As I mentioned in my last post, Henry is officially a dog in training. His in-home trainer from Bark Busters is named 'Nikki' and she is the kindest, gentlest dog lover around. But she doesn't put up with crap, does she, Henry?
So our first appointment on Tuesday lasted for 2.5 hours, which is the longest session he will need. Every other 'follow up' session is only about an hour and we can have as many follow ups as needed. You see, this training program is valid for a dog's lifetime so if in 2 more years Henry starts acting like Kujo, we simply call Nikki and schedule a follow up appointment. Pretty sweet, huh? And no, it's not cheap. I won't even go into it on this blog but after a lot of soul-searching Nate and I decided this would be a great investment for Henry's future. After all, can you put a price on a happy, well-adjusted, and well-trained dog? We don't think so.
Back to the actual appointment: it began with a lot of questions from Nikki about Henry's behavior. One that sticks out to me is this: "Does he ever get destructive or tear things up?" To which we both replied, 'No, not since his puppy days and sometimes he'll shred a toy or two. But nothing bad.'
Right then and there the heavens laughed at us. You shall see why in a minute.
After the Q and A we had a little informational lecture about the goals of Bark Busters. The big take home points? Dogs look to humans as a part of their pack and someone always has to be a leader. They do not think like humans and their lives are much simpler than ours. They need shelter: which BB recommends to be a small confined 'safe' place during the day when you are away, so that they can remain calm and protected. They need food: that should be mostly protein and not so much corn and wheat. They need entertainment: which should be focused on mental stimulation, especially when owners are gone for long periods of time because mental stim always wins over physical exercise. She had some really cool puzzle Kong-like toys that I think we will purchase next time because our little guy is way too slick for a plain old Kong stuffed with frozen goodies.
We practiced lots of exercises and have a homework log to do each night for 15-20 minutes. Things like waiting for us to walk through doors, walking right beside us on a leash instead of in front or to the side, sitting/staying, and of course preventing any barking or negative behavior. The big thing here is to break their focus when you see them start to go into that behavior. Then when they DON'T do something wrong you verbally praise the hell out of them. So lots of positive reinforcement that doesn't have anything to do with shoving tons of treats down their throat. I really like the concept a lot and you can apply it to every situation---barking, jumping up, pulling, pretending to be the leader, etc.
So that is the basic groundwork. After our session we went and bought Henry a doggy bed and then spent the evening getting him very pumped up about it through verbal praise and a few treats. That night he slept on his bed instead of ours for the first time since he was a puppy and although he jumped up a few times, we quickly corrected him and he got the idea. When we woke up the next day he was snuggled up on his bed like a good boy. Score one for the trainer!
But then, we had to join the real world and leave Henry for a solid 9 hours the next day. We decided to keep him in our little hallway in between all of our rooms with the doors shut, allowing him his bed, food, water, and the frozen Kong. Well needless to say Henry did NOT appreciate being away from beds, couches, and most of all windows to watch the neighbor dogs all day long. He had a freak out. A mental break down. And then we came home to this:
Three of the five doors in this area were torn to shreds. There was actual sawdust in a pile you guys. At first I checked his paws to make sure he wasn't bleeding to death and when I saw he wasn't I was so ticked off I could barely contain myself. So much for not having the destructive flaw in him, huh?
The scene of the crime, doesn't he look so proud of himself?
This is what he thought of the whole thing:
So I dug out our old wire crate praying that it still fit him okay. And now the doggy bed goes inside the crate and this is Henry's new safe home. At night we have him lay in the crate by our bed with the door open. And during the day he is in the crate with the bed and a Kong with the door shut. He did very well today and I think he actually likes his own little space. You know, less pressure to be super dog and bark all day long or shred the hell out of wooden doors.
So lesson learned with that one. Crates aren't just for potty training and they shouldn't be seen as a punishment. I had to get over those mental obstacles and now we are moving right along towards the path of a well-trained puppy.
During our daily 'homework' walks he has been working hard like a good dog and the barking has seriously almost stopped all together with our guidance and strict verbal communication with him. I was so proud of the little bugger tonight after a walk I almost cried. He let two strange humans and one strange dog come up to him, sniff him, and even take a freaking picture. No growls, no pulling away, and no barking. He's like a new dog, I swear.
It's hard work, don't get me wrong, because the most important key is consistency. We aren't used to watching Hank's every move since we've always trusted him not to have an accident or tear stuff to shreds. But now it's all about watching his behavior before it turns sour which totally flipped our world upside down. I miss having the little bugger in bed with me and I sort of miss him jumping up on me and showering me with kisses after a long day of work. But now I just request his attention on my own terms instead of letting him rule us instead.
It's working, you guys. And we are all pooped from the training. But it's worth it:)