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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On Guarding and Barking and Learning

Jean Sexton muses:

After experiencing Markie "Barkie" Dog Sexton's guarding, protection, and barking inclinations, we decided to all go to choose the next office dog. Wolf (then called Chaz), was a quiet little dog. He might have some chihuahua in him, we were told, but as he was one or two years old, his quiet personality was what we would get. We rejoiced at how quiet he was. He barked a couple of times, loved everyone in the office, and showed every sign of being The Perfect Office Dog.

On his second veterinarian visit, we discovered The Wolf was only six months old and was probably a purebred long-haired chihuahua. He was also slowly bonding with us all and very closely with me. As he did, he began to guard "our den," otherwise known as my office. People he knew were allowed in. Strangers were warned away with barking. It was never the frenzy barking that Markie had, but people walk outside the building frequently as there are a bar and convenience store fairly close.

Barking is fine for a dog outside in the country. I never stressed over Ralph or K'Ehleyr barking at any stranger. Who knows how many break-ins they deterred. But in an office and an apartment, it can be a distraction. The Wolf has a very high-pitched bark that carries.

In some ways it is flattering to have such a guardian. True, an assailant could dropkick him like a football, but it is Wolf's willingness to defend me that is always amazing. I can walk late at night around the apartment in the midst of the night and I fear no violence, for The Wolf is with me.

Still, The Wolf needs to learn not to bark after I tell him I have the encounter handled. I need to learn how to tell him that I have it handled. So tomorrow The Wolf and I will be getting training from a nationally accredited professional dog trainer. Our first goal is to let Wolf alert me to the situation and then be quiet when I let him know he's done his part. Our second goal is to let strangers come into the building or during walks and to greet them appropriately. Our third goal is to let him meet strange dogs without barking so enthusiastically. If we have time, our fourth goal is to teach him to pick up his toys.

This should take some time, both for lessons and for homework. The end result will be a quieter Wolf and less frazzled office mates. We have high hopes for success as The Wolf has learned "Wait," "Sit," "Stay," Dance," and "Walk with me." He's also learned a lot of behavior on his own, such as barking at Petrick earns Petrick ignoring him but a quiet bark at Steve gets Steve's attention when he's on the computer.

Learning anything requires that you first admit that you don't know how to do it, not properly. It took a bit to admit that I needed help working with Wolf. But once I admitted it, I think I am ready to learn.