Sit! Stay! Yeah, right. (Training Part 4)
Have you ever noticed how humans have this tendency to just suddenly get up and leave and forget to take you along? Sometimes they just go out the door and walk out of sight. Other times they get in their automobile and drive away. They seldom realize that such behavior is not only a major breach of pack etiquette, but that they are placing themselves in grave danger.
For instance, whenever we're along in the car, and we see a dog along side the road, we immediately start screaming and barking to make sure it doesn't try to leap on the car hood, smash the windshield, tear Stump's arms off, steal all the groceries, mark on the front seat and leave. It could happen. Plain and simple, we can't do our job if our human forgets to take us along.
It would help if we knew more about why they leave, but it's hard to tell. A study by noted dog sociologist Professor Tucker suggests that this might be some kind of food-seeking behavior, noting that sometimes humans return from these trips with a fresh supply of dead cans, which they then open and make available on a sporadic basis. On more successful hunting forays they will return with these large flat round things that are covered with cheese, tomato and dead pig parts. Tucker speculates that it's some kind of road kill, but that doesn't explain the flat cardboard box. Anyway, it's good if you can scam a piece.
But regardless of the reason people leave, some dogs just tolerate it, sitting meekly while their human disappears out the door. What those dogs don't realize is that this just reinforces the subtle message that "yes, it's okay to abandon me here and consequently place yourself in grave danger." That's bad for you and it's bad for the person, so let's discuss some ways to educate your human.
For starters, you need to understand the human word "stay." Often, before they leave, humans will look at you and say "stay." Some dogs respond to this by sitting and watching, but that's a mistake. More recent studies indicate that "stay" actually means, "wait here for a moment while I try to leave, then you run as hard as you can to catch me." It's a fun game, although you'll probably get bored with it before your human will. They just keep doing it over and over again. They say "stay," they leave, you run and catch them, they bring you back, they say "stay," they leave, you run and catch them, etc., etc.
But regardless of whether or not your human is playing the "stay" game, or just leaving home without a word, you are going to have to retrain that behavior to maintain a successful relationship. Some humans are more responsive than others to this kind of training. Lots a times a dog can succeed just by chasing after their human every time they leave until they finally relent and take you along. But you have to be consistent here. Forget once or twice and the human will quickly start reverting to old behavior patterns.
Other humans aren't nearly so quick to learn. Some dogs have tried choke collars on their humans, but it's cruel and I don't think fear is a very effective training method. Rather, I prefer shame. Next time you get abandoned, try this. After your human has gone, you leave and go the other direction. Find a place to hide; in the woods, under a house, whatever. The important thing is to stay there as long as you possibly can. You might want to chow down in advance, because this could take a few days.
When your humans return they will start looking for you. They will wander the neighborhood, call your name and over time will start sounding increasingly worried and desperate. Your task is to wait as long as you can, then return home. It's best if you can return in the rain all covered with mud. Think "bedraggled." This usually convinces your human that they should never leave you home alone ever again. (Once they've cleaned you up, this is also an excellent time to push a few other boundaries, such as eating out of the cat food bowl).
Finally, there's the special case of you "partment" dogs. For those of you who don't know, partment dogs are dogs who live in human kennel facilities, large buildings that house many separate packs of humans. It's usually not possible to get away and hide when you're locked in a partment. But you can still use shame as a training tool. Here's how.
Wait until your human is gone. This usually means listening for at least two or three doors to close. Then start barking. A lot. Loud. Let the neighbors know how much pain you're in. Say things like "help, my paw is stuck in the toaster," or "there's a rabid cat hanging from the light fixture," or "I fell down and I can't get up." Then when your human comes home, the neighbors will have summoned the behavior modification people (those folks in the blue uniforms with the shiny badges). These folks will explain to your human that from now on they either take you along when they leave, or end up in the people pound. That usually does the trick.
So good luck with your training, and remember what they say, "a human without its dog is like a tree without it's bark."