Macula gets bonus marks for her patience, gentleness and tolerance with regards to the rugrats. However, I am coming to the conclusion that I have possibly overestimated her intelligence.Twice this week Macula, the boys and I have been in the family room together. This is an area that we have childproofed as much as possible (though that never seems enough with these two). At any rate, this week at least, the kidlets are confined to this area, but Macula can come and go as she wishes. Anyway: we're all together, playing on the floor with the Pupster curled up behind me or on the couch. I get called away for a moment (once by the door bell, the other time by the phone).

I come back to find Macula in the same position I left her but with both boys harrassing her: the first time they were petting(?) her as if she was a set of bongos, just now they were trying to "feed" her various toys (one boy had gone so far as to have hold of her lip and was trying to pull her mouth open). Macula was just lying there grumbling slightly but not even growling, and didn't move until I called her away.
Obviously, I am going to have to take her with me whenever I leave the room, even for a second. And despite communication/language delays, I am going to have* to figure out someway to teach 18mo olds appropriate petting and playing techniques. But I still don't get it...if she's being harassed, *why doesn't Macula just walk away?
Marie
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Obviously, I am going to have to take her with me whenever I leave the room, even for a second. ... appropriate petting and playing techniques. But I still don't get it...if she's being harassed, why doesn't Macula just walk away?

Because they are her people and dogs will generally allow their people to do just about anything to them without complaint. That's my supposition anyway. Most dogs won't tolerate nearly as much from a stranger as they will from someone in their own home.

Tara
And despite communication/language delays, I am going to have to figure out someway to teach 18mo olds appropriate petting and playing techniques.

Try shaping.Work with one boy at a time. Sit with a dish of tiny pieces of the boy's favorite candy or finger food - something that will be really motivating to them. For one minute, watch his interaction with Macula. Don't correct anything or cue anything, just watch. Every time he makes any move at all that is acceptable (as often as you can manage), say "Good!" and offer him a piece of the candy.

Make sure your "good" comes in the middle of the action. After a minute, take a break (and assess if Macula is tolerating it okay - if not, abort). Then try again for another minute. Keep up sessions (on and off for one minute at a time) as long as everybody's into it, for about 5 minutes. By this time, the kidlet should be realizing that his actions are making the rewards happen.
Write down the types of actions you've observed, and decide what you want to work on. For example, say you want him to gently pet Macula on the chest instead of anywhere else. So for the next 5 one-minute sessions, you only reward touching her chest. If he's really rough, I wouldn't reward. But be somewhat liberal with it at first. If you get to where he's touching her chest more than any other part of her by the end of that 5 minutes, you can work on getting the touches gentler the next time you work on it. And you can then, in subsequent sessions, fine tune it to exactly the type of petting you want.

The important part is to keep the level of reinforcement as rich as possible. So keep your criteria for each step low enough so that it happens.

Once you get the petting you want, you can add a cue. "Pet nice." Then if you catch him reverting, you have a way to immediately verbally remind him of what he should be doing in a way he understands.
I saw some amazing stuff with shaping this week-end. And it works on any sentient creature, from a human being to a fish. (Yes, I saw a fish taught to jump through a hoop on command).
I would actually use a clicker, because it's easier to catch the actions accurately. If you feel funny clicker-training a kid, you can call it TAG (teaching with audio guidance) - which is the proper term for clicker-training humans. :}
The benefits are (1) you'll be teaching them to make conscious decisions about their movements (who knows - it may have an added benefit of improving their motor skills in general), and (2) you won't be giving them anything perceived as judgemental for them to rebel against (as in, "don't hit the dog!").

And why doesn't she move? Because something about it is reinforcing to her. :}

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Macula gets bonus marks for her patience, gentleness and tolerance with regards to the rugrats. However, I am coming to the conclusion that I have possibly overestimated her intelligence.

Obviously, I am going to have to take her with me whenever I leave the room, even for a second. ... appropriate petting and playing techniques. But I still don't get it...if she's being harassed, why doesn't Macula just walk away?

Pretty typical adult indulgence of the youngster's playing. There can be am anamzing level of toleratnce by the adults of the antics of the youngsters. Unfortunately puppies eventually lose their "puppy license" and get snapped at and obviously we can't have that happening with the kids. Anyway if you watch puppies playing on, at and on top of their eldes you will notice an awaful lot of puppy nipping goes unresponded to by the adults. Usually they let it go on for a while then do something to stop it. Sometimes it is walking away. Some times it is s shove or pin with a paw or jaw.
In any case - Good for Macula - and good for you for not expecting her to just put up with it.

Diane Blackman
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I'm not sure what Hubby would say if he came home and found me clicker-training the kidlets, but I can imagine the reaction of the grandparents when they find out (they are all already convinced that I treat Macula too much like a baby and the boys too much like puppies). Seriously: my Dad get really irate when he hears me using the same cue words (sit, stay, follow, gentle...) with the boys that we use with the dog. To me, it kinda makes sense: the boys are familiar with the words, and see how Macula responds to them, and I only have one set of commands I have to remember...

...wait a minute...
...have I just proved the grandparents' case? ;-)
Marie
I'm not sure what Hubby would say if he came home and found me clicker-training the kidlets, but I can imagine the reaction of the grandparents when they find out

Well, don't tell them. :}
Canine Action Dog Trainer
http://www.canineaction.com
My Kids, My Students, My Life:
http://hometown.aol.com/dfrntdrums/myhomepage/index.html Build Your Immune System, Lose Weight
http://www.re-vita.net/dfrntdrums
Macula gets bonus marks for her patience, gentleness and tolerance with regards to the rugrats. However, I am coming to ... appropriate petting and playing techniques. But I still don't get it...if she's being harassed, why doesn't Macula just walk away?

because MOST dogs just naturally understand that babies are annoying as heck and they are supposed to put up with it. Its one of the wondrous things about dogs.
Unfortunately puppies eventually lose their "puppy license" and get snapped at and obviously we can't have that happening with the kids.

Diane got there before I could. Marie, don't assume that because Macula tolerates that sort of stuff now, she always will! I've known more than one case where parents have thought the dog was just fine with a baby/toddler, only to have the dog eventually snap or bite as the child got older and "puppy license" wore off.
One case, with a Boxer, ended up with the child having a badly bitten face.
His parents let him play a "game" wherein he would take the older dog's chewie out of her mouth and basically tease her with it, and were complacent that "the dog will let the baby do anything". Yes, she would let the BABY do anything... but he stopped being a baby, and became a toddler. :-(

One of the biggest problems with this sort of scenario is that dogs don't always realize just how delicate a human baby's skin is, AND often end up hitting the face (as they would pinch an obnoxious puppy's face) - but what would be an appropriate correction to a puppy can do serious damage to a small child's face. (Which, as I understand it, is what happened in the case with the Boxer.)
Another issue is that a puppy old enough to be corrected will usually have the reflexes to avoid a warning snap, but a small child often doesn't - IOW, the dog won't have the intention of making contact, but do so anyway.

It's ALSO true that plenty of dogs can give small kids warning nips at an appropriate level (Molly, the BC/Chow my sister's kids had, would never nip the youngest, but often gave the middle child a good - and deserved - pinch), but in this day and age even a perfectly acceptable (to my way of thinking) disciplinary nip can be construed as a "bite".
Guinness used to do the same thing. He would just lie there, and grumble but not move. We eventually had to teach him "beep beep", which meant get up and go somewhere else, but you don't have to go very far. (It's come in quite handy actually, since then.) If I saw DS crawling toward a comfortably sitting Guinness, I could just call "beep beep" from across the room, and he'd move. We did keep the crate off-limits to babies, though, so that the Guinster could still have a refuge if he chose. My pet theory at the time was that Guinness felt that he couldn't move - he hadn't been given permission to. The "beep beep" therefore gave him permission. But it's just a theory...
Also, at 18 months, your kids are at the prime age to learn how to treat animals gently. It will take a lot of repetition, some modeling, and a great deal of supervision, but it will be well worth it in the end. Show them what gentle patting looks like. Repeat over and over again that "only Mommy can touch the doggie's mouth". Encourage them to "love" Macula in a nice gentle way.
Your instincts of using dog commands on your children are well-founded. I remember reading once that dogs have a capacity for understanding similar to that of a two year old child - hence the one-syllable commands, etc. Don't feel guilty at all for a) using one-word commands for your kids and b) using operant conditioning on them. Both of these will keep them happy and out of trouble, and therefore you happy. And who cares what anyone else thinks if they don't live there. If you're worried about what hubby will think, don't tell him the name of what you're doing, just do it.
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