Monday, June 28, 2010

Experimenting

Alfie's always been the type to experiment.  I'm not talking chemistry sets or anything; it's just that from time to time he'll try some new mischief on for size and see where it gets him.  As a friend said about kids, "They're just runnin' it up the flagpole and seein' if anyone salutes."  Alfie reminds me of my days teaching elementary and junior high school.  He's like that smart kid who can get all his work done in 5 minutes, then spend the rest of the time engineering a spitwad factory or something.

Alfie in his work jacket, sitting politely in front of a bush of yellow flowers
Just testing the system!

Our latest test has had to do with his jacket.  Although Alfie loves the walks that go with the jacket, he's never been a big fan of the uniform itself.  Just lately, though, he's been utterly refusing to come get it put on before walks.  If I set it in the car to be put on at the training location, he won't get in.  Let me hasten to add, he's not AFRAID of it (I've seen puppies who are, but believe me, he's not).  His goal is to get me to chase him around with it while he dashes about laughing...well, dogs don't laugh but if he could this would be the time...thus accomplishing his twin dreams of being the center of attention and being in charge.  Not quite what I have in mind though!

Michelle and I talked recently about the situation and we implemented a few changes to the routine which have helped somewhat, such as feeding him in the jacket and taking it with us all the time when we go outside, not just before walks (keeping him guessing!) More obedience sessions and the maturing process in general have resulted in very nice home behavior overall.  But he hasn't totally given up on his anti-jacket schemes. 

So Friday, after coming in from doing his business he noticed me getting everything out for a walk...my ID badge, some dog treats, keys, etc.  Before I could even reach for the jacket he'd dashed off, tail high, with this look of "Catch me if you can!"  I wasn't even chasing him but he was clearly taunting, dodging this way and that.  I just kept getting ready, since previously ignoring these antics has brought him around.  Not this time.  I told him to get in the bus and he trotted cheerfully to the garage...only to veer off at the last minute, the rascal!  But in the garage he was easy to catch, and I just walked up calmly without a word, grabbed his collar, marched him to his crate and locked him in.  A few moments later I was driving off...yes, WITHOUT him...to the accompaniment of outraged barking.

He did not bargain on getting LEFT!

While Alfie's perfectly fine about being left home alone in his crate when there's no expectation of a walk, he KNOWS the difference between that and what had just happened.  Normally he gets left with a kong or something to chew, and maybe I'll leave the radio on.  He never gets worked up about it.  But when I get his gear ready, he's amped up and ready to go!  My hope was that since I know he wants to work and actually it's the highlight of his whole day, perhaps leaving him behind would get through to him.  As usual, this great idea came not from me but Michelle...ah, the joy of having tech support for puppies!!

The results surprised me!  I had to drop Katharine off at church, just a 5-minute drive from home, so I was back in about 10 minutes.  I decided to give him another chance.  Without any fanfare I walked up to his crate and was met with the most submissive-looking face I believe I've seen Alfie wear.  All I had to do was open the door and say the word...he was so relieved to come.  Wagging and subdued, he seemed to realize he was going to have to play by my rules if he wanted to come along at all.  A few moments later he was calmly seated in the car, leash and jacket in place.  Ah...that's better!   
Alfie, jacketed, walking briskly down a sidewalk in the late afternoon sun; the light turns his fur all reddish gold
Didn't see that coming!

After putting me through all that, it's only fair to add that Alfie went on to do one of his best walks ever for me!  He truly enjoys his work and it's so fun to watch him thinking through little obstacles and "problems".  Admittedly, I've got perfectionist leanings and a strong tendency to "tell" him what to do so he "gets it right." Lately, though,  I've been trying to dial that back (again, thanks to Michelle!) and let him figure things out on his own -- making his own decisions and learning from them.  If he messes up, no big deal, we just go back and rework it.  He doesn't mess up the same thing twice in a row, I've noticed that! 

5 comments:

Katrin said...

If he were mine i would have done the exact same thing! Just said, "Fine then you want to be a dork, you can stay home!" and left without him. I've found the same results you have had with the adolescents and sometimes even with adult dogs who are trying to play that game. You only have to do it once or twice and they realize you've got their number LOL. So glad it worked out! Isn't adolescence terrific? :-)

Erin and GuidePupPompei said...

LOL I tell you those "Try Me" voices sometimes over rule all sense! LOL!!

Lisa, Ellie and Hosta said...

Alfie is such a smart puppy and so lucky to have you as his puppy raiser! That's one of the best parts of puppy raising - is you have an expert to call on when you have a question. Glad you have Michelle!

Mimi and CC Cabana said...

That was a great story, with a happy ending!! Spitwad factory--that's hilarious!

It IS hard to be smarter than the dog, isn't it? (I always had trouble with that part.) Sounds like you are definitely succeeding!

Rudy - The dog with a blog said...

So funny!
I'm in love with that last picture!