Saturday, January 14, 2006

2006 Book Resolution: Book 2

Hey hey, ho ho! Only fifty weeks to go!

I've been taking the bus home more often in the evenings, which has given me more reading time than normal. Thus, I'm already ahead of my planned reading schedule for the year.

Book #2:
Title: The Dog Listener
Author: Jan Fennell
Date Started: January 7, 2006
Date Finished: January 8, 2006
Your thoughts, dear Thel? I picked this up last Saturday because Chloe has been with us for a little over a month now and is starting to get more obstinate. She's still tremendously well-behaved in general, but she's taken to ignoring our commands, lunging around on the leash every single time we take her for a walk, and generally acting like a willful adolescent. Which, to be fair, is exactly what she is, as a twenty-three-month-old dog; but that doesn't make it any less aggravating.

So I was looking for some good dog advice that would help me get Chloe to do what I want her to do, without getting into a battle of wills with her. Shouting "No!" at her had no discernible effect, and I flat out refuse to hit her or turn into a raging intimidation monster just to make her sit down or stop jumping up. The light swats I'm comfortable giving only make her more playful and mouthy. This book was a great find, because the author's whole philosophy is about getting a dog to want to do what you ask it to do, not out of fear but out of cooperation.

I know it sounds a little goofy, but her ideas were intriguing. She claims that most problematic behavior in dogs stems from their belief that they are the leader of their "pack" of humans, and their stress at being out of their league with such a strange pack. While I'm sure that's not really the root cause of *every* dog's behavior issues, she makes a persuasive case that in some cases that's the main problem. According to her research and experience, there are four situations during which a wolf pack re-establishes its hierarchy: when the pack eats, when the pack is threatened, when the pack reunites after a separation, and when the pack goes hunting. She "translates" these situations to mealtimes, visitors, humans' entrances and exits from the home, and walks; she then describes easy, calm, nonviolent ways that dog owners can take those opportunities to establish that they are the "pack" leader. Once the dog has been relieved of the duties it thought it had, it can calm down and enjoy its life as a subordinate, with all its needs taken care of by its leader(s).

We haven't gone full out in implementing Jan's "Amichien bonding" process, but we've started taking a couple of her suggestions, and I've noticed Chloe adapting to them a bit already. The main one deals with the "reuniting" situation, since that's when Chloe was really at her worst. Jan advises that an owner leave and re-enter their home without fussing over the dog--indeed, without acknowledging the dog at all for a few minutes at least. This supposedly helps the dog see you as the leader and able to come and go as you please. I have to admit that it's almost impossibly hard to come home and be greeted by a frenzied, wagging, delighted dog without immediately stooping down to love on her--but if I just ignore her until she settles down, and then call her over and give her all the loving and attention she needs, she really has been calming down a lot faster, and jumping up much less in the first place.

And I don't even have to yell or act intimidating to do it, just be completely calm and aloof when necessary. So that's a good thing.