Sunday, June 17, 2007

7 days later, Lily's Hardest Day Yet
Today we took my nervous hound Lily along with Dizzy Rascal to our local country park which was hosting the Race For Life event in which approx 2,500 women were running.
Of course, as we approached the edges of the park, we made sure that Lily slowly crept up on the crowded areas and we stopped at each point for a little rest until she had acclimatised. I was like a proud Mum, she was fantastic on the lead. Her face looked wary but she was looking at everything and taking it in. As the morning progressed, it got more and more busy but as the majority of people attending this event were women, then I think Lily had less reason to be nervous. I never once had to grab her by a very short lead. I did take the precaution of muzzling her because anything could have spooked her in a crowd and she might have snapped. Also, I know that her wearing the muzzle is more of a message to onlookers to be careful with this dog which is no bad thing.

What a gorgeous little star she was! We took her to the pub with us and she was calm but wary. Her confidence is growing, we are definitely progressing by going out as a pack, and the 2 of us and Dizzy acting as if there is nothing to fear so that she gets the message.

Now, I read an interesting thing in the RRG's for Dummies and it suggests using a safe word for loud noises and crashes. If something ends up being a bit noisy and it startles the hound, she will look at me for reassurance and I can either pretend I haven't noticed or I can make it known I have heard and that it doesn't bother me. So, when I opened my new tape measure and it made a ratchet-like noise, I said "Oh what a racket Lily isn't it" in a happy voice. This had the effect of her creeping further and further to the source of the noise and investigating rather than cowering or bolting. I used the safe words "What a racket" for most noises, and she seems to take this in. Her little brain is thinking "Mum told me that this loud noise is OK, even though I never heard it before". however, there was a lady in the pub car park talking to her friends, obviously having a good old bitch about someone and as it sounded venomous, no amount of encouragement would make Lily come forward to jump out the car. I did want to go over and complain about the disturbance of the peace, but thought never mind, Lils has to get used to this sort of thing. So I just kept saying "What a racket" until we were out of earshot. Lily had her hardest day yet, and was so tired and snoozy she slept through me massaging her pads and grooming her paws and claws. Bless her!

Dizzy Rascal gets more well...... rascally!

This boy has caught on to the fact that if he squeaks as if someone is murdering him, a person will stop from either embarrassment or real concern that they are injuring him. So, at the moment he is using it to delay going out for a late night bit of business in the garden, or sometimes he is just using it on our friends and continuing to cry like a baby until the cuddle him. However, I am fully aware that what is happening is firstly he is getting the better of us at home by not budging when we ask and secondly getting huge rewards for behaving like that from people who don't speak 'dog'. If I try to put a lead on him and drag him and he is having none of it, he makes a terrible gurgling coughing noise as if I am choking him. I thought I was! So I gently slipped a hand inside a very loose collar in the house and left it there, not even touching his throat or pulling and he started making fake choking noises. He has even done this before anyone has touched him! Whereas Lily's new confidence is progress, with this hound it is regress, to a puppy baby! An expert in handling greyhounds from the kennels where we got him said some greyhounds are like that,big babbies and they yelp and squeak before you have even touched them. It must be learned behaviour from a puppy which worked on humans and was rewarded.

It is very hard to train him out of habits already learned and prevention would have been key but he is 3 yrs old now and has been doing this for a while. Greyhounds do not respond as well to correction as other breeds would. They are sensitive so raising a voice makes them freeze, even a stern low voice can upset them. They also turn into statues if you try to push or pull them to encourage them and this is one of the reasons it is difficult to get them to do basic
obedience exercises. Everything becomes lure based but I feel like it is a bribe.

All I can do for the moment is completely ignore his yelps, but not touch him and when he does respond give him lots and lots of praise. I am not looking forward to obedience classes in that respect because last time we had a collie who was easy to push into a 'sit' or a 'down' and other positions and greyhounds just freeze under pressure. They can't really sit either, they just don't do that and they are stiff and awkward when plonking themselves into a down position. I do hope that the training instructor we get can understand a greyhound's special needs without thinking we are making excuses. Iam certainly not going to let a class instructor ruin the progress I h
ave made with Lily by making her do things she really is not comfortable with such as pushing her around rather than encourage her.

These gorgeous dogs just want to please, they do want to know what is expected of them, of course they can give you a bit of cheek but on the whole, they do love getting praise. My little Lily yelps with delight when she has done a poo or a wee and hops around whilst she is doing it because I am saying "Good girl" in a squeaky voice to her and she is so proud! Sometimes she will come back into the house to get me to follow her, just so I can see her doing the wee and praise her for doing it outside on command.

No comments: