Saturday, January 14, 2012

Drawing the line ...

We hear it all the time:

"S/he crossed the line"
"I draw the line at giving friends money"
"I drew my line and dared them to cross it"
"It's time to draw the line"

It's a phrase used to take a stand, stake turf,  and it's always struck me as somewhat confrontational in nature.

That said it's important to draw your lines clearly when it comes to much of life, dogs included.

Positive is not permissive.
That means if you don't want your dog on the kitchen island -that's OK!
That means if your dog is losing it's furry,funny,much loved mind by having a butt tucking hairy fit over your couch and under the dining room table it's OK and even important to interrupt him or her.

It may mean you are driven to tears when you just can't think of a positive way to deal with a line your dog is crossing. I very clearly remember standing beside my car tearing up as I just couldn't get Rufus to willingly get in a car and so badly didn't want to force him. It was so frustrating I honestly did not know what to do. Standing in the park watching our Irish Setter dance just out of reach drove me to that point even longer ago. You know something? That's OK too. You are allowed to be frustrated. It's not OK to react to that frustration from a place of anger - but if you do - just like people who love you - it's pretty likely your dog will forgive you and trust you again. (Though what a pain regaining that trust can be).

Options for dealing with crossed lines around here include: slapping myself upside the head for not realizing there was a line; tethering pooch to me so the line won't be crossed; a short time out with young dogs (sometimes as simple as holding Sam's collar and sitting with him for a minute or two); redirection of energy -  playing either a dog or people game. In many ways I think the multi-dog house helps with this - when I'm fed up throwing a ball or two for the big dogs relieves that stress.

People ask me why I don't punish the dogs when they cross a line - sometimes they ask directly and sometimes they ask by their actions. (For example yelling No if Sam jumps up to check a counter). I really don't believe there is a point in punishing usually - all it does it suppress the habit when people are present.
Much better to not have anything of interest on the counter as my habit!  Or have something positive like a stay on a bed in place for when the counter is a mess. A crazy out of control young pooch is usually overtired or overwhelmed. Yelling and punishing aren't going to be constructive in that situation either. A down time is likely to get much better results. If the crazies happen predictably you can take preventative action.
Big T coming home makes every dog happy- CRAZY happy - leaping, barking, maniacal happy. It didn't take long at all to have Sampson hear Big T at the door and run for the back door -where I would toss a Kong out for him. Then I worked on Sally. She now flies to a bed and lies waiting. That means Big T can come in the door greet the small dogs, go get changed and then come down and love on Sam and Sally! Much easier for us all then having a screaming fit every time he comes home!

A routine that avoids issues is such a relief - figuring out that routine is an excellent use of time and energy. Picking your lines is FINE. Important even - remember positive is not permissive - but dealing with the line need not be punitive! 

As Elbert Hubbard so wisely stated “Punishment - The justice that the guilty deal out to those that are caught.”