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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm still very much a novice at living with and training dogs. I'm picking up all I can from friends, books, and DVDs. It's a whole mindset change, rather than a set of formulas that we can just apply and voila, there's your perfect dog....
The main difficulty, I think, is that the dogs aren't mine. I live in a family with three dogs that are 'theirs.' But I'm the one with them 24/7 and do 100% of the care, maintenance and training for them. The two kids and mom, the owners, have no leadership or discipline skills and don't want to have any (one a couple of occasions, I've gone out for the day and they don't even remember to feed them!!!) They pet the dogs for 3 minutes and then move on with their lives. But when they see me disciplining or training the dogs, they say I'm 'mean' and then they completely undermine any sense of order I'm trying to impart into the dog's lives. The kids encourage the whining and leaping behaviour by just 'being nice' to the dogs and letting them do whatever they want whenever they want to do it. They say that is truly 'loving your dog.' It can be quite difficult to keep them in order whenever the kids are in the room. One of the dogs will eat the other two little dog's food, because she sees the kids and perhaps thinks 'they're here, so I can get away with anything.'
And then when she is playing outside with the other two dogs, as soon as she sees the kids, she whines, barks, and hurls herself at the door to get in. But when it's just me, she'll paw the door once, and sit and wait until I come to the door. I have, naively, perhaps, mentioned to the kids to not let her in until she stops the negative behaviour, but they can't stand her whining and barking for more than about 1-2 minutes and they tell me that I'm being cruel. So they let her in, negating all of the dissociation I've been trying to create.
I guess the short questions are - is there anything else I can do? Am I still thinking about it in the wrong way? Do I need to continue to evolve my mindset on this, do the kids and mom need training, or do I just give up and perhaps, when I get a dog of my own, I can start from scratch?
 

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Can you have a sit-down with the family and explain what you are trying to do and why? If you are doing positive reinforcement based training, I can't see why they would think you are "mean" and you can help them help with the training (which is really quite fun). If you can't get the owners on board, I think you are fighting a losing battle. And the more resentment you have, the more resistance they will give
 

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Well I have a question, do you like what you're doing with the dogs. If so what a great deal that's just dropped into your lap. You get to work and train dogs that are not yours and learn from the work you're doing.

Now if this is not fun or enjoyable at all then drop it and join the family. If you happen to be a dog nut just think what the experience of this work could do to help you when you get your own dog. Every dog you attempt to train teaches you a thing or three. If possible you do your work away from family and when dogs, you and family are together let the dogs become free spirits. Is it the best possible program, No, but you can still learn things if interested.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you both for your very thoughtful answers. I've been thinking about what you've said for the past couple of days and it makes sense. I will indeed continue to train them and learn the art and slowly incorporate the family. I've been starting to discuss it more with them and give positive reinforcement when the kids get involved.
Your answers are what I've come to expect of this forum; well thought out replies with a level of understanding at the human level of mental complexity.
 

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I would try to engage the family in clicker training some fun little trick, like shake or play dead. There's nothing mean to clicker training and most people are pretty captivated by a dog doing tricks, so it may motivate them to be more active in their dogs' lives. Then again, if they're not even feeding them . . . Well, let's hope for the best.

As to undermining training, yes and no. My MIL gives my dog large treats for nothing. (I give him a little nibble at a time, she gives him a handful of chicken at a time.) He still behaves when I'm present, not so much for her. I could freak out about it, but I'm just happy she's bonded with Kabota. I think what I'm trying to say is, do what you can, but don't stress about what you can't do.
 
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