Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fetching the Newspaper

As I mentioned in my first post on this blog, Nema has taught me a lot of things, or at least caused me to learn a lot of things. I got a refresher course on one of them this morning -- patience.

For the past three days I have been teaching Nema how to fetch the paper. In the morning, before breakfast, I take her clicker and some treats, and open the front door. Then I say "Get the paper!" and she runs down the enclosed drive, grabs the paper between her teeth, and brings it back to me in exchange for a treat. Yesterday she did it perfectly.

Well, after only three days of practice, this morning I thought I could get her to fetch the paper again -- but this time less formally, with no clicker and no treats. Nope. As soon as I opened the door, she saw the paper, grabbed it, and ran around in large circles around me on the drive whipping the paper around in its plastic bag and shredding the bag. Then, when I called her to come to me, she did exactly the opposite and ran away from me holding the paper in her mouth. I felt irritation rising up -- I was already running late for work, now my paper was half destroyed, my neighbors were probably getting a good laugh through their windows, and she wasn't listening to me at all.

So I walked back in the house, leaving the front door open behind me. I waited in the hallway, and after a few seconds she looked into the house wondering where I went. I decided to try again. I went back outside, but she was still more interested in using the newspaper as a toy than in bringing it to me. Finally she dropped it, and I picked it up and told her to get in the house, which she did. I then tried three times to place the paper outside and have her fetch it, but each time she did the same thing. Finally I gave up. I still felt pretty irritated.

Then I realized that I had been too impatient. At 14 months she's just barely out of puppyhood. She's still a teenager in dog terms. So after just three days of practice I expect her to forget her natural play instinct and fetch something for me? It was unfair of me to get irritated with her.

I will need to continue working with her using the clicker and treats, and eventually no treats, until she completely associates the newspaper with fetching and not shredding. Maybe it will never happen, and that's OK. I don't really care about the newspaper. I just want to continue teaching her new tasks and tricks. I think it is fun for both of us.

It just takes patience. Thanks for the reminder, Nema.

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