In My Own Voice #21: A Reactive Dog Teaches Social Distancing

king of the sofa
Pettigrew claiming his workspace for another demanding day in his home office.

The poor dear has seemed a bit more frazzled than usual this week, so I decided to write the blog for her… Again.

She hasn’t been bringing home bags and bags of food like she did last week, in fact, now that I think about it, I don’t believe she’s been shopping once! So unlike her.

But that’s not the only strange thing. She’s also around a lot more too. They All are.

In general, I’m an extrovert and I enjoy the extra cuddles and the ability to have on-demand food and walks rather than having to wait until someone comes home; however, the couch has become prime real estate. They don’t seem to understand that Monday through Fridays the couch is mine during daytime hours!

It may be just a couch to them, but for me, it’s where I do all my best work: guarding the home against the mail carrier, deliveries, and suspicious people. It’s a busy, demanding job and I have my set up arranged just so. They are making it harder to work efficiently!

Historically, I’ve been gracious about sharing the couch on evenings and weekends, but I’m not sure how much longer this 24/7 cohabiting can continue. I may need to establish rules.

There is also a lot of talk in our house about social distancing. I’m pleased that I have prepared them so effectively for this eventuality.

If you revisit What’s a Trigger, you will see that what they called my “reactivity” was really my efforts at getting them up-to-speed on how to social distance.

See someone coming? Turnaround and walk the other way, walk down someone’s driveway or up their front steps to give them more room, or turn the corner. There’s also the old trick of standing on the other side of a parked car. Do you think they would’ve figured all of these tricks-of-the-trade in real time? No, of course not!

They are only able to respond so effectively because I’ve been training them. Patiently training, day-by-day, year-by-year.

We’ve practiced all types of scenarios: There’s a mail carrier, quick, what will you do?

If they responded quickly and got us an appropriate distance away, I rewarded them with good behavior. If they were daydreaming or slow to react, I let them know of their lapse by barking vigorously and pulling hard. Really, it takes a lot of reinforcement for them to learn new behaviors.

I haven’t quite figured out to help them remember not to touch their faces, but, never fear, I’m working on it. I have noticed that after they pat me for a while there is some blackness and eau de chien on their fingers that seems to help them remember to keep their hands in check. Perhaps I can build on this promising beginning!


She did order more treats! They arrived in the mail, so I think she must be reading these posts even if she is too busy to actually write them. We are, after all, a family, and families stick together.





2 thoughts on “In My Own Voice #21: A Reactive Dog Teaches Social Distancing

  1. Love it! He is so right! And I love how the eau de chien could help you remember not to touch your face. He is brilliant! Glad you are giving him treats.


  2. I know I’m going crazy when I start thinking, gee, I really like it when Pettigrew writes the blog. I hope Ruth keeps letting him do it. Huh?? But this is another good one. A needed smile in the time of confinement. Herb


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s