>> Saturday, September 15, 2012 – Scarlet
I am surprised by the way we're "parenting" her. My parents weren't adverse to smacking their dogs (although it rarely happened) and I thought I'd do likewise with Scarlet, but when I look at her, I can't imagine intentionally hurting her. I've realised that most of the time she does something bad, it's generally because we haven't taught her how we want to behave, or she's just acting out her normal puppy desires. Maybe I'd feel differently if she were intentionally misbehaving, but I'm loath to hit her because of miscommunication, or immaturity.
So I've been reading a lot of books about "positive reinforcement". The premise seems sound: use food to lure her into the desired position, reward her when she does something good and ignore it when she does something bad. I've combined this with clicker training (the sound of the click is used to mark the precise moment Scarlet did the desired action, and she has also been conditioned to associate that noise with a reward) and it is really helping her get it. I've also read that dogs are a lot better at understanding physical cues than verbal ones, so I've been focusing on using hand signals as much as possible.
When I have her attention, I can get her to Sit, Come, and Look. We're also working on Lie Down, but I think her legs are a bit gawky to master this at the moment. The main thing that we're having difficulty with is crate training her. She's happy to go in and out of her den when the door is open, but as soon as we lock the door she cries and cries. I'm not sure what to do; some people say to let the dog cry and eventually she'll settle down, others say you should take care that the dog doesn't have any negative feeling associated with the crate. We'll get there eventually, I'm sure.
But while she is a lot of work, she is very worth it. I love how when I come home from work, she gets so excited that she breaks out in a full body wag, and her little body oscillates with anticipation of smothering me in puppy kisses. We go for walks together, and when we get home, she likes nothing more to fall asleep between us on the couch, safe in the middle of her pack. Yes, she's made our lives busier, but I wouldn't give her back for anything in the world.