Monday, May 10, 2010

Asking the Questions, Over and Over and Over Again, or, Children Really Aren't That Bad!

One of the biggest things that I learned from the Suzanne Clothier seminar is to really pay attention to what Maisy is saying. Suzanne has set out what she calls the elemental questions, and has emphasized that we ask them every time we interact with our dog instead of assuming that since we've asked them once, we know the answers forever.

The first time I did this exercise, I was really surprised by what I learned, specifically regarding children. You see, I thought that Maisy didn't like children, because she often "cringed" when they tried to pet her. She would get slinky and low to the ground, and look at me with misery-filled eyes. But then, while I was asking the questions one day, a child approached, and Maisy clearly indicated that she would like to go say hi.

It happened again today. I had dropped my car off for service, and when Maisy and I went to pick it up, there were two small, toddler-aged children in the small waiting area. Maisy really wanted to greet them, and was quite bouncy. I had her sit and wait, since the children were hesitant about interacting with her.

I spoke to the girls (who were, quite frankly, jumping, screeching, and generally making me uncomfortable), and coached them on how to greet a dog: Don't touch the doggy's head, only pet her chest or back, always ask first, etc. Meanwhile, I'm watching Maisy, and her tail is helicoptering in circles fast in furious, and she's begging me with her body language to go say hi. Finally, I instructed Maisy to go do a hand touch, and she was thrilled.

This is clearly not a dog who dislikes children. In fact, it would appear that she rather likes them. She got a bit nervous when they got too animated, but was still clearly interested in them. In fact, the only time she looked like she wasn't enjoying the process is when the younger one pet Maisy on the head, which is totally understandable, and why I coach children on how to interact with her. Still, you can't control two-year-olds, so I think that in the future, I'll tell them to "let the doggy touch you" instead of letting them touch her, especially since Maisy thought the hand touch game was so fun.

As a side note: I'm absolutely thrilled with the amount of self-control Maisy demonstrated by waiting to greet the children until I told her she could. She was sitting like a rock.


Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

That is such great news!! Yay Maisy! I'm pretty sure lance doesn't really care for kids because of all the rude ones who just try to mob him when I worked at Petsmart. But it's always good to remember to look at your dog in that moment.

Sam said...

I know what you mean RE screaming and jumpy children. Marge likes kids, too, but doesn't like when they get all nutty the way kids do. I've found it hard to coach kids like you did, so, good job! I think Maisy appreciated it too, it sounds like she really enjoyed it.

Crystal said...

I've had to learn what to say with children. I've found a couple things to be particularly effective:

1. If the child is really exuberant, I tell them they can only pet the puppy if they are sitting on the ground.
2. For shyer children (like these are), I tell them to hold out their hand, and Maisy will touch it.
3. I tell everyone- children, adults, whatever- to only pet her shoulders or back. They don't all listen, but I try to.
4. With larger groups of people, instead of letting her say hi, I ask if they'd like to see her tricks. This usually makes people step back so they can watch. Unfortunately, she doesn't have very many cool tricks. Fortunately, most people are amused by her rapid sit-down-sit-down sequence.
5. And, I'm not afraid to yell at children. I don't yell at adults very much, and I really need to learn to do that. I feel bad about it, but really, if they can't follow simple instructions, that's not my fault.