Good Training Helps in the OOPS situations

Dr. Christina

Jun 15, 2017
Sometimes things go really wrong, and that's really why we spend so much time training.

Sometimes in the morning, while I am carrying Drumthwacket, a kitty, in my hands, I have all the dogs loose and I don't have a muzzle on See Ya. I don't need to, because Drum is contained and safe. This morning was one of those mornings. I carried her into the kitchen, got my breakfast, came out of the kitchen carrying kitten in one hand, breakfast in the other, followed by all four dogs. As I rounded the corner into the living room, my African Grey parrot, Bartok, flew onto my shoulder.

Bart is NEVER loose with the dogs. He is far too trusting and was bitten once in the beak by a dog when he was about twelve years old. However, somehow, as is the way with parrots, he had managed to get out of his cage. No matter how careful one is, at least once every seven or eight years, it happens. It seems that I had not properly latched the latches when replenishing his food earlier.

I stood for a moment, kitten in one hand, breakfast in the other, four very interested dogs at my feet.

Drum tensed up, but did not struggle, as she has had weeks of learning to be restrained.

I told the dogs 'upstairs' which is a game we play all the time, and they charged upstairs as fast as they could go.

I told Bart to 'go home' and he flew to the top of his cage.

I put Drum back in her enclosure.

I put Bart back inside his cage and made sure it was secure.

I called the dogs back downstairs, took a deep breath and ate my breakfast.

Teaching animals to have composure, to be comfortable while being restrained, to not grab at dropped food, to go cheerfully to their crate as a game, teaching them conditioned relaxation, impulse control, and that when you ask them to do something, it's always in the spirit of fun, is not just for dog sports, it's also because it saves sanity and sometimes, animal lives.

In a different household, yelling 'No!' and 'Leave it!' would probably have had the same end effect, and I am not here to argue with what works for different people, but for us, there is something really lovely about the calmness of not having to do to that. No animal (other than me) knew that there even was a dangerous situation brewing.

I live in a multi-species household and also with some dogs who did not get along naturally when they first met. So we work diligently on making that happen.

See Ya and Gimli took well over a year to go from intense suspicion with much grumbling, occasional snapping and stupid displays of aggression, to the very close relationship they have now. And I have three bitches, until recently all intact, all with strong personalities, living together.

One of the things I have made a practice of doing for decades, is teaching my dogs to 'break bread', share food together. This is not a forced thing, but something we work toward gradually. Some very special, high value treats can only be had if all parties are willing to eat them in very close proximity to each other without fuss. Logic, who has little interest in any food other than yogurt, steak and imported cheese, has been slower to pick up this game, but she has started to play it with Drum recently. See Ya and Gimli frequently play it to reinforce their relationship.

Anyhow, that was my morning and my big mistake for the month.

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