18 Weeks 1 Day- Frustration

Nov 12, 2004 | Stitch's Story

What goes up, must come down.

We start breakfast with a very nice 8-second Eye Contact X5. Then the Paw Target X10. Then the leather dumbbell. She starts right where we left off. She holds it for 10 seconds. I can take my hand off it, put my hand back on it, we both hold it. Excellent.

I hand it to her, take my hand off it, move my hand out of sight, back, and hold it with her again. Excellent. She’s about 70% on this. 30% of the time she drops it before I get back to it. Excellent.

When we hit 80%, I decide not to pick it up when she drops it. She’s really into this. She drops it, I sit and stare at it. She waits for me to pick it up, then grabs it. Drops it. Grabs it. Drops it. Grabs it. When she’s holding it, 10% of the time I can actually move my hand slowly back to it and take it from her. Ee hah.

So we do this for a while, and then she tells me that working with a 10% success rate is not her idea of how to have breakfast. “Out of the blue”, “suddenly”, she quits. She goes to her paw target and whacks it five or six times. No response. She lies down. No response. She offers me Princess Paw. No response. She gives an absolutely FABulous 46-second Stare (I counted). No response. She walks to the door and looks back at me. No response. I offer her the dumbbell and she stares at the door.

I can hear a phantom instructor yelling “Don’t let her get away with that, she’s blowing you off!” Fortunately the noise is drowned out by how clearly Stitch is saying that she tried and tried and what she was trying didn’t work, she’s frustrated and she doesn’t know what to do about it. I wait for several minutes while she stares at the door. Then I flick the dumbbell and she glances at it, so I start back at the very beginning. Click for a glance. Click for a glance. Click for a look. Click for a step toward it. Click for walking to it. Click for lowering her head. X20 and she’s back in the game, but I keep the game simple, just clicking for picking it up.

We finish up with Sit, Down, Sore Paw and Princess Paw. Easy stuff to help her confidence. She’s happy, I’m happy.

I don’t get to train her the next meal. Two loud, jerky, squealing, energetic, normal kids – one 4, one 6 – land in our living room.

The kids start out excited and a bit scared. The puppy starts out excited and a bit scared. She pretends she’s sitting and looking at me but she’s really just sticking with me because the kids are so far from her idea of normal. She’s not hiding behind me, but she’s careful to keep me beside her so she can escape if she needs to.

I put Stitch’s entire meal in a bucket where the kids can reach it. They’re not familiar with dogs and can’t bring themselves to feed Scuba, let alone the pup, but that also means the closest they’re going to come to touching her is to jab at the air a foot over her head. I feed her a few kibbles for looking at the kids, or for looking at me, or for sitting, or anything else she does that’s anywhere close to reasonable. Then, because the kids won’t hand her any food, I start dropping the food on the floor, one piece at a time. The kids pick up on this and start doing it too. The kids are tossing it near me, and I’m judiciously tossing it closer and closer to the kids. Stitch is snatching the food off the floor. She dives into a Down with her face on top of each kibble, then looks for the next piece. If it takes too long getting there, she retreats to a safer place closer to me. The kids squeal each time she approaches them.

Soon Stitch is slowing down her snatching and leaping, and the kids’ squealing is getting quieter. As they all become more comfortable with the idea of each other, I start hand-feeding her kibble, which turns her face away from the kids, and they get brave enough to start petting her.

When the meal is done, Stitch is standing normally between me and the kids, wagging her tail and plucking any stray kibbles off the rug, and the kids are talking quietly, petting her calmly, and letting her sniff their hands. Excellent session!