Jamie and I had the following conversation the other day:
Me: Did I tell you about the Farm Bill dog fighting thing yet?
Me: Well, there’s a provision that says it is now a federal crime to attend a dog fight.
Jamie: Wait. There’s dog fighting in that game?
Me: Game? No. In real life. It’s part of the Farm Bill that congress passed.
Jamie: Oh, ok. I thought you said Farmville. That makes more sense. Good.
I’m not entirely sure how that conversation relates to this week’s episode, but I couldn’t just let it go undocumented. Love that woman.
As Gomez’s boot grabbing adventure from Episode Four made clear, impulse control is one of the most important things for our giant guy to learn. That’s why I’ve been working with both Gomez and Asha on games with rules. “Tug” and “fetch” have been worked on a lot in the past couple weeks. That essentially includes “wait, “take,” “drop,” and “go find it.” I think it says a lot about how different the two of them are that, just a couple of sessions in, Asha had mastered all the basic rules of both games. Meanwhile, Gomez was just starting to hold the rope in his mouth for a good, solid second before dropping it on the ground in search of a treat. And I am totally fine with their progress. Even if that meant accepting that Asha is obviously a littleshow off. To be fair, Gomez is now doing great with tug. He waits to take the rope, and then we will play tug until I say “drop.” And he actually drops it. Which feels like a miracle. Just a month ago I anticipated this would take him months of intense training.
Asha and Gomez get along well, but they both can be obnoxious in the way they behave toward each other. Though they are learning, the two of them are not always in tune with each other’s moods and body language and occasionally come on way too strong in an attempt to initiate play. And as much as Asha gets the reputation for being the good girl, she’s often the “guilty party” when it comes to being a brat to her brother. For instance, he’s a little slower to get up in the morning and greets each day with a sleepy grump face and a long series of sighs and grunts. Asha, on the other hand, will sometimes bound out of bed in that “oh, what a beautiful morning!” kind of way that nobody who isn’t a morning person can understand or appreciate. She thinks nothing of jumping around and pawing her brother’s face as he stretches and tries to stand up. He’s a good sport about it, but it is clear he’s not a huge fan. This is clearly an area where building up Asha’s impulse control will come in handy.
The way I see it, both Gomez and Asha are dogs with completely unknown histories. Both have scars that indicate they’ve been around the block a time or two. It is unlikely either of them had the luxury of puppyhood socialization or that either felt any real security in their resources for any length of time. Taking those things into account, it would be foolish of me to expect them to be best friends right off the bat. Instead, they act like siblings. And like siblings, sometimes they annoy each other, but usually they’re fine. It has only been a little over three months, and they both deserve all the time they need to figure it all out. That doesn’t mean I don’t have my moments. Like every time somebody posts a picture of two pit bulls snuggling together, I never miss the chance to hold the picture up to Asha and Gomez and say, “See? THIS IS WHY YOU’RE DISAPPOINTING ME!” Then I storm out of the room so they know that I’m serious.
When Asha came to live with us, it was after a period of substantial instability in her life. She had recently been pregnant, had been on the streets, was scooped up by a cop, was boarded for a bit at an animal hospital where she was eventually spayed and a couple days later she was in our house. It is safe to say she was ready and happy to settle down. Before we adopted him, Gomez lived with his foster family for about a year. He had certainly gotten used to certain things. Things like getting on the couch whenever he wanted, sleeping on the bed, grabbing things that weren’t his to initiate a fun game of chase… good, rewarding stuff. It dawned on me recently that personality differences aside, Asha came with no real expectations of what the rules were. Gomez came with some expectation of what the rules were and was frustrated when those rules didn’t work. In other words, those first couple, chaotic and exhausting weeks at our house, Gomez was extinction bursting all over the place.
He not only was faced with learning a new set of rules, he was also trying to get his old rules to keep working. It would be like learning a brand new set of rules to a game you’ve already learned to play. You’d probably goof up. You’d also unwittingly play by the old rules occasionally. This is something I hadn’t really taken into account when Gomez first came home. But I can certainly see the value in making sure new adopters understand what extinction bursts are and how they fit in with training. I don’t know a less crazy-sounding way to say, “You know that moment when your dog is so frustrated that he gets totally obnoxious and all you want to do is quit? Well that means you’re doing it right! And if you quit there, you’re only gonna make your job that much harder.”
Maybe, “Extinction Bursts: You’re Doing it Right!” That sounds better.