This weekend I heard my young neighbor trying to get her exuberant, adolescent dog leashed for a walk. “Sit, Riley.” “Riley, sit.” “SIT, Riley.” “SIT! SIT, RILEY!” “RIIIIIILEEEEEY! SIT! SIT! SIT!!”
What don’t we know? Puppies don’t speak English. And oh, by the way, shouting at someone who doesn’t understand English does nothing to aid comprehension.
Tip: Riley actually does know sit when he’s not jumping around like a jack-in-the-box excited about going on a walk. If he’s too excited to listen, put the leash down and ignore him. The walk is a reward for his learning to be calm.
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While brushing my teeth that same morning, I heard high pitched, continuous barking coming from the kitchen. “Who’s torturing that puppy and how can I make them stop?”
The look on my husband’s face let me know the barking had been directed at him. Honey gets excited when we prepare her food. Instead of just dumping it into a bowl, we serve her kibble in a Tug-a-Jug or soda bottle and make her work to get it out.
Needless to say, that takes more time to prepare than dumping kibble into a bowl which means Honey has more time to get excited waiting for her dinner.
I asked Mike if he hand fed her pieces of kibble while he was prepping the jug to reward her for sitting and waiting quietly. Mike said he told her to be quiet and expected her to listen to him because that was her job (or something like that). That led to a discussion about the Fall of Man and the moral agency of puppies.
What don’t we know? In the end, Mike admitted that he didn’t think Honey was a moral agent able to decide right from wrong. That she was just looking to keep rewards coming. And that next time, he’d hand feed her kibble on a regular basis to reward her for sitting quietly without expecting her to sit still for an entire 10 minutes.
Tip: Always set the puppy up for success. If she can’t sit quietly for more than seconds, reward her for 3 seconds and slowly work up to 3 1/2 seconds, 4 seconds, 4 1/2 seconds…. Eventually, you’ll have a quiet and polite pup.
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What don’t we know? A puppy is not a dog. Honey is so smart that sometimes I’m fooled into thinking she’s a full grown dog and not just a baby. I stop watching her and it’s my fault if I let her have an accident on the foyer floor. Or if I think she can get some exercise out on a walk when she’s not able to walk far or fast enough to really get a good workout.
Tip: Keep trying and know the rewards are worth all the effort.