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Day #25 of Conditioning Month – This Is Not Getting Any Easier

August 14, 2013

unhappy dogThe month is very nearly over, and I cannot deny that some progress has been made on a number of fronts.

I can’t say that Nacho’s obedience is really any better than it used to be – not significantly, anyway – because he was never all that bad. He always did walk well on the leash, and doesn’t wander off if I drop the lead. He’ll come when I call him (as long as there’s food involved), and he seems to assume that whatever I do and whenever I do it there is probably food involved…

He gets very agitated when we meet other dogs in the street. He’ll begin to whine as soon as we see them, and will often pull on the leash to get at them, but if he does actually get up close and personal, he’ll frequently snarl and bare his teeth…which makes you wonder why he was so keen to get at the other dog in the first place.

I’d worked hard on basic sit and stay commands with him, and made some progress, but I rapidly realised that these commands would only work when used in a very specific context which involved me feeding him. I know we need to use treats for positive reinforcement of the training, but Nacho seems completely disinterested in listening to commands if he cannot specifically see the treat ready to be handed over. If I knew more about dog behavior maybe I could interpret this better, but he isn’t attentive in the way that Jasper (and most other dogs) seem to be. When you catch a dog’s attention, he will generally watch you, and when he’s watching you, you have a chance of getting a command across. Not with Nacho. He’s constantly glancing about. He’ll take a quick look at me now and then, or he’ll watch me very closely if he knows I’ve got something for him in my hand, but otherwise he just doesn’t pay much attention. Is this me not being the Alpha or is it him being terrified of everything? I don’t know.

At feeding time I make sure that both dogs do as they’re told, and in fairness they’re both very good. Nacho gets fed first (because he’s older…which seemed sensible to me), so I make him sit before I put down his bowl, then I make him stay and wait until I tell him he can eat. No problem. He’s good at that. I do the same with Jasper and he’s totally perfect (better than Nacho, because he always sits when I tell him to).

To me, that seems as though they both know who’s boss.

Where there could easily be a bit of disagreement is on where the two dogs stand in the hierarchy…I thought Nacho would be the boss as the older dog, but I’m not so sure. Maybe this is where Nacho has a problem when we’re out and about. Perhaps he feels as though he should be the senior dog, but just hasn’t got the balls to actually fill that role. As a result he stresses out about meeting other dogs and gets really confused about what to do.

I don’t get the feeling that Jasper sees Nacho as the senior dog, but it’s hard to read the signs from Jasper as he’s just in play mode all the time. He doesn’t roll over for Nacho, but will for me. He doesn’t back off if Nacho snarls either.

But there have been some positives with Nacho too. He’s begun playing – only individually at the moment, but that’s a big improvement on before. He will also occasionally assert himself when we’re walking and stop for a sniff. All dogs stop for a sniff, don’t they? Well not Nacho. He stops for nothing! When we’re out he just wants to walk, and would never even stop for a pee when we were out up until about a week ago. Then he began stopping now and then for a brief sniff, which graduated into stopping for a sniff and a pee. Now he’ll actually divert off the path when he spots something interesting and give me a little tug to get me to let him pause. So this is a good thing I guess, displaying a bit more confidence.

He gets ultra-excited when he discovers it’s walk time too. There couldn’t be a happier dog when it’s time to go. He spins in circles on the spot and wags like mad. Oddly he obeys the sit command every single time without fail when I’m about to put his leash on…

I am weary. Work is stressful, I’ve been up really late a few nights getting things done, I’m still on my own in the house for another few days, everything is a bit much. All this coupled with a pair of dogs who aren’t getting on well is enough to fray anyone’s nerves.

Nacho is not a bad dog at all. He is extremely attentive, following me everywhere and coming for a tickle everywhere I sit down, any time I sit down. He’ll sit and let me scratch behind his ear or under his chin forever if I want. On the lead he’s great as long as we don’t meet too many other animals, and because he’s all go, he could be a great asset to somebody trying to lose a pound or two…

The problem is he’s not the only dog in the house. Jasper is a great little dog. Always happy, always playful, a real character. You know that thing they say about dogs and unconditional love? With Jasper I get that 100%. Nacho’s a different sort of an animal and it’s just difficult to see how the two of them can ever be really happy as a duo. Tolerating each other isn’t enough, and it’s not fair on Jasper. He doesn’t deserve to be told off just because he’s a happy dog who wants to play.

Ok, if we had another Jasper I reckon we’d come home to the house turned upside down every day, but you know what? I’d rather that and see that happy little face than listen to J&N bickering with each other and see Jasper flopping in the corner all miserable because he’s been told off again.

This is tougher than I’d hoped or expected, and it isn’t done in a month as I’d envisaged.

Help!

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From → Dog Psychology

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