Thursday, October 4, 2007

Self Control

Having a collie means that I have to deal with a fair amount of chasing, circling, and barking. Well, more than a fair amount of barking, really. Collies are freakin' loud when they want to be! Havana seems to have a hard time thinking when she's barking, so I've been trying to teach her some self control, but let her have fun, too. I don't want to completely suppress a natural instinct that she clearly enjoys.

I wish I could remember where I first heard of this particular self control exercise. It might have been Suzanne Clothier, although it pairs well with what Patricia McConnell, among other trainers, suggest in teaching paired commands. Havana and I go out to a large area and I get her all riled up - it doesn't take much! We play together while she leaps, lunges, barks, and whips around in circles and I egg her on. Then all of a sudden I stop dead and tell her "enough". Nothing she can do will entice me to play after I've told her "enough" and if she gets bratty, I will tell her to down. As soon as she quiets, I tell her to "get wild" again and we go back to our loud, rambunctious play. Then I tell her "enough" and she has to quiet and again, her reward for quiet is to get crazy. We repeat this several times and she never knows when it will end, but when it does it ends on a good note.

The change in Havana has been nice. She's catching on to the idea that there is a time and a place for barking and a time and a place for being quiet. The contrasts help her to accept quiet time a lot better, especially since she doesn't know if she'll be able to go crazy again or if the game is over. The not knowing seems to make her want to comply more quickly, which is exactly what I want.

After a few disastrous shopping outings with BabyBug, I decided to try something similar with her. As we walked between stores at an outdoor mall I told her that we could get our screamies out when we're outside, but inside the store we had to be quiet and polite. Then I asked "Do you have any screamies inside?" She nodded, so I said "You'd better let them out!" and we both released some screamies as we walked. Then I stood outside the store and asked if she had any more inside. She said she did, so I told her to let them out. We did repeat this about 3 times, but then she was ready to go into the store. And lo and behold, she was actually quiet! We went on to the next store and repeated our activity. Again, a relatively quiet toddler in a women's shoe store! Every once in awhile she'd start to get loud and I'd remind her that being loud is for outside. Then I had to remember to remind her to be loud when we got outside the store. It doesn't work as well if you set up guidelines for when to be loud and crazy and then never work within those guidelines.

This plan can backfire. I didn't bother to do a screamie check last week before going into a craft store, one of the places she's been obnoxious in the past. Sure enough, we get to the middle of the store and she starts shrieking just for the fun of it. I was mortified. So now I need to remember to go through our little routine before entering key stores. I really don't mind, though. If standing outside of a store doing some little shrieks and the occasional meltdown in the store are the price I pay for more frequent good shopping trips, I'm happy to do it.

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