Nika and the Spring-Mounted Hello
I knew it didn’t have a future when I found three holes in my favourite trousers from a small 15-week-old paw clawing at my legs, but I am almost ashamed to say that it wasn’t until she climbed me like she was going to build a treehouse on my shoulder that I moved it up to the top of the long list of learning priorities and finally got my act together.
I’m sure she’s part cat? She can leap from one item of furniture to the other, disregarding the existence of or necessity for the floor. Anything that she thinks predicts a reward finds her launching to the point where she expects it will be delivered. She likes to try to scale T’s platform that is stored almost vertically against the living room bookcases.
We’re getting closer to her adolescence now and…keep me in your thoughts, won’t you?
Greetings have been becoming increasingly less pleasant for all humans concerned: the sharp puppy nails combined with her developing physical strength and power, and her improved motor skills, have meant that “ow” has become a synonym for “hello.”
Yes I left it rather late to address this, and therefore had to row against the tide of learning that was already in place (she repeats it because it works, right?), but I eventually got my oars in gear (geddit?) and began to steer a more fruitful course.
That course was NEVER going to be one of suppression. Instead, my aim was to find a mutually acceptable way of providing the rewards that she sought.
While the guardians of new puppies are coached in various recipes that purportedly will “stop the dog jumping up,” it was my intention to address the spring-loaded hello by encouraging jumping up (or at least climbing). In order to allow Nika to fulfil her desire of being near my face (that part of the greeting is rewarding for both of us), I would invite her onto a surface where she could reach me comfortably without the need for the method that was causing discomfort and shredded clothing.
Puppies have a very strong innate desire to greet the face of adults which can become over enthusiastic and require much leaping when the face to high up in the air.
The jumping up had been rewarded by tactile contact that sought to prevent it escalating. So rather than her learning the frustration and disappointment of ignoring or suppression – that something that had previously been successful no longer worked – it much effective and even appealing to her once we established a mutual understanding that greeting would happen on the back of the sofa where she wouldn’t need to stretch to reach me. Clearly cued at first, the new greeting routine was so rewarding to her that she learned incredibly rapidly. As did T.
Several months of learning that jumping up “works” (of sorts) may still bring resurgence of the jumping, and for that, a safety protocol of “hold off” will be further bumped up the learning priorities list. Meanwhile, the promise of affectionate contact that the cue predicts is lessening the likelihood that I’ll have to buy another box of sticking plasters before the week is out.
Dog help anyone who’s sitting on that sofa when I return from grocery shopping, though.