Random Things Sawyere Has Taught Me

Anytime a dog has an issue involving possession of something, acquire two of that thing, and when the dog wants to argue over possession of the one thing, don’t argue, but simply offer the other thing.  This was pretty obvious when it involved a tennis ball.  But for days I puzzled over what to do when Sawyere played tug of war with his leash while we were walking with it, until one morning I woke up and thought, “Of course!  Just buy another of the same leash, and have him wear both, and when he fights with one, drop your end and just hold the other, and keep switching, if need be!”  And that has worked very well.  After a while, you can see him thinking, “Why am I doing this?”, and each time the tug of war shortens in duration and intensity, until, by now, he seems to be doing it almost in a funny way,  just to remind me that he can, that he’s big bad Sawyere.  😉

If a dog is very stressed (in a cage in a kennel, for instance) and would benefit from more rest time, try valerian.  For calming with no drowsiness, buy something called Lactium, a milk protein powder.  The best buy for it is through Swanson vitamins, in a product called Women’s Anti-Stress Formula (I’ll check this name and put in a link here, tomorrow).  This fantastic tip is from Suzanne Clothier, who’s ‘consulting’ now on Sawyere.  Here’s another tip from me:  take a capsule yourself, when you put the one in your rehab dog’s food!

Maintain a constantly cheerful voice, and laugh sincerely as often as you can.  This had a huge effect on Sawyere, and all my dogs are feeling the effect of the jolly new me.  Actually, I feel it myself.  I remember reading in the Little House on the Prairie series that Laura noticed, after having been away from home, how saying, “Good morning!”, really made the morning good, and it’s been an eye-opener to me to see how often telling Sawyere how good he is has made him get good, fast. 

Cue everything.  Give every behavior and object, and even concept, a name.  One of the best things I did was to teach Sawyere, early on, the concept, “gentle”.  He was snatching treats like a piranha, and I thought those big teeth in that huge head would make a better impression if they moved slower, so I taught him to take treats gently, giving it that name.  Now I can use the word for other things, to ask him to approach something more slowly, or to play with Burberry more carefully.  That reminds me–

Teach your dog to sit not because you’re ‘supposed to’, but so that he/she will always have a way to ask you for something.  This is something I think is obvious to trainers, and yet no one had ever explained it to me like that.  “Sit” is very easy to teach, but it has far-reaching possibilities.  It opens all kinds of doors for your dog if she/he understands that it can be used to ask.  When Sawyere starts to pull me to a fire hydrant or whatever, I say to him, “Please ask nicely”, or, “How do we ask nicely?”, and then he sits (although by now he just does it automatically, most times), and then I take him there.  Because he was still pulling me to the fire hydrant, I remind him, “Gentle”, and we go more slowly to the thing.

Whisper to your dog whenever it seems appropriate, especially during times of quiet love and petting.  That reminds me–

Soothing, New Age-type music works wonders, and can actually put your dog right to sleep.  I have some CDs with Beta waves mixed with water sounds and gentle music, and all my dogs love them.  I’ve been playing them in my car every time I drive Sawyere anywhere.  Recently, as he’s become much more calm, I’ve occasionally switched over to different kinds of music, and I swear I can tell a difference in him–he loses a little calm.  So if there is a tension-producing thing in the picture, I switch back to the calming CD.  White noise works pretty well, too, if you can’t find a way to play a CD where your dog is.  Baroque or Classical period classical music is good, too–Romantic period, less so.

You can’t rehab a dog on any schedule but the dog’s, at least at first.  I believe it’s a waste of time and energy to try to say, “On Tuesday at 3:00 we will work on relaxation”.  There’s no such thing as ‘quality time’.  You have to spend a lot of time with the dog, just waiting for those moments when it’s the right time to work on such and such.  You also need to watch like a hawk to see what it is that led to those moments, so the next time you can duplicate them, eventually (I imagine) allowing you to work to someone else’s schedule.

Get rid of preconceived ideas about the dog.  Just see the dog in front of you.  Everything you need to know will be right there.  This is a Suzanne Clothier idea, too, but I don’t mind writing it in my own words, because I’ve been doing it for years–just didn’t realize it was the ‘real way’ you were supposed to do it.

If you’re working with an ‘aggressive’ dog, immediately begin reading, “Fight!”, by Jean Donaldson.  I couldn’t wait for it to come in the mail, so I downloaded a free Kindle app to my computer and read it that way, thereby advancing my technical knowledge by about 400%.  I may never be a computer geek, but I do love my Kindle app… 😉

Always wear very comfortable clothes with tons of pockets.  Plan where to put your treats so that you can access them in a second, without letting go of your leash.  Also plan ahead your cooking, baking, and shopping for wonderful treats.  Cut cheddar cheese into tiny squares and freeze it, so you can separate the squares (at least for awhile).  Cook chicken breasts ahead of time.  Plan, plan, plan those treats.  You need different level treats for different learning opportunities.

Wear your most dependable, comfortable shoes with superb traction.  Also waterproof them, so you can go through anything.  You will probably have to.

Start immediately to show your dog that you will be there to protect him or her from everything scary or otherwise tension-producing.  Anticipate what might happen to alarm your dog and forestall it, if possible.  If not, deal with it proactively, calmly and confidently.  You will find that faking this immediately turns into the real thing. 

This is all I can think of for now.  I’m sure there will be many more things, but it’s time to go and curl up next to my big bad marshmallow of a bedfellow.

Sawyere, Sawyere, you are very good.  And Burberry, you are very good.  And all you others, you are very good.  Things are very good here, all told.

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