When the Easy Choice is the Right Choice

A very wise horse-whisperer friend of mine, a cowboy named Brad, once told me that when training any animal you need to make the right choice the easy choice. This concept was a great help to me while training my independently minded horse and even applied nicely to teenage children. I’ve recently discovered it is an excellent strategy with Carla as well.

Carla has earned the nickname Goldilocks at our house because she likes to try out all the chairs, sofas, and beds in search of the best spot.

In my office….

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On a kid bed…DSC_8423

In the playroom… (amidst the noise)

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In the living room…DSC_8364

On my bed! (this picture gives you a point of reference as to her size – this is a queen size bed)DSC_8480

Even on Gracie’s bed!

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But we have this crazy rule at our house – no pets on the furniture. I haven’t always been a proponent of this rule. It was an allowance I gave during the early stages of negotiations necessary when first cohabitating with my beloved spouse. I loved to snuggle with little furry creatures, but my husband has this little teeny, tiny, annoying habit of being allergic to animal fur. In possibly the most definitive demonstration of his love for me, he has suffered through the adjustment of living in close proximity to multiple furry creatures for almost twenty years.

When I met my yet-to-be spouse, I had a cat named Shamu (uncannily similar markings) who for years slept every night snuggled against my belly. There is much I adore about Nicholas. In fact, there is so much I adore that when my animal-allergic guy moved in, I kicked Shamu out of my bed. You can imagine how she felt about this. But I was in love and didn’t consider the capacity of her anger.

That first evening that she slept in her new cat bed, she pooped in Nick’s shoes. Cats are nothing if not clear about their feelings. There’s none of the whining or pinning of a dog. Cats take action.

When we picked out our first puppy at the shelter and brought her home. Nick was firm – no dogs on the furniture. After her initial protest, Shamu resigned herself to sleeping in a box in the kitchen and after the puppy moved in, she took to under the beds.

Through another dog and three more cats, the rule has more or less remained in place.

And then we began this foster adventure.

Our first foster puppy was so sweet. She wormed her way on to the couch while our personal dog Gracie watched in jealous shock.DSC_7903

Our second foster puppy was all about being on the furniture. In fact on the porch she jumped from chair to coffee table to ottoman to loveseat very much like the way my children used to play the-floor-is-lava game.

But both of those precious pups were lap-size babes. Carla is decidedly not lap sized.

Training her to stay off the furniture is an ongoing task, but applying Brad’s rule has helped. My neighbor loaned me a really cool dog bed that actually hangs on a PVC pipe frame. That way Carla would be off the floor. I loaded it with blankets and a soft comforter to make it extra inviting. When we first installed it, she tested it out gingerly and spent the afternoon napping on it before going back to her Goldilocks ways.DSC_8420

In order to make the right choice, the easy choice, I’ve taken to keeping all the bedroom doors closed, loading the couches with obstacles, and flipping the cushions up on the chairs.DSC_8483

This doesn’t always work….DSC_8482

She tours the house periodically checking to see if anyone left a bedroom door ajar (she knows how to nudge a door open, so it better be latched!). Finding no comfier options, she’ll flop down on her bed or turn a few circles on the rug before settling down. I’m guessing this will be a lifelong training process.

Carla’s a smart girl. She won’t make it easy on her forever home. They’ll have to apply some of Brad’s horsewhispering magic, but she’s an easy-going girl. I’m pretty certain she won’t poop in their shoes…

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Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and occasional cowgirl who lives on a hillside farm in Southern York County, PA. You can find information about my books and all my writing adventures on my website CaraWrites.com.

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