As my 3-year-old great-niece came downstairs this morning full of energy and singing Beatles songs (love that kid). Little Star and I knew the quiet of the morning was over. Laughter, running, screaming and crying would now take the room. Star was always friendly with kids and we had a lot of them in and out of our house.
When Kaiya came, we found we had an issue. Kaiya seemed obsessed with anyone under 10 years old. She couldn’t get enough of them and it became a huge problem when my great-niece was born three years ago. The first time they brought the baby over, I thought Kaiya would lose her mind. She’d been around babies before, but not in her house. She tried every way she could to kiss that baby. She jumped, she sneaked around chairs, she climbed onto arms and over the back of the couch to get a better look. She was a dog possessed. BTW, she just wanted to lick the baby, not eat it. This was going to be a hard task. It turned out dog and human health issues temporarily postponed working directly on this problem. We just skirted around it the best we could. Yes, sometimes “life” even makes it difficult for the dog trainer to keep up. BUT all along we had Kaiya on a working model of many different contrary behaviors to help her with her “excitement” when we have small visitors. Not just kids make Kaiya get “over excited,” all visitors put her in “BOING” motion, but kids are multiplied by 1000 and apparently babies by 100,000.
New behaviors for keeping a jumping dog on the floor can be taught to help alleviate the unwanted behavior of jumping. While we weren’t working on this problem with the baby around, we were still working on it. First we taught Kaiya “four feet on the floor.” Whenever she was on all four feet on the floor, she would be reinforced. We try hard not to reinforce jumping. However, it’s hard when your friends tell you it’s OK if your dog jumps on them. By the time the jumping conversation is over, your dog has most likely had a series of reinforced jumps.
Wwere now going to try two years later to gather the family on vacation and some 24/7 kids. After some rehearsals, we thought we were ready. The thing I love most about positive training is the flexibility of training for each individual situation. The science remains the same and the theory behind the teachings is the same. The application of the behaviors taught are limitless and exciting. Kaiya learned “all done” as her biggest challenge with the baby and now with the three year old. “All done” relates to Kaiya being finished with “kisses.” It means she stops kissing and walks away. Along with strengthening her already known behaviors of “settle”, “leave it”, and “with me,” we had a pretty easy few days with the family that would never have been possible two years ago.
Along with implementing this behavior plan with Kaiya were other factors that are important to making it work. The first is “when the going got ruff” we changed venues. When both kids were crying together it was “too high” a threshold for Kaiya, so we didn’t subject her to it. That’s graduate school for her, and with this, she’s a high school sophomore. We gave Kaiya plenty of exercise and tried to keep her schedule consistent. Also we made sure we were HER advocates. Sometimes we get caught up with the human children and put too much stress on our canines without noticing. When there is a “new” activity in your life with your dogs, advocate for your dogs. The parents will need to advocate for their own children.
The second factor is a pleasure to talk about. My niece has been aware of positive dog training since she was a kid and has now brought it into her own family of four. A very important way to introduce peaceful, respectful dog training is to teach it to our children. We need to change the generational mindset of dominance theory to positive, peaceful, respectful training. But that is another blog, isn’t it? Suffice it to say, that when my three year old great-niece Samantha, let Kaiya give her some kisses and then said “All done”, and Kaiya walked away, I was one very happy dog mom, aunt, great-aunt and dog trainer. As they say, I was a very happy puppy.