Thursday, May 26, 2011

Time Out!

When Rhys was a puppy his favorite pasttime was to wait for my partner to walk across from the kitchen to the livingroom, and then leap after her, grabbing her ankles with his teeth.  Herding, in other words.  He was a champion herder--the tiny puppy would enthusiastically try over and over again to make my partner do exactly as he wanted.

What he got was yelled at.

We tried every known solution to the problem.  Treating the right behavior (which was NOT braking the skin on the ankle), severe "NO" to the bad behavior (which was sometimes difficult while looking at the gleeful puppy so proud of himself for living up to his genetic gifts, although not so difficult when blood was running down into the shoes), more exercise, redirected herding instinct, etc etc.

What was NOT supposed to work was time out.  Many training guides scoffed at this option, rolling their verbal eyes at the idea that what worked for children would work for dogs.  Dogs, they say, aren't people. 

Also, the advice goes, NEVER use the crate for punishment.  NEVER.  The dog will then FEAR the crate and all will be lost.

Well, after weeks of this my partner finally snapped and went into parent mode.  She firmly declared "TIME OUT!, picked up the puppy, and put him in his crate for two minutes.  For the next few days this response was repeated over and over again.  Within three or four days Rhys had figured out that if he picked up a toy and bumped the back of our ankles, we would tolerate the behavior.  So his need to herd was finding an outlet, and skin was remaining intact.

To this day we usually only have to threaten time out to get Rhys to stop barking, which he can do incessantly. 

Time out has NEVER worked with Betty the cattle dog.  She just stands there looking quizzical.

Lately, Gryffyn has started barking madly out the front window at everyone that goes by.  This, as one can imagine, gets very tedious (and we don't even live on a very busy street), so I started implementing time out.  I pick her up, gently put her in the bathroom with the light on (this is VERY important--NEVER put a dog in a dark room) and wait 30 seconds.  Within an afternoon threatening time out got her off the couch.

Corgis, it seems, HATE being taken away from the pack--if even for a couple of minutes.  We never put them in time out for more than 30 seconds after they stop barking.  We always make sure the area is well lit.  And we are ALWAYS gentle when putting them in time out.  We have found time out by far the most helpful technique for training the corgis out of unwanted behaviors.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Disclaimers, and other such stuff...

So first, a disclaimer, being as we live in a litigious society.  Neither my partner nor I are trainers and thus offer nothing by way of OFFICIAL information regarding corgis.  We are, instead, providing one household's perspective of dealing with this breed.

Oh, and one cattle dog's perspective (such as we can discern) on living with corgis.  Same for two cats.

And speaking of lawsuits, yesterday was our first day of using Gryffyn's muzzle.  We've been working with her on what we've determined is leash aggression coupled with herding instinct.  People or animals will appear on the walk, she will go berserk (leash aggression), which involves biting us to get us to let go of her (the herding), and we then attempt to isolate and calm her.  This only happens on the walk--everywhere else she is a sweet and gentle pup.

This is particularly worrisome as she is VERY cute, and so people want to pet her EVEN THOUGH she is writhing and snarling.  See picture:

A typical interaction will be: lovely young man walks up, Gryffyn leaps up, teeth baring, grabs the metal leash (she has bitten through two cloth ones), she flails her whole body around, we then isolate her while she flings her open mouth around trying to bite us to let her go--all the while the lovely young man watches and says "so can I pet her?"

Are you kidding me?

What we realized is that our fear of getting bit or her biting others has made us so tense at this point that we're feeding the situation.  So the muzzle.

I had a hard time with the muzzle--I worried it was a sign of failure or oppression.  But it's working out great.  We got the plastic one recommended by Best Friends trainers, put peanut butter at the end of it (which makes her VERY popular with the other two dogs) and off we went.  She still goes nuts with other dogs or people, but now we can proceed with the walk, normalizing the process, and not feeding the anxiety.

So I'm now a fan of the focused and productive use of a muzzle for training.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why a blog and, more importantly, why Cardigan Corgis?

Why write a blog about Cardigan Corgis?  Of course they're adorable--we have people stop their cars next to us and hold up traffic on a regular basis to exclaim how cute they are.  There also aren't that many of them where we are in Western Pennsylvania.  And when a new Cardi comes on the scene, there is always instant fellowship. 

But they are also the most exasperating breed to deal with on a daily basis.

The short answer is that NONE OF THE RULES WORK with Corgis.  We have a bag full of every training technique, harness, and leash every made (short of the shock collars or spike collars, which we will never use).  None of them work.  We now roll our eyes when offered advice on how to train.

For instance, at the puppy training we went to with Gryffyn, our one-year old female Cardi: our instructor tells the group how they would NEVER have any trouble walking their dogs if they used a Gentle Leader.  She walks five, seven, TEN dogs at a time and NONE of them pull!

We look at one another, roll our eyes, and whisper "unless you have cardigans."

So how do we know that we just aren't terrible with dogs?  Betty the Australian Cattle dog--our third dog is a dream on the walk--never pulls.  Very well-behaved--a total success story.

We have come up with some alternative ways of training our Cardigans that we think might be valuable to share with other Cardi owners.  They always involve positive reinforcement and compassionate treatment.  They may not be the standard way to do things--but we have found that they are The Corgi Way.