or Enter the Dog Whisperer
6am in the San Antonio airport I saw an amazing TV show called The Dog Whisperer. The Dog Whisperer uncovers behavioral problems that a dog and its master exhibit. Then he teaches the master how to behave in order to achieve a certain behavior from the dog.
In this episode, the dog was unruly, and basically ran the household. The owner treated the dog like a baby and invested a great deal of her self esteem in him. The Dog Whisper saw the imbalance. He noted that the dog literally lead the woman around when she took him for a walk and in the house he got attention anytime he barked.
The Whisperer's solution; keep a short leash, keep him to the side and one step behind and insist on obedience. Become the Alpha dog. He said this would allow the dog to just be a dog instead of trying to be the alpha human. I watched the show as an unruly and unhappy dog transformed into an obedient and playful creature.
In the grocery store I noticed that Colter walked in front of me and that I was constantly adjusting his gate and direction…from behind. I tried the whisperer's walking instructions, and it worked flawlessly. But that was just walking in the grocery store, could we have success with chores at home?
I've found that demanding obedience, works surprisingly well. I still pick my battles, but now I pick many more. When yelling and name calling start I immediately(and metaphorically) tug on his leash gently, "we don't yell in this house" I say. If that doesn't work, I send him to his room or I go to mine.
I had tried this for years, but my self esteem was too tied-up with the outcome. Now that I see it as training him in appropriate behavior, I can step back and not become emotionally drawn into his conflict. I am training him, not pleading, not punishing, not yelling or being yelled at. We do it on my terms or I separate him or myself. It takes two to fight, and although I haven't mastered it yet, I am training myself not to be one of them.
Side note: Just now, in the middle of writing this post, I laid down the law about practicing piano and it worked. I explained the consequences and set the timer for five minutes to give Colter time to see things my way. In less that three minutes he started practicing.