Thursday, October 21, 2010

The problem with short term memory loss...

Who would have thought being a Puppy Instructor trainee could be so challenging?

I thought having two puppies was tiring. Try dealing with about 20 puppies all wanting to play non stop. Their owners are still learning how to "recall" their beloved munchkins so when it comes to putting all pups back on their leads, let's just say it gets very noisy. Pups have the attention span of a gnat so getting them to come when called is very challenging especially if they don't yet recognise their own name!

Last Saturday we had three classes in a row. I was meeting everybody for the first time.
Now I am one of those people who when confronted with a big group of people for the first time, have difficulty remembering everyone's name. People are very flattered when you do remember their name but slightly insulted if you don't.

At Puppy School you have to remember each owner's name (and the rest of the family who come to watch), their puppy's name and its sex. If you multiply this by 20, you have at least 60 variables to remember. Not good if you suffer from short term memory loss!

Someone gave me a sneaky tip. Just surreptiously fondle the puppy's underside while talking to the owner and this should give you a good idea of the sex. At least you can get that right while you try to remember his or her name. Last week there was quite a parade of names from Snoekie, Storm, Milaika, Bear, Dube, Zoey, Yusef to Gun. Shew!

Short of writing names on the palm of my hand, I am going to need to get some magic muti to boost my memory cells.

A solution to my Beagle Battle Blues!

Behaviourist, Karin Landsberg of ThinkingPets sent me this great advice about how to tackle the Battle of the Kingdom of the Couch:

Of course, a compromise can be reached - what about designating one couch with a distinctive cover over it as the 'doggy couch?'. This way, the Beagles can do their thing without all your couches needing covers or constant management.

Easy to teach - if they approach the wrong couch, give a no reward signal, and guide them to the correct couch. Encourage them on to that one, then give a settle cue and let them chill out there. You don't really even need treats as the comfortable lying down will be its own reward.

Thanks Karin for the great advice. Now to implement it!

(P.S. A no-reward signal is not shouting or smacking the perpetrator, but a calm verbal command like uh-uh or if you want to add some South African flavour - sies tog!)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Battle I have lost...

There is one battle with my dogs that I have failed to win. That is preventing them thinking that couches are far more comfortable than the floor.

I have spent almost 18 months fighting this battle. I put obstacles on the couches in my lounge with the aim of discouraging Jamie and Jemma from making themselves at home on my furniture, but to no avail.

Now the behaviourists say that to change a dog's behaviour you have to be absolutely consistent and catch them in the act each and every time. I admit this did not always happen. They are very good at taking the gap when your guard is down.
You also have to give them an alternative behaviour like lying on a nice warm blanket in front of the fire or an extra tasty treat for staying on the floor. I tried this but they still preferred the couch.

In fact I tried everything including shouting and shutting them out of the lounge (Shouting is not OK but time-out for very short periods is OK).
But the truth be told it became too exhausting spending every night in constant battle for the kingdom of the couch.

It also showed me how strong the imprinting period is during the first 4 months of a puppy's life.
Jemma was born in a home where all the beagles had a room filled with old couches and comfy chairs on which they slept. So she grew up seeing her elders ensconced in comfort and believes that this is her right in life. Nothing I have done so far has changed her mind and now Jamie thinks if Jemma can do it, so can I.

So 18 months down the line, I have decided if you can't beat them, join them. I have put a protective cover over one of the couches which all three of us share (with me squashed in the middle). The other two couches have their cushions up ended to discourage any deviant behaviour. It does not look pretty and offends my sense of order. But rather that than endless squabbling with my dogs.

I could have opted to permanently shut them out of the lounge altogether. But that defeats the purpose of why I got them in the first place - to enjoy their company.

However I have drawn the line at the bedroom. I know Jemma loves beds, but no one is allowed in there even if it means keeping the door permanently closed day and night. In fact I still have to keep all the doors in my house closed because one little slip and I still find things disappearing and shredded all over the garden.

My Dad sent me an article about keeping fresh air circulating through your home to keep it hygienic and clean as opposed to stale and yuk.

Huh! Wonder if I will ever get to do that?