Monday, April 26, 2010
My dog Geordie is eight years old and to put it mildly, he's a handful. He's also a beautiful and spirited and smart dog but we've had been managing his pushy, aggressive, fearful and reactive behaviour for many years with treats and commands and leashes and kennels. He is never off the leash because he's unpredictable when it comes to squirrels, other dogs, and children. And when people come to our house we have to put him in his kennel until they learn the rules of meeting Geordie. (Don't look at him, don't lean over him, wait until he comes to you.) We learned these management techniques through consulting with various trainers and behaviourists over the past years of Geordie's life.
But now things are beginning to change. We recently went to see an animal trainer named Gary Jackson who lives up in Cobble Hill. His theory about dogs is somewhat different than others I've heard. It's based on the concept that domesticated social animals like dogs exist in an infantilized state and the best way to control them is the same way that the mother dog does--through looks, growls, and snarls.
After working with Geordie last Saturday, Gary prescribed a program where we (the humans) take ownership of everything in Geordie's life--his food, his water, his access to outside, to toys, and even to affection. And you know what? It's working like a charm. An example: we've been trying to get Geordie to stay away from the dishwasher when we're loading or unloading it for a number of years now. Like most dogs he's a food addict and we've been training him to stay on a pillow while we load it up, with a treat as a reward. It kind of worked, but not really.
But since we've starting acting like the mama dog and giving a little growl when he comes too close, we've seen a huge change. Now he doesn't even come near the dishwasher. In fact when we open it he heads upstairs to his kennel. It's amazing. He's quite quickly turned into a dog that wants to please instead of a dog that tries to get away with things. The theory is that if we take control of all these things, he will then begin to trust that we can also take control of scary situations like other dogs and kids.
The changes that we've seen in Geordie in just a few days are quite miraculous and so far they seem to be sticking. Today I had Geordie in the park on a long rope and he was very attentive to me even when another dog came past. Next week we'll go up to see Gary Jackson again and find out about the rest of the program (which also includes a hog!) I'll keep you posted