Wednesday, 26 March 2014

House Training

Polly's pretty well mannered at home these days, consistent positive training has really paid dividends.  For example, if the doorbell rings, rather than try to beat me  in a race to the front door, Poll heads for the footstool in front of the lounge window to see who's at the door, while I go into the hall to answer the door.

Understandably, she still becomes quite excited when we have visitors, but most know to ignore her for a few moments until she calms.  I taught her not to jump up at people as a small puppy by saying a firm 'off', then turning my back every time she tried to jump, so fortunately it didn't take her long to get that message and these days she rarely tries to jump at anyone and is happy to greet our visitors by running around the lounge with an excited waggy tail for a few seconds!

One of our regular visitors is my Great niece Ella, who is only sixteen months old.  She was quite a challenge for Polly the first time I babysat for her mum ... small squeaky humans and their clutter take up a lot of Polly dog space and Polly had to learn she was no longer able to have the run of the lounge.  

A couple of days beforehand, I spent a little time clicker training with Polly to encourage her to stay off a large picnic blanket which I put on the floor with some cuddly toys (not Polly's).  When Ella arrived to play, complete with her own box of toys, Polly settled outside the blanket after a couple of reminders, allowing Ella to play safely on the blanket while she watched.  It was a big ask as Polly loves soft toys!  Once or twice she tried to steal a forbidden teddy, but when I told her 'leave it' and substituted her teddy for Ella's, she just 'humphed' in her best disgruntled manner, but did as asked. 

Fortunately for me, Ella lives with a large labrador called Marley and regularly stays with Bugsy the German Shepherd who lives with her Granny and Grandad, so I know she is very confident with large dogs and that made her visit much easier than it might otherwise have been.

Polly and Ella settled quickly settled together while I kept watch and with only a few reminders not to lick the baby, or take her toys, Polly proved herself to be capable of behaving gently, accepting the temporary shift in territory with remarkably good grace.

To help prevent inappropriate chewing indoors, I provided a big basket of indoor dog toys placed where Polly could easily help herself.  I am happy to say we haven't had any chewed furniture etc since Polly was very young. Whenever there's a spare moment in my day, I grab something from the basket and invite her for a quick 'playtime' together in the lounge, which she loves!  I've taught her to 'drop' so we can play tug and fetch easily and I'm hoping to teach her to put her toys back in the basket when we've finished playing, because our living room rug is usually hickledy pickledy with teddies, balls, chew toys and the like!

One of the other important things I wanted to achieve with Polly inside the house, was to teach her to ignore us if we were eating casually on lap trays in the lounge.  First, I insisted no one should feed her treats whilst they sat at the dining table (have to train the family first!) then I progressed to instructing her to lay down at my feet each time I balanced a tray on my lap, telling her she was a good girl and 'clever' when she did so.  Over time I noticed she was ignoring my family's trays as well as my own, so then I allowed her to settle on the rug if she chose to, rather than quite so close to me ... and now whenever she sees us carrying trays through to our armchairs, she settles politely on the rug to watch the soaps while we eat.

So indoor training is going pretty well, but after the wet miserable winter we've had, during which to be absolutely honest, I didn't want to be in the squelchy cold garden a second longer than I had to, there is still much training to be done ... turn my back for a moment and holes appear, plants are uprooted and shrubs are 'pruned'!  My mischievous girl is quite the landscape gardener when left to her own devices!

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