Creating Bad HabitsPublished June 14, 2011
As a dog trainer, I strive to have a household free from canine turmoil. We’re still working on Millie’s jumping-up-on-people habit, but overall I think we’ve built a pretty peaceful world. When we’re sitting on the porch and Sumner lets out a throaty grumble at a neighbor’s car, a simple, “Thank you, that’s enough,” quiets him right down. When Millie gets bored and grabs a sock, she allows me to walk right up to her and take it from her mouth without protest. When I have to wipe eight muddy paws after a romp in the yard, both dogs listen to my request to “Wait, gotta wipe your pawsies” before they rush past me. It’s pleasant, stress-free living.
However, my husband Tom recently upended a major part of my diligent training. Until now, he’s always deferred to me when it came to the dogs, but he invoked Senior Dog Privilege the other night over our al fresco dinner. We were enjoying pizza on the porch, and Sumner had roused himself from his nearly constant naps to stand next to Tom. Sumner let out an operatic trill in the hopes of getting a piece of crust, and Tom paused and looked at him.
“Not bad. What else ya got?”
“What are you teaching him?” I sputtered, “He’s going to beg forever now!”
“Forever? He’s old. . .let him enjoy his golden years.”
Tom shifted his focus back to Sumner. “Are you gonna sing for me?”
Sumner howled again, but it wasn’t quite enough for Tom. He looked at me with an evil grin and said, “I’m going to wait until he gives me the loudest, most obnoxious howl before I give him this crust.”
I have to admit that I was impressed with Tom’s grasp of learning theory. . .he wanted to reward the best (or in this case, worst) example of the howling in order to reinforce it. Sumner stamped his feet a few times and then really let it out.
“Good boy, here you go!”
Tom handed over the crust. And a bad habit was born.
I have to admit that Sumner’s new and improved begging habit doesn’t really bother me that much. It’s funny to see our old man acting like a puppy. I know I’m not the only one who not only tolerates but actually encourages canine misbehavior. . .I have clients who have conversations with their barking dogs, and welcome bear hugs with paws on shoulders.
What naughty behaviors do you encourage?