Doggie DI Boot Camp–Day One

Well, I survived the first day of boot camp. I had hoped to be able to see the doggie delinquents on Monday but they arrived to their camp quarters later than expected so I gave them time to acclimate and headed out in the am.

Have you ever seen dogs so crazy that they flip in the air, jump and crash on top of each other? You get the idea.

It took me about 40 minutes just to get them settled and out onto the hiking trail. The day’s lessons included “off” meaning no jumping on the trainer, over and onto the crates, the gates, each other, and the fencing.

Also, “crate,” “leave it,” “let’s go,” “gentle,” and other commands I am probably forgetting in my exhausted stupor–we are working about four hours a day currently.

The problem is that the dogs don’t know how to think. They trigger off of any kind of stimulus and cannot focus. Reminds me of ADD (attention defecit disorder)…

I also began to implement training to a clicker and whistle. I like to use operant conditioning when I can but they just don’t get that. I did see a glimmer of recognition from the one dog as related to the whistle. She may get it soon with any luck.

Most people know operant conditioning with dogs as clicker training. The whistle and clicker are “markers” and work as an IOU for a treat. This is a great tool for caputuring the exact behavior you are looking for and for communicating the right behavior the dog performs to the dog at the exact moment it occurs.

One of the dogs does not accept treats under any kind of stress or stimulation so the clicker will be useful. They owner tried to click train the dogs for four weeks without success–which is another reason they are here–they are not learning very quickly.

Once an animal learns how to learn–stay with me–the process becomes easier. However, I am not sure how long it will take this duo. I think we had the “crate” behavior down pretty well by the time we finished last night but I’ll know more today!

The difficulty in this pair, beyond the attention and stimuli issues, is that they are sisters. Sibling animals tend to bond more with each other versus the human family. This is certainly the case. Also, the two were brought up without any kind of training or behavior control–except for a paint stick…sad but true. They were owned by an elderly person whose only defense was to whack them with the stick.

The duo was recently inherited by a family who want to integrate them into the home. The dogs currently have destroyed the entire back yard and are not allowed in the house because of the destructive and hyperactive issues. Outdoor isolation contributes to the stress and bad behavior–outdoor animals exhibt about 60% more behavior problems when isolated outside away from the family.

Yesterday, I also found that one of the females also exhibits food guarding behavior. So, the introduction of a variety of chew items may be problematic. I’ll have to test this in controlled circumstances.

You are probably wondering what type of dogs–yellow labradors. Big dogs and working breeds need mental focus and lots of exercise. My camp person told me that I’ll be very buff and fit by the time we are done.

Good, two for one. Like that idea–but I soaked last night and my uniform (tan pants) and shirt were heavily soiled and had to go into the wash.

I am heading out for day two in the trenches. We might be able to go offsite if their behavior is not so extreme today.

Let me know if you have any questions.

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