That was me. . . reacting to Psych landing on my stomach in the morning.
It’s morning and he’s doing his normal routine: “YAY! You’re up now!” (never mind that I wasn’t before he flopped on my stomach) “Can we go out now? Can we get breakfast now? Can we play now? Can we go out now? Did I mention going outside?”
If you’re not a morning person, imagine the peppiest, most cheerful person you can think of waking you up in the morning. I’m a morning person and it’s still a little annoying. My typical reaction is one word: “Psych. . . “ He usually uses that opportunity to climb further up to lick my face in apology – not that it’s going to stop him from doing it again the next day.
That’s my been my experience with herders. They really REALLY want to please you. If they don’t, then something must be wrong with them and they will try their darndest to fix it. Now, just because they have the desire to please doesn’t mean that they they all do it the same way. Psych and Percy are polar opposites when it comes to trying to please me.
Percy is the kid in the classroom who watches the teacher’s (my) response as he’s writing out the answer to a question. If I give any indication that he’s written something not right, he stops, apologizes, and erases EVERYTHING. He wants to get it ALL correct or thinks it’s ALL wrong. He looks for my approval in everything and is very cautious to do the right thing. Any disapproving word, or body language, and he’s backing off immediately.
Psych on the other hand, is the kid in the classroom at the front of the class who, when you ask a question, jumps up and down in his seat with his hand up saying “Oooh! Oooooh! I know this one! I know this one!” then spouts off an answer. If it’s right, he’s going to do a happy dance in the classroom. If it’s wrong, he’s going to spend the same amount of time he spent answering the question apologizing and trying to actively suck up to the teacher. He learns from mistakes, but he’s prone to making a lot of them before he learns. When I first started to teach him that barking was only for legit things when he’s inside (please note that falling leaves do not count), he would bark continuously despite my telling him “no”. When I corrected him by pulling him away from the distraction and making him concentrate on me, he still wouldn’t stop barking! You can’t treat any two dogs the same way, any more than you can expect any two kids to learn the same way. A herding dog’s aim to please makes training them both enjoyable and challenging. Being aware that lots of wrong answers or mistakes is part of that “attempt to get the right answer,” is important to recognize. Patience is also a MUST. Not that you shouldn’t do this whenever you train an animal, but be double aware of it with herding dogs who seem to be overly sensitive to cues and pleasing you.
I use this simple rule when training: make the right answer easy and the wrong answer hard. Meaning that when I get the response I’m looking for, I treat and praise. Fun and easy. When I don’t get the response I want, I keep asking the question and they have to keep giving me answers. It’s not as easy as the right answer. Sometimes I have to ask in different ways, but it’s still not as easy or as fun as getting the right answer. Just remember that herders are learners regardless. Take advantage of that inquisitive nature and teach them something fun for you both.