I had a few friends over to my house not long ago. Drinks were passed around, we sat on the couch discussing the recent Walking Dead, how my roommate met his girlfriend, and how I came to have 5 cats in my apartment. With each discussion, we pushed our stereo to the max. It wasn’t until I went to the kitchen to get refills that I realized maybe this wasn’t the best environment for my dog. I turned the radio down and went back into the living room to see my dog being roughly petted and posing for snapchat. When she was in her younger days Maddie, my dog, had been a party animal, going from person to person for affection and leftover snacks. She could find the sucker in the bunch and follow them around like a puppy dog (Ha! Get it? Because she is a dog! Oh, I’m clever).
It’s been a good 5 years since her party days and I could see she was distressed. I only had 4 friends over, I didn’t think she’d be so bothered, but I could see it then. Before I got the chance to say anything and say my dog is not comfortable my phenomenal roommate stepped up. Most people wouldn’t describe their roommate as phenomenal. I could type for days about why he is, but for starters, every day I come home from work I debrief him on what happened during my day. How dog trainers train. Why shock collars are outdated. How I use Skinner and Pavlov’s methods to enhance my training. How dogs talk more with their bodies than with their mouths. The way dogs say “I’m distressed” with their bodies (whale eye, lip licks, tight mouth). Turns out he had been listening the entire time. I know… pretty phenomenal, right?
The best part, instead of telling our friends that they were torturing the dog without knowing it for a good snapchat story, he grabbed a handful of treats and threw one on the ground letting Maddie chase that instead of being on the couch with the crazy humans. He then looked at them and said watch this. He gave her the sit cue, she sat, he treated. He gave her the down cue, she laid down, he treated. He gave her the spin cue, she spun, he treated. They were in awe. One of them even snapchatted Maddie doing her spin. This gave me time to grab her a frozen treat and put her in her crate for a puppy break.
Forty-Five minutes later Maddie was out of the cage doing sits and downs and spins on her own accord to get treats. I pulled out her mat and showed them how I reinforce her for staying on it and continued our conversation about The Walking Dead, my roommate’s relationships and my 5 cats. The music was back down and my pup was happy.
Sometimes we forget to be responsible dog owners, by sharing my knowledge with my roommate my dog didn’t have to suffer my shortcomings that night. I would have never thought that showing off my dogs sit would be the highlight of the night but dang it if people aren’t impressed. I train all day, and when I get home sometimes it’s tough to muster up the strength to train a little more. That’s where roommates come in. We tend to think that if you bring home a puppy it’s 110% your responsibility. However, just like babies, shouldn’t it take a village?
The great thing about positive reinforcement training is you are not going to permanently damage your dog if you don’t know what you’re doing, although you might accidentally reinforce an unwanted behavior. My roommates treat delivery is awfully slow, and his marker words (yes, good girl, yeah) are a little disorganized but Maddie gets the gist and loves him to pieces. So, if you have people in the home, show them everything and get them involved. Use the village.
I now have my girlfriend working on the 50-cookie-challenge (with Maddie, the dog), while my roommate works on targeting (with Kylo, the kitten) and I don’t even have to share my paycheck with them.