ALFIE!: Part 3
Two weeks ago I did an update on Loretta in Loretta Update: Loretta Has a Foster Home; continuing in that vein, I’m going to spend the next two updates talking about dogs and do an ALFIE! update; mainly while I try to find a paper worth doing a research review on. If you’re gonna get twisted that I’m not talking about magic fat loss, do us both a favor, come back next week. Of course, there will be plenty of pictures and even a couple of videos. Because, let’s face it, that’s what this is about: pictures of my awesome dog. A lot of them are from the old apartment, but some are from the new house as well.
We left off in ALFIE!: Part 2 back in December about a week after I had gotten ALFIE to his new home. It was in my third floor apartment and I saw him settling down pretty much day by day. Sure, every once in a while he’d get nuts and start tear-assing around the house or whatever. But for the most part, the longer he spent out of the shelter, the better his behavior became.
Some of it was simply time getting to be a dog and away from an environment he really disliked; but some of it was because, as we went I was continuing to train him with the skills that I had picked up at the Austin Humane Shelter. Skills that I will am furthering right now as I’m currently involved in the full on blue dog training program.
On that note, I want to mention that one of the Orange volunteers (Whitney, who has been at the shelter for 7 years and literally knows EVERYTHING) took the time to email me about the class. I had gotten preoccupied with X-mas and moving into the new house and had missed sign-up and she offered me the chance to work in a small group with higher level volunteers to get the training rather than having to wait for the class to come around again.
This truly honored me and I told her that I would make the classes fit into my schedule no matter what it took. I’ll even skip workouts if I need to to make the classes. I’m bringing this up as this is effort above and beyond the call of duty; but that’s the kind of people you find yourself surrounded with at volunteer organizations. Which is why you should go look into it if you haven’t already. In any case, let’s talk about ALFIE!
Although he can be a destructive little beast (it’s actually a habit that is apparently endemic to his breed), chewing just about anything I mistakenly leave on the floor to bits (which is my fault more than his; I’ve learned not to leave stuff on the floor or it becomes his chew toy), arguably Alfie’s worst bad behavior when I got him home was a tendency to hump.
While he never did it in bed past the first night, he would do it at other times, always when he needed to poop real bad. Everyone I’ve mentioned that to found it very odd. But he’s a high-energy dog and just didn’t know any other way to get my attention I guess.
This is actually one problem with the Austin Humane Society situation; because of our setup the dogs potty on the walker’s schedule and never get taught how to tell us when they need to go. They hold it or mess their cages until we get to them; never the other way around. Apparently humping was the only way ALFIE! knew to get my attention but it wasn’t something I found appropriate or wanted to continue to have him do.
Unfortunately, taking him to potty when he humped only reinforced the behavior since it taught him that humping gets him what he wants (relief). This meant breaking him of the habit first. But since there was nothing for me to positively reinforce (usually you just wait the dogs out but he wouldn’t stop) I had to resort to negative reinforcement/punishment and establishing dominance/leadership over him.
More specifically, it required about two applications of a smack on the head and ‘NO!’ when he humped to get it done. Then once he’d settled I’d take him to potty. Lesson taught: hump and you get punished, settle down and you get relief. And despite what a bunch of idiots tried to lecture me on about this approach to training, it worked just fine.
Because this silly dog training meme about never using punishment is just so much PC bullshit so far as I’m concerned. Make no mistake, I use punishment very rarely; a miniscule amount of ALFIE’s total training is based on punishment and only when he’s doing something that isn’t going to stop and I can’t wait out.
So when he starts tear assing around the house or tearing stuff up, I can’t just sit him out until he does something good for me to positively reinforce; that’s when he gets punished. And when he settles, he gets treated and positively reinforced for doing a good thing.
Basically, I use the Austin Humane Society model of ignoring bad behavior and positively reinforcing good behavior the grand majority of the time. I want him to do good because he gets rewarded, not avoid doing bad because he fears me. But sometimes punishment is the only workable approach.
In my opinion anybody who thinks punishment should NEVER be used is simply an idiot who probably can’t figure out why their children are out of control either. I’m not saying it should be the primary method of training for most house-dogs; thinking it should never be used is simply moronic.
In any case, ALFIE! no longer humps but rather starts to get mouthy with me or chew on stuff when he has to poop; it’s just generalized inappropriate behavior because he doesn’t know any other way to get me to pay attention…yet. It’s better but still not what I want. But training is all about progress, shaping their behavior to where you want it.
Now that I’m in my new house, I’m going to teach him to ring a bell by the back door to let me know when he wants to go out and then that problem will be solved. I taught him ‘touch’ as a starting point for this and have since moved to having him touch before we go out; then I’ll get a bell to hang on the back door and move to him touching that until he figures that ringing the bell means he gets to go out. I also taught him the best trick ever. Watch the embedded video to see both touch and, well…you’ll see.
When he gets excited, he’ll do a double brofist but I can’t bring it out consistently yet. He’s also got this exuberant touch where he jumps and touches at the same time; I’ll get it in video at some point. And don’t be too impressed, he knew sit, down and shake when I got him (I just changed shake into brofist). I taught him touch but I’m teaching him other things too as I learn new games in the Blue Class. Soon he’ll do better power cleans than any of Mike Boyle or Dos’s athletes; not that that’s saying very much.
The Daily Grind
Beyond that, we’ve settled into a pretty good routine. I get him out to potty about three times per day and try to play fetch with him (I’m teaching him to bring the ball although ‘drop’ hasn’t taken yet) as often as I can since he needs the outlet. As I noted above, his training is ongoing and I’ve already gotten him to learn an attention game I was taught last week in Blue Dog Class. He’s insanely treat/food motivated and getting him to practice isn’t tough at all.
He’s on a feeding schedule that originally had him down about a pound but he went back up over the holidays. My fault entirely, I tend to use my feeding opportunities (e.g. when I eat) as an additional chance to train/treat him but I didn’t scale back his normal food to compensate. That’s been fixed and he’s on an eat less/exercise more approach. I should write a book or something.
In terms of the house ALFIE! has quickly made the bed his. When we sleep, pretty much he gets 90% of it and I get the tiny sliver that fits my body. Good thing I’m small. He’s finally getting over some of his separation anxiety (he usually has to be near me at all times) and will sleep on the bed by himself. Here’s him on the bed by himself since I can’t take pictures of us both there. It’s pretty clear who this bed belongs to. And it’s not the guy taking the pictures.
Mind you, he doesn’t just sleep on the bed. Sometimes what a dog really needs is his time in the sun. And here it is. As well, he’s always up for a little bit of a cuddle.
Of course, he doesn’t just sleep, eat and poop even if that’s most of his daily existence (it’s most of my daily existence too). ALFIE! loves to play; that’s one reason (along with some idiots living below me) that I rented a big house with a big back yard. And since I was gradually moving over to the new house, we got a chance to play with some toys when we were over there.
He’s also become quite the fan of the camera. Here’s ALFIE! saying ‘Hai’ in a couple of different situations. The first was on a potty walk and the second was him in the big room of the new house.
Since I don’t like to leave him at home all the time, I’ve also been taking him out in the car with me. I just tie his leash to the headrest and he’s fine. And please spare me the lectures in the comments about using a dog harness; I checked with the high-level trainers at the Austin Humane Shelter and the folks at Petsmart and they said what I’m doing is just fine.
He generally either sits in the front seat and surfs, climbs in back and lays down or, admittedly dangerously, will put his paws on the console and his back feet on the back seat. He often learns some rather valuable lessons about inertia this way.
If I can, I take him in wherever I’m going. If not, he just waits in the car, quite expectantly as you can see.
And that’s where I’ll leave off for today, continuing on Friday with more videos and pictures (including some from Christmas). See you then.
Read ALFIE! Part 4