Saturday, September 17, 2011

House and Home

It's fall, or getting to be close enough.  That means a couple of things in my town.

For one, it's getting cold already.  We have frost advisories this week.  The leaves are falling now, and starting to blow around (which Elka loves to chase; it's very adorable).

It also means that the college students have moved back in.  There are two colleges in my town; the one that I went to, and a state school.  As a result, there are many student rentals around, including many of our neighbors.  Which means many people outside at all times of the night, and many car doors slamming.  After a nice quiet summer, Elka does not approve of these things.

When Elka hears a car door slam, or people outside, she lets me know, which is nice.  It's less nice if, after I acknowledge the fact, she doesn't then go back to whatever she was doing, which didn't include pacing around and groaning, with a mohawk down her back.  At least she's stopped barking while I'm in the bathroom; that was a fun new trick.

But anyway, I obviously don't want people messing around in my yard or around my house, and a single big bark from a Doberman is a nice deterrent.  At that point, I have a look, say "Thank you, enough" to Elka, and go back to what I'm doing.  As you can imagine, "enough" means, in fact, "enough".  I heard you, I don't want to hear any more, situation dealt with.  Sticking to that formula, every time, has worked, and Elka is able to settle down very quickly after an "alert" situation.

Consistency was important here.  Whenever I varied the language, said things like "leave it" without looking, that kind of thing, Elka wasn't having it.  Something could be Happening, and I wasn't taking things seriously.  Now, she seems convinced of my seriousness in these situations, which is what I want. It isn't up to the dog to call the shots; it's the human's responsibility.  It's especially important for your dog to understand that if they aren't, say, protection trained or area protection trained.  What on earth would Elka do if somebody broke in?  I don't know, and I'm sure she doesn't either, and that can be worrying for her, I'm sure.  

Well, as much as dogs worry.  That's why it's important for her to realize that her people call the shots, and the only decision making she tends to make are fun decisions, in training.  Which hand is the treat in?  What should you do to get the click (if we're having a free-shaping clicker session).  We aren't doing any type of training that includes the question "which person is the bad guy?" That's not up to her, though I certainly welcome her opinion.


  1. Ewww. I disapprove of college kids/young people screaming, having drunk shouting matches, having parties, slamming doors, ect. late at night. It messes with my beauty sleep. I sympathize with Elka very deeply.


  2. I have similar problems with my high-strung puppy and the high school on the next block. Especially around 3:30 (aka naptime), when they all blast their radios and gun their engines. We also have trouble because the big dog in the next townhouse sets the puppy off. She barks over who knows what, the he barks because the big dog thinks something bad is happening. Then the dog in the next house barks, which I'm sure those people and their colic-y baby *love.* We're definitely working with some urgency on thank you/enough.

  3. @ N.P. Yup, 'tis the season of broken glass and vomit on the sidewalks about town! I never acted like that when I was going to school around here. It's really very perplexing. However, my nearest neighbors are far quieter than they were last year, I will say that for them.

    @Anonymous Wow, that's a really nice Domino effect you have going on there! I sympathize with your training urgency.

  4. Sounds like you're doing a great job making Elka comfortable with her job: alert and stand down. And you did such a good job of explaining it. Most people just get frustrated when their dogs bark and they don't realize the dog is just doing its job to alert you and you have to do your job to say, "Yes, I got the message. I'm handling it now."

    As for what would Elka do if someone did break in, I have a story.

    For ten years I shared a party wall with a family of crack addicts in Philadelphia. We had pretty frequent break-ins by my neighbors looking for something of mine they could sell.

    One night I came back from walking Agatha and Christie and they ran into the dark dining room barking up a storm. It was dark so I assume they had my neighbors (or someone) cornered in the dining room. The dogs were only 40 pounds each but the barking was intimidating. Luckily our burglars weren't armed.

    I called Agatha and Christie back to me and said in a loud voice to our visitors, "We going to sit on the front porch for a minute. We'd like you to leave now." And we did. And they did.

    So Elka might have the only skill she needs to protect you, a loud bark.

  5. Thanks very much, Pamela! And wow, that's some story, and good thinking (and good recall, that Agatha and Christie came right to you, even in that situation!).

    With our sue-happy society, I'd just as soon never find out, really. But I've also played around with putting Elka's bark on cue!