Thursday, November 18, 2010

welcome to bootcamp

I snapped this not-so-nice photo of a stressed little boy-dog when things were at their worst for him a few days ago. I want to remember this moment.

He didn't come from a cruelty case. He's a locally rescued dog who's still unwinding from several weeks of Good Intention Overload.

Let me tellya! His original rescuer didn't know it at the time, but by taking a drivey little never-had-nothing orphan and then lavishing heaps of freebies on him - free affection, free praise, free treats and snuggle time in her bed - she created the most insufferable BRAT.

Terrifically-Spoiled dog had lots of love on tap but no rules and not a leader in sight. His baby brain couldn't handle the freedom, the excitement, the non-stop vending machine of Life's biggest party. So, like a triple-latte-tanked teenager with a paw full of mom's credit cards, he (understandably) made all kinds of bad decisions, which got him ejected from one foster situation to another to another...to another! All told, this dog was said to be in eight or nine different addresses in ten weeks time. Just imagine.

It seems his big eyes, tiny size and sad story inspired each new caretaker to repeat the same structureless spoiling, including pillow time in their bed at night .. "Pooooor weeedle misunderstood peeboo." ... Until he chased the cat or snarked at a dog or otherwise acted like a terrier gone awry. Then, good bye! Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. By the time we met him in Pit Ed class, his eyes were bugging out of his stressy head and he was homeless again. His final caretaker pleaded for help and then ducked beautifully while we cussed and grumbled. She even bought us lunch, and suckers that we are, we accepted both the dog and the bribe.

So here he is, in our program now, making us slightly nuts (well, much less nuts than HE was a few days ago).



We'll ride it out. There will be rules. There will be structure. You will not snark dogs, chase cats, bounce off my body or otherwise get what you think you deserve. We'll ignore you when you holler, beg, cajole, YODEL for attention, and if you persist - Yes, Little Stinker - we will zap you with the squirt bottle and walk away ... entirely unimpressed. Gasp.

We're cold as ice, baby.

You are no longer a six figure rock star bouncing from one terribly exciting situation to the next. You are just a cadet in our bootcamp. We don't care how cute you are - Your pleading eyes will not move us to feed your addiction to frenzy.

Life will be perfectly boring, and you'll be forced to rest, ponder, breathe - come back down to earth, already. When you get out for stretches and exercise, you'll have to work for everything. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. When you're ready to play with dogs again, you'll be grounded and sane - Not spastic and defensive (not surprising, spazz boy got into some scraps before he came to us). You'll look to your new leader(s) and we'll coo - very quietly so it doesn't excite you - "yes. good boy." But only when you do the good stuff.

And when we get to the other side of this, you will be truly adorable, and the world will wonder how such a fabulous dog ever ended up homeless.

Sigh. We'll fool everyone - I promise.

Wish us luck. Here's some good Nothing In Life is Free information in case your dog has had access to too many credit cards in your home. And our own personal 'bible' for teaching rules to a new dog.

UPDATE: 'Tater' survived bootcamp and gained some important manners while with our team. He flew off into the sunset to become the household pet of a working dog handler in VA. We're thrilled that he found such a loving home with someone who understands the little squirt. Yo TATER TOT! Below, at home with Ellen and Eric. 



44 comments:

avabee said...

Great post! I have a question about how you implement it with snarky dogs. Say you're out for a walk with your boot camp dog and he starts snarking at another dog. How would this be handled using NILIF? Thanks for your advice. Karen

Donna said...

Hi Karen. He won't be put in a position to snark at dogs until it's very clear that he knows what the rules are and who his boss is. He's not leash reactive, btw, but we're told he did some snarking during dog-play ... Which only means someone let him get too excited with the wrong dogs and before he was ready to handle that kind of excitement. If he were leash reactive, we'd start working on the 'leave it' command and as well as 'look at me' distraction work in preparation for group classes.

avabee said...

Thank you so much, Donna! I have a dog-reactive rescued female pit who needs her own boot camp when it comes to the snark. I appreciate your comments. :) Karen

LilliGirl said...

Awesome! Love it!

Anonymous said...

I loved this blog!!! What a great, well written tale of a spoiled little one... it kept me laughing the entire time! I know you will do good by him, he is in the right hands now.

Laura said...

I would love to know your secrets for the "bounce off the body" move. That is my girl's biggest problem. UGH!

PS Thank you guys so much for all the work you do for this breed! I'm working hard to get my little ambassador ready for her Good Citizen Test.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Loved the link on NILIF. I have 3 boxers and need to gain back more control! We will start using this right away.

Heidi said...

Hilarious-and a lovely reminder to ALWAYS practice NILIF with my kids..even the diva. Thanks for this, Donna

The Foster Lady said...

You go girl! And I find myself wondering, WHY, oh WHY, don't people get this????? Sigh.

Dina

Donna said...

Dina ... Methinks it's the

"poooor weeeeedle misunderstood peeboo"

syndrome.

Who knows how to milk that better than a pit bull. ;-)

JAG said...

No kidding! Thanks for the timely reminder. Pit Bull owners seem to need it more than anybody. Combo of smart dogs, ridiculously cute "sad face", and poooor widdle peeboo syndrome = a desperate need for NILIF!

Laura P. said...

FUNNY stuff! I'm sending this on to my daughter, who attempted to sabotage my efforts with my adolescent pibble pound pup. Oh, yeah, could he ever work his "guy liner" and poor, pittie-ful, sad eyes on her! "awwwww mommy, don't make him stay in his crate when you're gone; he was at the shelter for two months, and he looks sooooo sad in there". Masterful manipulator, my Kreacher.

It wasn't until he tore up her favorite shoes that she finally conceded that mom might be right. I was as sympathetic about her stupid shoes as I am when Kreacher tries his sad face on me to entice me to share my dinner. Tough love in parenting and pibble-rearing. Just call me a big ol' meanie ;-)

Anonymous said...

Our pooooor weeeeeedle misunderstood peeboo growled at my husband on her first day because he had the audacity to enter our home. The kindest thing we ever did was practice NILIF with firm consistency and give gentle praise for a job well done. Today I have an amazing dog and a breed ambassador.

anissa said...

OMG this was one of the funniest things I've read in a long time!!! And our 4th rescue is JUST this!!! Thanks for the reminder to give tuff luv! LOL

Anonymous said...

This is an incredibly well written, real life tale of a spoiled fur child in need of a steady, confident & active forever person.
Too right on the 'poor lil' thing' issue I see it far too often.
These dogs are so smart, too smart and imho that is how they do it...they study us and see where their limit is and see if we will tolerate the brat...best of luck to you and I keep on saying it but I do wish I could have a dog. just not in my living situation right now but someday soon.
I look forward to more from this one!

who wouda thunk it?? said...

Would love to see more pics of brat-boy, he looks cute as can be, and those pleading eyes are a hoot!!

Levi Mac said...

What a great post! My mommy is tough on me and keeps me in line no matter the sad faces I try...well...sometimes it works :)
Levi

Thanks for all the info! It's good to know sometimes that my training is not being "mean".
Levi's mom

Jonzie said...

Excellent blog and post! It keeps coming up on my recommended items in google reader. I guess I'll have to subscribe...

Kelli said...

This is great - I love all the Bad Rap Blogs!

I'm wondering what you think regarding "Reversing Attention on Demand" in the NILIF method.... My Lucy doesn't demand attention, but she does demand to give affection with kisses. She will do a very thorough cleaning job on your face (or in my boyfriend's case, since he is going bald and shaves the rest of his hair - she cleans his whole head). She also demands to cuddle. I certainly love her kisses and cuddles, but is that the same as demanding attention? She will try to insist on sitting between my boyfriend and I but if we actually want to sit next to each other on occasion we do make her sit elsewhere. It may take a few tries to get her to do it, but she will always do it (and pout about it!)

PiscesGlassWorks said...

Humans need to remember that dogs are not little people in hair covered suits..even though Pitties may come as close to that as I've ever seen. lol.
I have three..and NILIF has HAD to be part of my life with them. We had an issue with our prima donna pup and toys and not so great behavior w/the others..but he's learned the rules now and I've had no further trouble with toys/snarking. And they get their treats for a job well done. That's really it..they need to know that they have to work for it. LOL..works for human pups too.

I've had the problem of "bounce off the people" too, and have found that the best method of out training this behavior is to turn away, or twist away or walk into the dog..when they find consistantly that they miss the mark..or that people aren't giving them something to bounce off of they tire of the behavior. Although, lol..they ARE tenacious about it. Like fine wine..it takes time.

Shannon Miller said...

I LOVE IT!! I own a Doggie Day Care and you would not believe the parents that bring their dogs to me because they are frustrated and ready to give their dogs up for all these reasons. When the parents are on the same page as I am, it is AMAZING what wonderful dogs they turn out to be.

Dianne said...

Great post for anyone doing rescue of any species. I do breed rescue for Bengal and Abysinnian cats. I am always appalled when cats come in with the admonition "must be an only cat." Who Says?!! We had a pittie grl who'd been at the League too long, everyone loved her, and the trainers wrote notes to the volunteers - make her sit and wait to go outside. Work on her manners. She went home last weekend! Yay for small victories!

J.M. said...

Now all he needs is a little tin cup to bang against the bars.
I`d also like to see some more pictures of this fella.He strikes me as the type that would gladly stand on his head(a la Newman) to get attention.That really is cute though.

Donna said...

LOL J.M.

I hesitate to post more photos or Joy Boy will get a reputation, "Oh there's that really rotten dog that's been driving BR crazy."

He's cute as a button and, you called it, once he learns how gravity works, he'll be one of those pleaser dogs.

Jenn Viola said...

OMG! I wish I read this article two weeks ago. I took in a Foster and did everything the article said. Although, I have been training him, he is a nutball, and I did not know what to do with him. I did find him a new home, because he wanted to eat my cats and my dog was having issues. I will definitely pass this info on to his new owner, and hope that he takes it all in to account.

Thank you for posting this!

Lynn (in Louisiana) said...

It's been awhile since I've said it........ thank you Donna, for everything (your work, your writing, your willingness to share what you know and your sense of humor!!)

Beth C said...

Donna - you are a remarkable writer. Over the years I can remember things that would make great [adult] stories, great children's stories (i believe someone else also commented a few days back on this as well), and some of the most centered, calm, and reasonable responders to hateful and incendiary pitbull comments. Amazing - you could take up writing books in your "free" time. Wonder if we have any publishers in the fan base that could take your writing, turn it into published stories, and sell these to further support the organizaiton.

Donna said...

Lynn and Beth
I so appreciate having such a kind audience to my ramblings. Blogs are another word for therapy, right? ... Journaling, and all. My fantasy is to lock myself in the barn and write it all down so we don't forget how much the dogs have changed us. Thank you for the encouragement - really.

J.M. said...

I`d buy your book Donna.
It would be fascinating to read any behind the scenes stuff that you could share.
Would love to know how it all began.
What were you drinking at the time?

Donna said...

ahhh J.M. ... the very best gossip comes along with copious amounts of tequila. ;-)

EmilyS said...

@kelli: you wrote: "My Lucy doesn't demand attention, but she does demand to give affection with kisses"

Really it's the same thing.. she IS demanding attention.

The essence of NILIF (as in all training, really) is that whatever the dog wants is what YOU control and the dog learns that she is not in charge.. So if Lucy wants to give you kisses, you should require that she do something for you first (could be sit/ stay/down.. whatever. ) It almost doesn't matter what you ask her to do. Another useful component is to teach her a word for the behavior, and put her behavior on cue ("give kiss"). Then you can only allow her to do the behavior when you give her the cue.

Donna said...

To piggyback on Emily's comment Kelly - Pit bulls are well known for being pushy with their affection. Everyone has a different tolerance for that (I'm not a big fan of frantic kissing from dogs to be perfectly honest!). You and your boyfriend should have a discussion to decide if you're okay with it or if you'd like a little less pushiness from her in this area and if so, you can create some rules around it. Your company may find it kind of icky, which would be a good reason to work on this. Expect that your dog will try even harder to get your affection for awhile if you decide to change your ritual around this, since essentially you've set this behavior into motion by allowing and encouraging it.

Sometimes frantic kissers are showing little bit of insecurity (Do you still like me? huh? huh? Do you still like me?) and if that's the case with your girl, acting like a leader by setting up some rules can actually help her feel more confident since teaching her how to work for the reward of affection will give her a way to prove to you how absolutely wonderful she is. Don't feel bad! These dogs love to work. Asking them to follow rules is very satisfying to this working breed. Giving freebies is like giving someone a college degree without asking them to go through the work of college - it means less. So asking your girl to work in exchange for your attention will cement your relationship even more.

Dianne said...

I didn't realize it til I read this but I do teach "give kiss."

LOL about the book, the whole time I was reading Lost Dogs I was wondering who the heck they could get to play Donna when they make it into a movie.

Donna said...

LOL Dianne. Even more important .. who would play the guy I sleep with? :-)

Cattledog Mom said...

Thank you for this reminder. I have a grower and I'm not sure how to fix this behavior. She growls at people, other dogs but it seems to be more an insecurity thing. I'll have to go back and do NILIF with her. It's a weird behavior, never had it with any other dog!

kirstan Sanders said...

I've done it with Audry. She's tiny, cute, oh so darling... I can hardly stand it. Everyone, all my training buddies included, think nothing of it when she jumps up for love or when she stuffs her head in their pockets looking for treats, or when she spins and bounces into heel position - it's not really heel position understanding, just an affinity for jumping into 'close to heel' position. She's getting it now b/c I'm training - wait for it - calmness. Calmness with a big yoga breath in between letters of that word. Incidentally, my trainer told me Audry, my little jumping gem, is, um, rude(!?). What? B/c we're working on competition obed work right now, it became much more apparent. sigh. Poor Audry. No more begging, no more jumping on Coal. She has a call to front and then must heel before entering the arena and all done calmly with no bounces or head butting my hand. sigh.

I find it odd that everyone thinks it's Coal who is so 'hyper'... as they say. He's also higher drive but always with a ball in his mouth and very careful and thoughtful as to where his body is in relation to me. His tail wags all the time (like hers) but his feet stay on the ground though his tail feels like a lead pipe and leaves bruises. I don't feel the tail but others comment on it - even the decoys in schutzhund work. Funny how perceptions are so different due to sizes in dogs. Audry is 40#. Coal is 89#. She's cute when she jumps. He doesn't jump. Wonder why I'm having to train calmness with Auds now. eye roll.

Sherri said...

It just so happens that it's Night One with our first foster, a 5-month-old deaf pittie with a face that melts me. He was perfectly happy with his crate, having been walked, fed and watered and having done his yard business, until I walked away...we're in the second hour of howling-barking-crying and it's only having gone through this with one of my other dogs that I know he will survive the night and be the better dog for it.

...re-inserts earplugs

M. A. Mott said...

Ahhh, Donna, to be there for some tequila shots and juicy doggie gossip! As far as the movie is concerned, There's a reason there exist credits for So-and-so, "as themselves"! Who'd wanna watch this movie without the real Donna & Tim?

sumei said...

Is there another link for the NILIF info? It's not working for me. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Donna,

If I sent a card to Tim and you to the BADRAP address, will you get it? Is that the best address to send you mail? I just wanted to send a thank you card and let you know how much you both have impacted me.

Thanks,
Stephanie Kaufman from Austin, TX

Donna said...

Stephanie - Your comment alone makes my day. Thank you. Yes -- we pick up from our P.O. Box throughout the month during our regular errands.

Lauren Vivolo said...

Hi Donna ! I have a leash reactive male pitbull. He walks great on a leash but as soon as he sees another dog all he wants to do is get to that dog. I don't know what to do to help this ! I'm set up for a training camp next week but wanted to see if you had any other advice on this. Thank you so much!
Lauren

laura said...

Hi Donna,
We've got a foster puppy 13/14 weeks that needs some "bootcamp"
and this article will help tremendously.

He's a cute little booger, and all boy. But he's picked up some bad habits (bouncing off us, the kitchen counter etc) and it's going to get him hurt or even possibly returned if and when he gets adopted, so "bootcamp" starts now. Wish us luck :)

Anonymous said...

So, this actually seems to be true for any terrier - I have a snarky little, not always well-behaved rescued 'b'rat terrier, that could use boot camp. She rules my rescued pit bull mix! Unfortunately, I am the one guilty of over-indulging her cute little self. So, I need to be the one to change the rules... or rather, enforce the rules.