staring at me intensely, as I eat an ice cream bar
"I can keep this up as long as I have to..."
Following my hand as it moves the ice cream around
Patience pays off
|When you get into dog training and trying to make your home a
pleasant, organized place where the routines are clear to everyone involved it takes
time. It takes constant repetition over days, weeks, and months, but finally one day
you realize that the goal has been accomplished and everything you wanted to accomplish
seems to be coming into place.
The dogs have been very patient with us. Slowly,
slowly, slowly they have started to mold us into the kinds of parents they want to have
and now I realize that we have achieved that place where we do exactly what they want us
to do, with minimal explanation necessary on their part.
It's a give and take process. They are willing to make small concessions when
they know the end result is just exactly what they intended it to be.
The most successful trick that we do is to follow the two bite rule. Now, the
dogs would be happier if it were a four or a six bite rule, but they have agreed to the
two bite rule.
The two bite rule means that whatever I'm eating (Walt is less maleable than I am and
he will probably take more training), each of the three dogs gets two bites.
I usually have toast for breakfast and I sit in the recliner to eat it. Each of
the three stands in front of me staring at me, their eyes never leaving my face.
Sheila often drools. I share my crusts with them and as soon as they have had
their second crust, they leave, because they know there are no more coming.
At dinner they don't beg, they just sit there and stare at me until I cut up part of my
dinner and give each two bites. After two bites, Sheila walks away because she will
not get any more.
We don't often have dessert, but when we do it's usually an ice cream bar or a small
dish of ice cream. The two bite rule doesn't work here. This is Polly's
special rule. She sits in the dog bed opposite my chair and as soon as she figures
I've had enough, she jumps on the chair, and sits there staring at me. When the cone
or the bar gets near the end, I let her finish them off (if it's a dish of ice cream, I
let her lick the bowl).
On Sunday mornings, Walt makes himself sausage, to go with his eggs and hash browns,
and he used to make a sausage for me and bring it to me in my office. I think Polly
was the first one who realized there was good stuff being shared between Walt and me
and she wasn't getting any of it. Shortly after she figured it out, Sheila did too
and for months now, whenever Walt is in the kitchen cooking, Sheila leaves her bed and
comes to the family room to lie across the door to my office. Polly is in the recliner,
ears perked, watching his every move and as soon as he leaves the kitchen, she leaps off
the chair and sits under my feet under my desk and Sheila stands by my chair.
Recently Lizzie, who didn't figure this out for quite a long time, has joined the
Sunday sausage club, so now Walt has to make two sausages for me or I won't get
any at all.
They all know that they only get one bite of sausage and as soon as they've had that,
they turn around and leave my office.
At night, when it's time to bring them in and close the door, Polly will go outside,
sit on the patio, look at the back fence, which separates us from the yard of our
neighbors, who have a big dog, and she'll just bark...just a little. Bark-bark ...
[space of silence] ... bark-bark ... As soon as I get up and turn on the patio
light, she and Lizzie come running in, I close the door, turn off the light and they go
into the living room to go to sleep.
They let me stay up as late as I want, but they don't like it. Around 11, Sheila
gets up from her bed in the living room and comes in to check on me. If I show no
signs of being ready to go to sleep, she lies across my office door and every 20 minutes
or so she'll get up and look at me until I feel so guilty that I finally get up and go to
the living room, whether I'm sleepy or not.
Sheila has stepped up her training lately and some nights she paces back and forth
until I finally give up and go to the couch.
I have to at least try to sleep for about an hour before they will ignore me
if I get up and go back to the family room again.
Walt and I aren't perfect, but we are coming along nicely and I think the dogs are
starting to feel that all of their work is finally paying off.