Puppy Purgatory

12 Jan 2012dogs

Speedy Dog goes where she likes!
Well, maybe not any more, little girl...

Yesterday evening, we had a meeting with Martine, the dog behaviourist who’s helping us with Winnie. Winnie has come a long way from the terribly frightened little dog that we picked up from the animal shelter four months ago. She’s no longer terrified of everything in sight, she runs around with her tail up, likes to play with other dogs, likes to sniff in the bushes, likes to run crazily through the fallen leaves in the forest. She’s still jumpy and easily gets scared of people in the street or sudden noises, but she’s come a long way.

Unfortunately, we might have taken the gently-gently treatment we were pursuing to help her stop being so fearful a little bit too far. She doesn’t come when called, unless it suits her, and we had been escalating the treats we offered her to a slightly ridiculous degree. Time for a slightly stricter regime, to let her understand her position in the household. In the long run, it will be better for all of us: no more frustrating walks in the park where she won’t come back, no more worries as she wanders off for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, well out of sight, and safer walks near the road. She has no idea at all that cars and roads and human things in general can be dangerous, and will try to bolt into the road if she sees something really scarey, a bin bag, for instance...

So, we went to a nearby park with a dog area and let her run around with Jedi, Martine’s “regulator” dog-in-training, who is a beautiful Staffie cross. Martine’s diagnosis? Laughing, “She doesn’t give a toss, does she? She just doesn’t care! She’s a confident little dog. She thinks she’s the boss!” We tried walking around the park and hiding behind trees to see if Winnie would notice the absence of her human protectors and come looking for us. Eventually, eventually... Once she had exhausted the sniffing possibilities and was wondering why it was so quiet, she came looking. But not enough.

The prescription is Puppy Purgatory for 10 days or so. No talking to her, no cuddles, no games. Commands, OK. Praise if she comes when called, OK. Day-to-day chat, incessant “Good girl!”, belly rubs, tug games, no. Not for a week and a half. It’s hard. Harder for us than for her, I think. She just doesn’t quite know what’s going on, but we have to ignore her soulful eyes and wagging tail.

But hard as it may be, it seems to be paying off a little already. We’ve only had one day of this regime, and Winnie is already showing more interest in us, at home at least. I did a little bit of clicker training with her in the flat after dinner, and she was doing sit-stay-come pretty nicely: quite a bit better than usual. We’re going to go for a walk in the garrigue near Martine’s house next weekend, and we’ll see how much better Winnie is in terms of recall and staying near us then.

In the meantime though, Puppy Purgatory for all three of us...