I was watching The Gothowitz Deviation episode of the CBS hit series The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon uses chocolate to reward Penny’s good behavior. He even gets her to unwittingly lower her voice by lowering his and giving her chocolate. Leonard realizes what his roommate is doing and tells Sheldon he can’t treat his girlfriend like a lab rat whereupon Sheldon squirts Leonard from a spray bottle, “bad Leonard”. I nearly fell off the couch laughing, partly because it was so funny, but also because I remember trying to use the spray bottle to discipline Dudley and Zoe. I remember spraying Dudley with a mist of water and he sneezed a couple of times and wiped his face on my leg. Then he chuffed at me a few times, like he was saying, “Why’d you do that? Seriously, why did you do that?”
I am not a very good disciplinarian. I never knew what to do with Zoe when she would jump the fence to go check out the neighborhood and she did it frequently. I didn’t want to yell at her when she came back or when I found her, I was afraid she would associate that with me and become afraid and stop coming to me. I would put her in the bathroom when she got home and it got to where all I had to do was tell her to “go to your room” and she’d go into the bathroom and stay there until I told her she could come out. I didn’t even have to shut the door. Once she went over the fence to visit the next door neighbors who were on their deck having a small party. When I told her she had to go to her room, the hambone struck her “I am invisible” pose that cracked up everyone, including me. She would sit down and look to her left, right, up, down; she looked everywhere except at me and I’m pretty sure in her mind she was thinking, “I am not looking at you; therefore, I am invisible and you do not see me.” She frequently struck this pose when she was in trouble.
Dudley, on the other hand, always would look straight at me as if to say, “yeah, I did it, whatcha gonna do, stop loving me?” Dudley never went over the fence. He went through it or under it a few times, but never over it. For the most part, Dudley’s misadventures involved food from the trash or food that I had left within his reach on the counter, nothing I could really blame him for. In addition to being a professional escape artist, Zoe was also a chewer. She destroyed comforters, towels, countless shoes and the arm of the chair in the picture below. I was really angry with her that day. I’d have given someone $5 to take her off my hands, but I discovered Zoe could not bear to be shunned. After I yelled at her and told her I was done with her, I wouldn’t look at her. Later, she came up behind me and tapped my leg with her paw and when I turned around, there was my 60 lb. dog sitting on her hind legs, looking prettier than any speckled pup in a red wagon. I melted and she was forgiven, but I could never get her to sit up like that again. On the plus side, I don’t remember her chewing anything ever again. She finally realized she had a home.
While I never knew exactly how to discipline my dogs, I do know giving them lots of exercise helps, a tired dog usually doesn’t get into trouble. Positive reinforcement also helps, whether it is in the form of a treat or just heaps of praise. People want to know when they’ve done good and dogs are no different.
The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too. ~Samuel Butler, Notebooks, 1912