Monday, April 13, 2009

The Skinny on Delilah

I've gotten so many questions about Delilah, I figured it's probably best to post the specifics on what happened, what we're doing and how it's going from here. I'll be the first to tell you WE were the problem, not sweet lovable Delilah.

Just like with horses, dogs do what they do on instinct. Delilah is definitely a high energy dog and very, very smart. We were not being consistent nor did we understand Delilah's interpretation of some of our discipline. A puppy with these kinds of issues and owners with little experience with them go together like oil and water. We ended up with a mess.

Not Delilah's fault that we gave her the opportunity to exploit our lack of understanding about her issues. She was getting attention the only way she knew being a rowdy puppy! She had no way of knowing that behavior was "bad" in our book. We weren't communicating in a way she could understand. Instead of thinking we wanted her to stop, Delilah thought we wanted to play more and harder. When we upped the ante, so did Delilah. Things just escalated from there. We had no tools to quiet the highly excitable Delilah.

Sending the puppy back to Colleen's gave some here a reality check. We weren't going to be able to keep this puppy and NOT consistently discipline her. No "Oh isn't she a cute puppy" rewards for bad behavior. Just like baby horses are learning their place in the herd from day one, puppies are doing the same thing. The only ones thinking the behavior was exclusive to a baby were the humans. The puppy was learning how to be a grown-up dog!

With Colleen Delilah also got a chance to learn some manners as well as to experience some true pack order. It's not Delilah's fault her first time mother didn't ever correct her and none of her litter mates dared! Or that having two litters at once for a total of 14 puppies cut into what one on one time with humans she would have had under "normal" circumstances. The fact that Delilah thought she should call all the shots made perfect sense to her given her history. Given our lack of skills we didn't know how to teach her otherwise and that's where the problems started.

Her brief stint in puppy boot camp also gave me some time to figure out how to deal with Delilah's needs in ways that would work for all of us. I could tell you exactly how I would deal with these issues with a horse but for a puppy like Delilah I had absolutely no frame of reference, not even a starting point to build on. I felt very powerless over the whole situation.

At first I had asked if Rachel could come stay with us for the first few days that Delilah was back. I thought by having someone with experience with Siberian Husky puppies we might have a smooth transition. However, if we had waited for Rachel, we would still probably be waiting and neither Dave, nor Lindsay, nor I were happy with that so I moved on to plan two which was contacting Holly.

I've done some reading, although not nearly enough, and have much more to do. But I didn't bring Delilah home until I knew I had a much clearer understanding of what had happened here...........that turned out to be pretty simple. Delilah wanted to play and we allowed her to play on her terms. Our human scolding didn't equate in her puppy brain, some because of lack of consistency between the three of us humans, but mostly because we didn't really have good puppy skills.

Dog training has changed dramatically since I was a kid, just like horse training has. Getting inside the puppy's head and understanding where she's coming from has been a big part of understanding what it takes to communicate what we need from her.

To start off with Holly suggested we get a chain lead for Delilah and leave it on her in the house.. The reason for the chain was so this very smart puppy could not chew off a very important tool.

Whenever Delilah is asking for attention in a destructive manner, we can stop her by grabbing or stepping on that chain thus restricting her movement. That way we can curb the behavior without rewarding her with the physical contact she was seeking in the first place. We don't touch her until she settles and is quiet like we want. Then we can touch her and direct her into a more desirable form of play.

Some would leave a lead, or a shortened version of, on a horse they couldn't catch. Having Delilah drag this lead around the house has accomplished the same thing. It sure took all the power out of her running games and is teaching her that she won't get attention until she behaves the way WE want her to. Sightings of the Devil Dog are few and far between.

To be continued...............
The Continued Skinny on Delilah
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  1. Oh! I am so glad that your getting the learning tools you need to deal with Delilah! Good luck to all of you.

  2. That's really good stuff to know, though Mr. Fry and I both agree we aren't home enough to deal with a puppy. Looks like you really got her number, though!

  3. So glad to hear! Can't wait for part 2!

  4. Never again will I own a Si... :)

    Oh, they are beautiful and we adored ours, but they are hard work. Very hard work. Tundra would bolt out of the gate sometimes and we'd wait for the shelter to call a day or two later when someone was finally able to catch her...and it was usually up in Ferndale. Turns out a 30 mile radius is considered home territory for huskies. Who knew?

    Best of luck with Delilah. You've got more will power than I, lol!

  5. Oh, puppies can be so tough sometimes!

  6. I am so glad things are working. The chain is a simple, easy, inexpensive way to restrict her, and still keep your hands safe from those sharp puppy teeth.

    Tracey I have had a number of Sibes in class and have loved all of them. Each one was high energy (my type of dog), food hounds (easy to teach) and joyful. Once they were focused....they were harder to tear away from the work than my herding dogs. They LOVED to work.

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