Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Progress of Patty the Pooch


Patty is a sweet, smart dog.
It is difficult to believe that she was mistreated before I found her.
She responds to her new name (Patty) without any special training on my part.
When she misbehaves (mainly trashcan diving) she acts contrite just from my voice inflections.
She has never yet messed in the house.
And Patty does not play with my dirty clothes. (like my former fuzzy friend did...)

Around food she is mostly well-behaved.
She did steal something off the dining table once when left unattended.
This may have been because she did not know the rules as much as being a sneak.
Most of the time, she just sniffs and looks and licks her lips.
We will see how she does in this area.

Early on she was nervous about fast hand movements, but that seems to be mostly gone.
Occasionally, she will shy away from a fast hand movement, especially by strangers.

Her initial resistance to being on a leash is nearly all gone.
She does well 99 percent of the time and only occasionally tries to pull away.
Patty is learning to negotiate with me on pace and direction during our walks.

My philosophy is that walking a dog is for the benefit of the dog, not the human.
It is not a victory lap to show off my trophy animal for all the neighbors to admire.
It is to exercise the dog and allow her to get used to her area.
So some of the pace and direction of the walk should be left up to the dog.
My overrides to her decisions are mainly for her safety or a time constraint.

Early on, there was some resistance to having a collar around her neck.
But that went away the second day I had her.
Now she has a collar on all the time since then (except for her bath).

Today, I started using a chain choke collar for her walk, - as I did with Sally - to see how she would respond.
She did fine.
Zero resistance to having a new, heavier piece of hardware around her neck, and she responded well to the new feel.
As with Sally, I use it only for walks.
Sally liked to pull me along, apparently from the need to be my guide through the neighborhood.
Patty is more relaxed.
She will spend most of a walk with a loose leash at my side or just ahead of me.

My goal with the choke collar is to keep it loose most of the time, with just a small amount of tension on it so she knows I'm there.
If she needs some guidance, then more tension can be applied – typically, very little is needed and only for two or three seconds.
If more urgent or aggressive guidance is required, the choke function is there to mimic the teeth of an Alpha pack leader administering discipline.
But the need for this last application is rare.

Often times, Patty will respond at just a quiet word from me.
She is learning my command, “wait”.
Which means to stop at the end of a sidewalk before walking into the street.
The command involves a slight tug on the leash to let her know the needs to stop.
Sally was learning it, too.
Patty is already tuned into this command.

She is doing well with my other commands, “this way” (some other direction than the one she is going), and “be with me” (= “heel”).
As you can see, I do not do traditional dog commands.
I just talk to them like I talk to peoples.
They get it. (the dogs....)

My version of the traditional command, “come” is “come here”.
We are still working on this one.
There is no real problem here, I just have not spent much time training Patty.
Mainly because she is so smart and well-behaved.
We have not spent any time on “sit”, “stay”, or “lay down”, yet.
Interestingly, I have told her to lay down on two occasions and she laid down.
I don't know if she really understood the command or if she was just lucky.
I was impressed, nonetheless.

The summary of all of this is that Patty has not been as difficult to adjust to (and seemingly, vice versa) as I was expecting.
I do not know what her former life was like, but she seems to be doing just fine here.

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