Monday, January 17, 2011

Kirby Demonstrates "Frustration Tolerance"

 I love this video, shot by my husband earlier today. Kirby gets an "A" for impulse control and frustration tolerance...



When Baxter had his tooth pulled we had to feed him nothing but soft food for two weeks (which he loved). To be fair to Kirby, we've been mixing a bit of soft food in with his kibble as well. Kirby always has been the first one to the bowl at mealtime, but this new development has reached near-obsessive proportions. When we take him out in the morning, he does all his business immediately and heads straight for the door. I drag him back to the sidewalk and he begrudgingly follows Baxter and me on our morning walk.  Every time we stop, he tries to make a beeline for home. As soon as I let him in the door, he runs at top speed to his dish to see if breakfast has shown up yet.

Every evening about 5:30pm he starts making his little grumble sounds behind my desk chair. If I stand up, he races (no, flies is more like it) down the stairs and comes to a screeching halt in front of his food dish, panting anxiously. Mind you, this dog was two pounds overweight at his last weigh-in at the vet, so he's far from starving. To keep him from diving immediately into his bowl before all the food is in, we've been helping Kirby further develop his impulse control...an area where he does pretty well, but not as well as his big brother, Baxter.

(Funny thing is, if we make Kirby wait before doing something, he always barks as soon as we give him the OK to do whatever he's been waiting patiently to do. It's as if the twitch to move just drives the bark right out of him.)

One of the best pieces of advice I've heard from dog trainers and animal behaviorists is the value of helping your canine companion learn impulse control by developing "frustration tolerance." Making your dog wait before running to retrieve an object or launching out the door are a couple of great examples. By helping your dog develop frustration tolerance you are, in effect, helping them survive in today's world:  a world where they are left alone for periods of time in a big house full of tempting items to chew on, where they probably don't get as much time running free as they would like and where the tasty-smelling food bits sitting on the low coffee table are for humans only. In my experience, dogs who have developed a high frustration tolerance are healthier, happier more adaptable creatures. And the same goes for their human companions.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

Fantastic training. This is such an important approach to impulse control. When I am increasing stays or distractions I often put a bone or delicious treat on a table and then turn my back and cleaning the house while giving Coco a stay and watch me command. She keeps her eyes glued to me and waits until I give her the okay.

This training comes in so handy for being able to get and keep their attention when out in public places too.

Kirby is too cute.