Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Boomer Behaviour

While I was in Rome, Boomer went to the kennel. I was a little concerned as he would be there for 10 nights and I wasn't sure what he would be like once I got him back home. Much to my own joy, he seemed fine. He still knew his commands and still remembered me and the apartment. When I got home from Rome, the heat hadn't been turned on yet (as described in my previous post) and so Boomer was sleeping in my bed. Needless to say, even though Boomer seemed fine I did not enforce our routine right away. Not such a good idea. If you are a dog owner I'm sure you understand the importance of consistency, 100% of the time. Slacking off after my trip probably wasn't such a good idea.

The week after Boomer started being more aggressive at the dog park. He's always been very playful but now he was barking at other dogs and even got in a bit of a fight with one. Boomer was becoming very obnoxious very quickly. Yesterday, I was leaving for groceries and I tied Boomer up as I always do. Normally he will just sit down and kind of look at me as I leave. This time however he went completely BERZERK. He started barking at me as I was putting my shoes on and didn't stop even by the time I'd gotten to my car. I came home and he was obnoxious all evening. By that point I was sick of it and began plotting how I could sedate him without feeling guilty (NO, I would never do that, I was just VERY frustrated!!). Instead of continuing with my cruel thoughts I remembered I had bought two books on dog behaviour. One was a bit passive and the other was Cesar Milan.

When I first got Cesar's book I found it a bit aggressive and not gentle and caring enough. Then I spent time with Boomer. Boomer is very hyperactive. Sort of like an ADHD kid. Disciplining Boomer with a gentle "No Boomer" wasn't going to work. So I started reading. The conclusions I had made are as follows.

1. Boomer must be calm before ANYTHING happens.

This means Boomer was sit still before being fed, before getting affection, before I open the door, before I put his leash on, before I give him a treat... EVERYTHING. This requires a lot of patience but we are getting there! He is a pro at sitting before we cross the street, I only have to say it once!

2. Erica comes before Boomer... or as Cesar says... Erica is the Pack Leader

This means I go in the house and exit the house before Boomer, Boomer walks at my side. Boomer sniffs when I give his leash slack. Boomer is on my schedule and vice-versa.

3. Be consistent.

This means creating rules (eg: not allowed to sleep in my bed) and sticking with them 100%. This was very tough this morning when Boomer woke up at 6:30 and wanted into my bed and proceeded to whine right next to my face. No cool, Boomer. I did not give in! Eventually he went back to bed. Yay, that's a win for the Pack Leader! Consistency also lies in when we walk and when Boomer gets fed. (I made a schedule!)

4. Remind guests to ignore him.

If Boomer is hyper when guests arrive and then he gets attention immediatly then he perceives this as a reward for his behaviour. Not so! Ignore Boomer at first and then once he is calm, proceed to smother him with hugs.

5. WALK before PARK. PARK does not equal WALK.

This was a big one for me as I was taking Boomer to the park everyday as a means of exercise. This is not true, the dog park is a form of socializing. Boomer would go bonkers as we'd be driving to the park and then he'd get all pent up and go nuts once we got there. It is a common misconception that excitement means happiness when in fact excitement often means frustration. Boomer was entering the park very frustrated and so he was very irritable... hence the fight. As such, Cesar recommends that you walk your dog before you go to the park and then once they have had some exercise, take them to the park. This is going to be a tough one to get over as Boomer is very excitable and nervous. For now, we are avoiding the park as Boomer learns to calm down and gets used to his new lifestyle.

I've heard many people that disagree with Cesar's methods but I feel that they are suitable for Boomer as he is so high-strung and needs a stricter environment if he is going to stay with me.

We'll see how it goes!!

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