a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Progress with Tika on Slamma Jamma

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Progress with Tika on Slamma Jamma

Progress in at least one area. I've sort of realized for a long time that, when playing with toys, she always brings them back and slams into you. I think I just mostly ignore it or sidestep it, except when it's a muddy toy and I'm wearing clothes that I care about. (Neither of which happens often.)

But a couple or three months ago, my favorite computer repair guy came by to help with a problem, and while we were waiting for the diagnostics to run, we went out into the back yard. He also has a dog and enjoys dogs, so he was throwing toys for the beasts. Tika returned the ball and slammed it into repair guy's you-know-where. I suddenly realized (takes me a while sometimes) that this was a real problem, and not merely a small annoyance.

So we started two new rules: 1) that I wouldn't play with the toy until Tika let go of it and 2) she wasn't allowed to hit me with it. We worked with clicker and spray bottle, over and over. There were times it seemed that she'd never let go of the ball except on the far side of the yard when she got tired of me not playing with her. And although she'd blink when she'd get sprayed when jamming the ball into me, it didn't really seem to have a strong effect on her. Still, she was getting to the point where she'd come almost to a stop, start squinting in expectation of being sprayed, and take a couple of very slow steps towards me and PUSH the ball against me. It's as if she believed that that's what she was *supposed* to do. (Which is certainly possible.)

I realized over the last couple of days that she's almost never hitting me with the ball (except when approaching from behind--apparently this isn't a behavior that generalizes well). And she almost always drops the ball fairly quickly when she brings it back.

This has been an interesting process. I figured that it would take a while because she's been doing it the wrong way for so long, and I was right. But I've tried to be extremely consistent. Sometimes I lose track of what I'm doing, for some reason--multitasking, usually--and grab the ball while she still has it in the air.

And I've started making certain exceptions where she has just earned the reward of the ball, and she loves to play tug of war, so if she has it on the ground in the play position, I will sometimes take hold of it and play there.

It's nice to feel that I've made progress on *one* of her social issues. Now to deal with knocking out the come-from-behind issue.

We've also been trying to get her to back off and, preferably, lie down when people are eating, instead of standing two inches from the table and your elbow, panting. I think I'm not as consistent as that, although I'm trying hard to be less laissez faire about it. Someday...

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