Maple the dog came to live with me five years ago when he already had two years on his birthday tally and some bad habits. To say that this Shiba Inu/Eskimo Husky cross is high maintenance is correct, or an understatement, depending on who you’re asking and what day of the week it is.
Now that the weather is nicer and our home’s windows are open, Maple can hardly handle himself. He’s anxious due to all of the “new” sounds that are spilling into the house – the squeal of a city bus’s breaks, children’s laughter, and the barking of other dogs keeps him on edge and quite vocal. His high-pitched, shrill bark comes out of nowhere and makes me jump every time.
I learned from that famous guy, The Dog Whisperer, that positive reinforcement is much more effective in dog training than simply yelling at the dog. While we tell Maple “no” when he’s getting out of control, I have also trained him to come to me when he’s called. This involved a pocket full of treats and lots of patience. He’s getting better, but he can still be a little sinker – he definitely has a mind of his own.
Maple gets plenty of attention throughout the day, but he gets extra attention when it’s time for bed. We rub his belly and itch his head until his eyes get very heavy. Maple has to sleep in his kennel overnight. We have tried to let him sleep outside of his kennel, but he has a sixth sense that alerts him when his humans fall asleep. After that moment, he will most certainly hop up on the bed.
My husband had reoccurring dreams that he lost his legs. Every time he would wake up and Maple would be sleeping on his legs, so they had fallen asleep. That was the end of Maple’s nighttime freedom.
So after Maple’s puppy massage we tell him that it’s time to go to his kennel. Usually he doesn’t mind – in fact, we’ll find him sleeping in his little house with the door open during the day. But at bedtime he got used to being spoiled and started to get cranky when it was time to stop his endless flow of attention. He became more and more stubborn and irritable. He pretended he did not hear the direction to retire to his kennel and I’m pretty sure I caught him rolling his eyes at me on at least one occasion.
We tried everything to get him to move and he would just get more and more agitated about it as the nights went on. As his human parents, we got more and more frustrated about this nightly ritual.
That’s when I remember what The Dog Whisperer teaches – that whole positive reinforcement thing. So I tried it.
One night when it was time for Maple to go to bed I encouraged him, “C’mon Maple, be a good boy. Bedtime!”
I’m not kidding you – the words “good boy” affect him like no others. Now he hops into his kennel – sometimes with a defeated huff – but he doesn’t fight it.
I thought it was a bit crazy, so I tried once again to get him in the kennel without the “good boy” words. It did not work. As soon as I said he was a good boy he went into his kennel.
The whole situation was kind of creepy to me – but also hilarious. I think he understands much more than I ever gave him credit for.