Maggie, our first Bouvier, is a bit stubborn. But she was a very introverted, laid-back, calm puppy and has grown into a very sweet, introverted, laid-back, relaxed dog. She is so easy to care for and so loving, we knew we had to get a second one. We looked and looked and fell in love with Elsie. We brought her home.
Elsie is a sweet and very extroverted puppy. Not only does she have puppy energy, she has a very assertive, excited, and outgoing personality. Training her is a completely different exercise than training Maggie. I figure I am not the only person who has had difficulties training a very excitable, energetic stubborn Bouvier, but we have learned lessons I hope to pass on to someone else who might struggle when doing so. (We also welcome advice from those who have been through this before us.)
Not as advertised – you know, that stick with it! and it will come with time patience. Elsie requires the I know you are excited and focused and you don’t mean to be a pain in the behind and I still love you brand of patience.
She has learned many a command, but chooses to ignore them when she would rather do. How do you know she understands if she does not execute? Many people think their dogs understand, but there is a disconnect. That is a good point, dear reader. However, Elsie has a tell. Example: “Elsie, Come!” She looks at you, takes a step, looks at what she was doing, looks at you, and bounds away from you. Or, “Elsie, Sit!” Her back end begins to travel toward the ground, then she looks at you, looks away, and bounds away. Do you see the tell? She looks – acknowledging she hears you, begins to execute, and BAM!
We have both learned to count to ten, take a breath, and try a different approach.
Elsie gets bored with you. She is very focused, but on her own plans. If you decide to play for ten minutes, Elsie will check out at two minutes to relocate a toy to one of her fun zones. She will then plop down and start chewing on her toy alone. She likes playing with you and will do so, but it rarely follows your schedule. So imagine how this dog feels about training sessions, even with games incorporated.
We have had to invent creative ways to train and entertain her. And she is clever, so we have to be that much more clever. To learn sit, we were unable to do the traditional butt down, treat above the nose trick. Oh, no. We had to catch her sitting, reward her and teach her the word. She is a champion sitter, but it took twice as long as it took Maggie.
Maggie could be taught in short periods, whenever you had time. Not Elsie. Elsie needs fifteen minutes a day at the same time of day with no distractions from BOTH parents. Distractions are leaves blowing, rocks, the sound of a neighbour smiling at his wife, any little thing can be a distraction to a mind as curious as Elsie’s. She needs thirty minutes of one-on-one training split into two periods – one with Mum, one with Dad – where she learns the same lesson in completely different ways (else, she gets bored). After a week or two of this per command, she is ready to try it out with distractions. And she does amazingly well given this time, but it took a very long time for her humans to figure this little trick out.
The best way to a well-behaved Elsie is a worn out Elsie. Somehow you have to wear out Elsie without wearing out the humans. It takes a five-mile run, six-mile hike, a forty-minute game of soccer, or a four-hour outing to get Elsie energy levels down so that she is listening to your wants over her wants. I challenge you after ten hours of work, completing some school work, cooking a fresh meal to still have the energy it takes to train her for fifteen minutes.
…We go to bed by 20:30.
We love our difficult puppy. We love her energy and the companionship she brings to us and her big sister, Maggie. It has been difficult, but we are slowly making progress and she is becoming better behaved and less assertive every day… just SLOWLY. It is worth all the struggle and pain to get a well-behaved dog. If you are in a similar situation and struggling, keep pushing. It is well worth the trouble in the end.