Beth Holland

Food for thought…

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie?

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Maddie when we first got her.

Maddie when we first got her.


You may wonder what’s up with the sleeping dog. That’s Maddie. It’s really quite the story. She doesn’t usually sleep. In the spring of 2005, Mike – my husband – said I could have a puppy. I looked at Petfinder for weeks. Finally, I found Maddie.

She seemed perfect, so on a Saturday morning in May, we drove out to Connecticut to adopt her.

We got Maddie in the car with our current dog, Mic. Everything was fine. She ate some cookies, said hello, and then around New London decided to howl and pee all over the back of the car. When trying to pull over – and get some air into the car – she tried to jump out the window. After several more misadventures, we got her home where she proceeded to terrorize Mic and our room-mate’s dog, Wally.

For weeks, we worked with her. She barked at men. Would go bananas. Wasn’t housebroken. Tried to clobber other dogs, and generally shredded every last nerve. Then, we called Matt at K9. He explained that Maddie had no frame of reference in the world. She acted out of fear and instincts. He explained that we needed to work to redirect her behavior when she showed fear. (That whole fight or flight issue was really quite the issue.)

After a ton of work, Maddie really is a good dog. She can learn. She likes to learn. Though it may take her a little longer than most to grasp a concept, once she has it, she’s eager to please. In a lot of ways, Maddie is no different than most of my students.

The Point of this Post

Maddie is no different than my students. She has a different learning style than most dogs. She’s very linear concrete. For example, there are cows behind the stone walls on the way to Ft. Adams. Therefore, Maddie looks for cows behind ALL stone walls.

Traditional methods of teaching did not work with her at first. She needed more repetition. Treats were irrelevant. She does not trust anyone, so she takes a long time to get adjusted. Behavior needs to be modeled and then presented both verbally and non-verbally. Again, she is just like most students.

So, as I said, here’s the point of this post. Maddie is no different than any of my students. Behavior needs to be modeled, and then redirected as needed. Guidelines need to be clearly set. Expectations should be defined. And, most importantly, all lessons need to be presented in multiple ways. See, there’s a lot to learn from a sleeping dog.

Author: brholland

EdD Student, Writer, Speaker, Consultant

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