Tuesday, March 26, 2013

noticing the positives

She's probably just eaten a dead thing or some horse-poo
or a worm or something. Seriously, she once ate a dried
up worm. Gross.

In all my reading and research when I got Lumen, I quickly latched on to one idea that really resonated with me, and it's something I try and stand by in my training, especially in day-to-day life with the dogs.
Noticing the positives.

I think sometimes it's really easy to latch on to what our dogs' faults are, what they do wrong (chase the cat, stand up on the counter, eat dead things off the ground, don't let us trim their nails) and we forget to latch on to the things they're doing right, all the time, particularly when we don't have to tell them to do/not do those things. And this is extremely hard when the behaviour is not doing something.

For example, Lumen is absolutely fascinated by Mia - our tortoiseshell cat. For whatever reason, Mia is much more interesting to her than Darcy (who is boring and doesn't play) and occasionally will roughhouse with Lu, and when the roughhousing gets too rough, Mia runs away. This is, as you can imagine, an even better game.
So I've done plenty of 'leave it!' work, and she's pretty good with this, but I noticed sometimes I was getting yelly  in my frustration - stop chasing the damn cat!!!
I decided to turn it around a bit. I've made a conscious effort to tell Lumen how good she is every time she ignores the cat - not when it's running (too hard at this point, though if she does ignore the cat while  it's running, bonanza!!!), just in passing.

This is showing Lumen that she doesn't need to rely on commands from me to make her own decisions - the right decisions, and get praise for it. I've begun to notice sometimes she'll wander nonchalantly into the kitchen where Mia is milling around, and think: "Ooo! Cat!!... Wait... .... ... what... cat...? I don't see any cat..." I turn on the praise.

And look, sometimes I'm still having to tell her 'leave it' because this puppy has one hell of a prey-drive, and so at 6 months old, with cats who don't fight back, I can't expect her to be perfect, but we certainly seem to have a puppy much less on edge about needing to chase the cats, and cats who are much less on edge about being chased...

Now, if only I can get her to stop barking when the cats are fighting each other in the middle of the night (yes, I know you need them to stop fighting but can you let me handle it?) we'll be onto a winner!

(And just as I finish writing this, Lumen chases Mia across the kitchen. Looks like we still have a ways to go!!!)

Do you remember to focus on the positives, even if you're not in 'training' mode? Do you praise your dog's decision to not sniff the dead thing while out on a walk when it's just expected that he or she won't sniff it? How often do we miss the decisions our dogs make just because they're expected to make those decisions?

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