Friday, April 22, 2011

Would you like some cheese with that whine?

Obviously, I do my best to make Elka come off like the perfect dog.

Just as obviously, I want to seem like the ever patient and benevolent owner/trainer, who thinks rationally and reacts well, regardless of what the Doberman has decided she was going to do.

I don't want to completely dispel this myth, but I do want to talk about whining. Elka whines a lot. I think, perhaps, Dobermans whine a lot. She does her share of "talking", which is delightful and thoroughly encouraged. She barks every once in awhile, typically a single big, deep-chested alert, if she thinks somebody's screwing around outside and needs immediate attention. But she also whines.

If I'm upstair and she's downstairs, she'll whine. If I've left food on a plate and am not immediately eating it, she whines. If I'm in the bathroom, she whines. If she feels it's feeding time, she whines.

The phrase has occasionally been uttered "Elka, I don't think you're a Doberman. I think you're a Whineraner."

Now, this is a thing that can be dealt with. If I'm occupied in some way, and Elka is whining, a good mitigator is to give her something to do. If I'm making preparations for dinner and she starts going, I can throw some peanut butter in the Monster Mouth and that will occupy her.  It's impossible to whine and lick peanut butter at the same time.

If one is in the bathroom and the dog is in the next room whining, it's a little harder. We're to the point, frequently, where Elka will lay down and wait quietly until I'm out of the bathroom, at which point she'll get a treat. This does not happen every time, but it's better than nothing.

It's unfortunately easy to get stuck in a feedback loop if a dog is whining incessantly.  There's a point at which I can't stand the noise any longer, and rational thought is not as reachable as it was when the whining started. "Shut up", "hush", and "quiet" have all been tried (and I should highlight here that consistency is important in dog training!), and each will work some of the time, depending. But if Elka feels something is wrong, and whines, and I yell at her for it, she will whine more, and I will want to yell more, and it just feeds into itself.  And when Elka is sad, especially when it's my fault for being an impatient human, I feel bad about it.
When a dog whines, it's for a reason, not typically just recreation. So, try to ignore your inner frustrations, ad figure out what the deal is.  Food? Water? Phase of the moon? Toy under the couch (though this last is frequently accompanied by digging).  Boredom?  Dogs, especially smart DoberDogs, get bored. Really, if your dog is bored and only whining about it, you're lucky. Mine has occasionally chewed on part of the house instead.

This morning, Elka whined and whined, and I knew it was because she wanted to go for a walk (it was after 9, after all! I've spent three weeks teaching her that's when walk time is) and I wanted to sleep in.  I felt very frustrated by this, and got myself very angry. And you know what? I got up, got dressed, and got over it.

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