a brat... pretty much wants what he wants when he wants it, and happy to let you know by what seems incessant barking. He’s a very loving dog, and can hardly resist our “group hugs.” But he’s awfully “energetic,” and I do hope that it’s last phase of his puppyhood, but I fear that it’s not. He gets very intense (but so do I... another story for another time).
One example of his intensity is when someone comes to the door. If the doorbell rings, he pretty much goes ballistic. Lots of barking and frenetic activity, which often intimidates whomever is walking through the door. And if he’s in his crate while we’re gone, he’s okay when we return, but if we’re bringing someone else with us, he gets intensely excited, even in his crate.
We’ve had a long-time dog sitter whom we’ve come to trust and rely on. She’s perfect for our short trips away, a day trip, or maybe even a long weekend. She’s actually a professional pet-sitter, licensed and bonded, and for anything longer than a couple of days can get expensive based on her $15 per visit rate, with three visits a day. We used her extensively with our previous cockapoos, especially Ego, whom she loved.
Well the first time we had her come over, Luigi nipped her; not once, apparently, but twice. Also she couldn’t get him back in his crate when it was time for her to leave, to the point where she left him in the house outside his crate, knowing she was returning a bit later.
The pet-sitter was devastated and angry at being nipped; especially since it hadn’t happened with a couple of longer term house-sitters we’d used. At the same time, she described Luigi as “out of control.” She suggested a dog behaviorist.
The last thing I ever thought I’d do was engage a dog behaviorist. But, for a reasonable consultation fee, we thought, in order not to lose our beloved pet-sitter, we could try it. So we did, and made an appointment with Glenn, with our dog-sitter to come by later during the appointment to assess if it was something she was doing that caused the nips.
Glenn was an unassuming guy, and entered our house very neutrally to observe what was going with us and the dog, which was really good technique, in my opinion. After observing for awhile, he offered some great insight... dogs need to love, trust and respect. We were doing well on two out of three, but the respect aspect was lacking. “Respect” means establishing boundaries, and not letting the dog get away with stuff... for example, caving-in when he barks, wanting one of us to play fetch.
He also counseled us on what happened when the pet-sitter came. Luigi was basically out-of control when she came in the house. She needed to wait for him to calm down before letting him out of the cage, even if that took 20 minutes of her 45 minute visit!
She understood, and after this we all felt a bit better.
We’ve been working on the behavior modification. I learned a lot about it in one of my jobs, and the application is the same, but without quite as much feedback from Luigi.
Now when he barks, “insisting” we throw one of his toys to retrieve, he gets a count of ten before anything happens, and an explanation, which who knows if he understands? However, our efforts seem to be making some progress, and little by little, Luigi’s barking less. He’s not done with it, but he seems to recognize that he’s getting another count, and I really think I’ve seen him catch himself, about to bark, and thinking better of it.
There’s lots of work still to do. But if we do the work, I feel we can reduce the self-centeredness of our pooch, reduce the barking, and all enjoy each other even more.