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.


  1. You know what? I think I'm going to try time out for Bagel Dog (my Yorkie). With the front door open with the warmer weather she's been going insane with the barking. It is worth a shot because nothing else works.

  2. Let me know how it goes. For some dogs it does nothing (aka Betty).