QB: PART TWO
QB’s visit to the doggie shrink, Dr. Amy Marder, along with a student vet from Northwestern University, went well (www.petbehaviorproblems.com). Dr. Marder detailed a program for QB that included simple training exercises as well as doggie day care three times a week, play time, wearing a head harness on walks, and future visits from a private trainer at my home.
Perhaps the most striking changes stem from the exercise, “Nothing in Life is Free,” which is simple but extremely effective. QB must sit for everything: sit for his food, sit to get his leash put on, sit to go through a door, sit for the elevator. Furthermore, he must sit outside whenever I stop. Each time he sits, I give him a treat. Recently, I’ve been giving him treats at select times, and leaving them out at others. Here’s the disciplinary key: When QB sees something he gets “crazy” over, I turn in the opposite direction, and ask him to sit, praise and reward him.
Simple? Yes. But this amazing exercise works wonders. QB is now able to ignore bicycles, joggers, slow and fast-moving cars, pedestrians, people entering and exiting cars and buildings, and yes–today he even turned his back on a squirrel, unheard of two weeks ago. He rarely goes “crazy” anymore. The next thing I need to work on is establishing the command “stay,” then teaching him to come when called. (Right now the little guy ignores me when I call him, unless he feels like obeying.)
Most important, he needs to learn how to say “hello.” I don’t mean he needs to speak the word, but simply to greet friends and strangers politely instead of reverting to “crazy” behavior, including barking and jumping. He needs to sit and stay seated, and wait to be petted. This will be my biggest challenge.
While working with this program, I encountered a new problem: QB wouldn’t go to sleep at night. Instead, he barked over and over, keeping me awake; in fact, he would begin his tirade as soon as my head hit the pillow. Dr. Marder, whom I call every Monday evening, suggested that I give him 25 mgs Benadryl at night to sedate him. I have no qualms about this; for years I took Benadryl for sleep, and Tiger took Benadryl as well, for allergies. So I felt safe administering it to QB. The trick worked and he now sleeps through the night.
QB’s behavior on buses is exemplary. As soon as we board the bus he lies down, generally in the center of the aisle, but he graciously defers to my pushing him off to the side so people can walk past. And indoors QB behaves excellently, never chewing anything contraband or “stealing” off the table. He knows what’s a toy and what isn’t.
I feel that I’m going through a journey with QB, a journey of love and learning. I feel like I’m preparing him for the world, and although this training is overdue, he is still at a perfect age to learn new habits. He is eager to please me and obeys most of the time, waiting for praise and perhaps a treat and a petting. I am getting more out of the relationship, so much that I am sometimes moved to tears when we are out on walks when I see him putting forth such an effort to be “good” instead of seeking out ways to be “bad” as he was before. QB is my best friend, my true companion, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.