Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Living in a backward world

Some of the most common complaints I see on message boards devoted to dog behavior and training are the following:

  1. How do I stop my dog from jumping up on people?
  2. How do I stop my dog from getting up on the couch/chair/bed?
  3. How do I stop my dog from barking?
  4. How do I stop my dog from going to the bathroom in the house?

There are others, of course, but these seem to be fairly common complaints among dog owners.  When we agreed to get a dog, I assumed I would be dealing with these issues too.  They're so common that it seems pretty much every dog has at least one of these issues, if not all four.

However, Dahlia is Dahlia and she is not other dogs.  When we first got her she wouldn't get up on the couch or the bed.  We would pat the couch or the bed and she would just lay down on the floor.  Now, as we discovered, she would get up on them when we weren't home.  I once parked a few houses away from ours, sneaked up to the back window and looked in to see what she was doing.  She was sprawled out all over our couch.  By the time I went back, got the car, and pulled into the driveway, she was laying on the rug and then raced to the door.

But get up on the couch or bed while we were at home?  No way.  She wouldn't do it.  So instead of training her to get off the couch or bed, we had to train her to get on.  We did this by coaxing her up onto the couch and bed with treats of various kinds, rewarding her for getting up and staying up.  Now, some years after we first got her, she is at home on both the couch and the bed.  She does sometimes "ask for permission."  She will stand up, come to the couch, shake her ears for attention, and then stare at us expectantly.  When we invite her onto it, up she goes.  But most of the time, if no one is sitting on the couch. she hops up and curls up without feeling the need to ask for permission.

Another thing we noticed quickly about Dahlia: When we came home she was very excited to see us, but she didn't jump up on us.  Instead she wiggled about with all four feet on the ground and sometimes rolled over for a belly rub.  We decided that her jumping up on us would be occasionally ok, so we taught her to jump up on command.  That's right: we taught our dog to jump on us.  She only does it on command and only with us.

As for barking and house training issues?  Dahlia rarely barks.  If someone knocks at the door she gets up to go see what's going on without a sound.  If they ring the doorbell, she'll let out one woof and then go investigate.  We've never sought to teach her to bark more.  She also came with no house training issues.  Obviously we're not going to teach her that!

So it's a backward world here with Dahlia, the dog like no other.  When we first got her someone said "Are you sure she's a real dog?  Are you sure she's not a robot in a dog suit?"  Sometimes we wonder...

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