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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Not just for puppies...

The 13th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is being hosted this month by Brooke on her blog Ruled by Paws. The topic she chose is "Lessons."

Here is my post...

Positive training techniques. Reward the behavior you want. Ignore the behavior you don't want. Manage the behavior for which you don't have time to train.

These are things I've learned in raising five puppies for Leader Dogs for the Blind.

Sounds simple, and it is, for the most part. At least with Future Leader Dog (FLD) Dutch, the golden-retriever puppy I've been raising for the last year. He's due to return to Leader Dogs on November 11 to begin his formal guide dog training.

Training a husband is another matter.

For the six-hundredth and twenty-ninth time, or so it seemed, I picked up tiny wet bits of torn tissue from between Dutch's front paws. He looked up at me with forlorn eyes. Busted!

Lucky for him, he doesn't play keep away with what he steals from our bedroom trashcan. He just takes it into the living room, a four-legged fuzzy shredding machine.

I've puppy-proofed kitchen and bathroom trashcans by hiding them in cabinets beneath the sinks. The can in my writing room stands almost three feet tall, preventing the curious pup from sticking his snout inside.

But the bedroom trashcan? Ah, that's been a struggle to manage. No cabinet to hide it in. When I put it on my husband's dresser out of reach, it invariably finds its way back to the floor.

And I'm picking up tissue bits.

I suppose I should have bought a tall can, like the one in my office, but I never remembered to get one when I went to town.

So I tried blocking the bedroom door with a section of x-pen. Instead of stepping over it, my husband slid it out of the way. And neglected to slide it back on his way out.

And I picked up tissue bits.

I pleaded. "Please, can you keep the bedroom door blocked off?"

"Why don't we just shut the door?" he negotiated. "Great, that'll work!" I said.

And still I picked up tissue bits.

I nagged. "Shut the door behind you!!!"

Yep, more tissue bits.

As I tossed a treat to Dutch, who was lying on his mat chewing on an elk antler, it dawned on me. I was going about this the wrong way. I needed to find a way to reward my husband for shutting the door.

"Honey," I said one day when I noticed him shutting the door on his way out of the bedroom. "Come here." I planted a gigantic kiss on his handsome face.

"What was that for?" he asked.

"I'll give you a kiss every time you remember to shut the bedroom door."

Sometimes Dutch offers behaviors that have previously garnered him a treat. If I sit, will I get a treat? How about if I lie down? What about if I swing into heel position at your side, will that get me a treat? What about this? Or this?

My husband ran over to the bedroom door and quickly opened and shut it three times. He sauntered back to me with a wily grin. Yep, he got three kisses!

My strategy worked great, until my husband returned from a three-day out of town conference. He was like a nine-month old puppy that suddenly forgot everything he learned.

When I reminded him to shut the door, he replied, "Can we talk about higher value treats?"

A bearded man dressed in blue jeans and a red t-shirt is sitting on a green love seat. A 65 pound black lab is on his lap. His left hand is petting a brown brindle mutt who is sprawled out next to him. At his feet is a 65 pound golden retriever. A pair of shoes is on the green colored rug in front of him.
My sweet-heart and our pups. Cc'd Gus is on his lap and our old mutt, Gypsy is next to him. FLD Dutch is at his feet. No tissue bits to be found!