Last week I received a phone call from Hugh. He is in his 70s and lives with his wife and today celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary. They bought a working cocker from a good breeder 5 months ago and she is now 7 months old. Being their first dog, their choice could have been a little better, maybe one of the toy breeds would have been slightly more suited to their lifestyle, but they have Rosie and have also stepped up to the mark regarding her training.
Sunday afternoons are busy at Hugh and Irene’s, with around 15 family members coming routinely for lunch, including several grandchildren from 9 to 19 years. Rosie has been inadvertently reinforced for inappropriate behaviours such as jumping and mouthing and a couple of the younger grandchildren are now wary of her.
I arranged to see them this morning. Hugh had put Rosie in the kitchen prior to my arrival. I decided that we would try only putting her out of the room or ignoring her when she did something rude and rewarding her with petting and kind words and allowing her to remain in the room when she was sweeter.
We let her into the room on a leash (it was trailing, just so we could get a hold of her if needed). She immediately ran up to me and jumped on me and we put her straight out of the room by the leash with no words other than “oops” as an indicator (no reward marker) that she had messed up. She was given a 5 second time out and we let her back in again. She repeated this 4 or 5 times before she was no longer jumping on us initially, and as soon as she did some thing nice we told her “good dog” and petted her for a couple of seconds. She then took this petting as an invitation to jump all over us, so she was put out straight away, again for 5 seconds. We only needed to do this 4 more times before she was lying calmly next to us.
The rules I gave to Hugh and Irene were as follows
1. Pet her briefly for something you like
2. Ignore stuff you don’t like
3. Give her a 5 second timeout for things you really don’t like (teeth on clothing or skin and feet on you)
By the end of the session Rosie was being a star and was sitting in her bed as Hugh and Irene were eating a sandwich. Good result!
There had been no shouting, hitting, water pistols or rattle cans in sight. We had one full body shake indicating she was getting a bit stressed and we gave her a break after this before continuing.
I explained to Hugh that when the family came round there would be a higher level of distraction and to explain to house guests that the must completely ignore inappropriate behaviour.