We have a new puppy at our house named Red. My sons brought him home from the animal shelter a week and a half ago, and we’re still working on finding a suitable routine. It’s summertime for me, which meant, until Red came, that I could read poetry, practice yoga, and meditate, in addition to housework and cooking meals, but all that free time has evaporated in my efforts to train the pup.
The boys said he was six months old, but I’m not so sure. He chews on anything made of plastic, rubber, paper, or wood. One night he started chewing my toes under the blanket, not understanding the lumps were a part of me!
Freeboarder has started back to school already–they’re moving to a year-round school year where we live–so today I walked Red and Duffy for two miles after he left for school. Red rolled in the creek to cool off, so now we’re on the back porch with the ceiling fans blowing until he dries off. It’s cool out here now, perfect for my morning reading and writing practices.
I’ve been reading about dog behavior, a first for me. When I was a kid my dad paper trained our puppy, and scolded him for bad behavior with a rolled up newspaper he would slap on his hand behind our beagle’s back. But training techniques have changed in the last forty years. Dogs, like people, thrive from constant praise. When I taught school one of our adages was to “catch the children being good.” The same holds true for animals. There’s a lot to be said for B.F. Skinner and positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement requires lots of attention and patience. I have to look Red in the eye and praise him when he’s behaving the way I want him to, like when he chews on his toys and not on the furniture. All this attention has shortened the time I can spend meditating, so I’m trying to think about my moments with him as my practice.
I’m mindful of him, I praise him, and I give him affection. When he pees in the wrong spot, I clean it up and take him outside. Rather than getting angry, I practice patient acceptance. There’s a remedy to the situation–a gate, a crate, lots of trips to the backyard, and a few long walks a day.