about the universe forum commander Shop Now Commanders Circle
Product List FAQs home Links Contact Us

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Dogs, Discipline, and Who is Training Whom

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Both SVC and Jean have pointed out a truth: while I grew up around dogs, I never "owned" a dog.

In my family we had spaniels, both cockers and springers, and Labrador retrievers, as well as cats. The dogs all belonged to my younger brother, not by my choice, or my older brother's or our parents' choice, but by the dogs' choice. For whatever reason, every dog that ever entered our household became my younger brother's dog. They followed him devotedly, gathered around him when strangers appeared, and interposed themselves between him and any danger they were able to recognize. They were willing to lay down their lives for him.

Why this was so was not something I questioned growing up, it was just the way of things. No dog ever followed me when I left the house, or went to the bedroom with me when it was time to go to bed nor did they do these things for my older brother.

We were involved in petting them, feeding them, playing with them, but if my younger brother (only 18 months younger than I to the calender day) left, the dogs went with him.

Jean's current dog barks at a pitch that seriously grates on my nerves. I really want him to be more restrictive of his barking. However, as it has been pointed out that I have never owned dogs, I withdrew from the dog, neither encouraging or discouraging any of his behaviors unless they were destructive (like trying to dig through the cushion of a seat). I did this to allow SVC and Jean, both of whom did "own" dogs, to train this one.

I am (honestly) not fit to train a dog simply because I have never "owned" a dog. The "partnership bond" is simply not there. That does not mean that dogs take an instant dislike to me or any such thing, simply that I am, by and large, not the focus of their affections or loyalty.

I do understand training, however. A big part of it is "consistency." If you want a behavior to stop, then you must consistently treat the behavior in a negative context. No, this does not mean that you hurt the dog. Hurting the dog is bad because it interferes with the need for trust.

So, the dog barks and truly annoys me. So when he barks I take him to the back bathroom and lock him in with the light out, and leave him there until five minutes after he has stopped barking. If this is done consistently, he will realize the link between his barking and being locked away in the dark. But it must be done consistently, or he will fail to make the link.

I do not dislike the dog. Jean will no doubt tell you I say awful things to the dog, like the fact that he is so small we will have to stew him before we eat him, or that I have come to administer a vicious beating to him. The truth is that he is a dog, and as long as my tone and volume are not harsh or raised, all is fine in his world because the words themselves have no specific meaning he can understand.

He does know, however, that when I grab his leash and head for the back that he is being punished and he does not like it, and does his best to plant all four of his paws and resist being dragged back there.

Except of late he has taken to trying a new tack. As we near the door to the bathroom, he begins trotting along as if it is his idea to go there. I think he is hoping to play "Br'er Rabbit and the thistle patch," pretending he wants to go into the dark bathroom in hopes that I will not lock him up.