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Training and Behavior

Wild Moms don’t say ‘suck it up, Baby’

Comfort is for all seasons, and something that we can offer anyone we love, especially our dogs when they are feeling anxious or outright afraid. Yet in some animal training circles, there is a persistent belief that to comfort an animal who is afraid will only serve to “reinforce the fear.” A life spent with many animals in many situations has taught me that providing meaningful comfort is the sensible, loving response to any friend in need.

Suzanne Clothier says it very well.

A Big Day for Katy

This morning while I was fixing breakfast Katy was bouncing and whining, as she’s done before, but this time she was with the other dogs. She was trotting around right behind me (first time). When it was time to go out, she was right beside my foot (first time) with the others waiting on the door to open.

She’s walking around the house, in and out of rooms, like she belong here. I took a nap this afternoon. Molly and Candy were on the bed with me, Digger was on his bed beside me, Katy joined us and slept on Candy’s bed (first time). When I offered the other dogs a treat she came into the kitchen with the others (first time). She ran behind the couch when I walked toward her so I put it on the floor.

Katy was lying down on the couch and I sat beside her. I picked her up and put her on my lap. She was comfortable enough to move off by herself (first time). She still doesn’t come to me and does run away sometimes but today was a big day.

Katy – 4_5

Well, our family’s had a lot going on lately so I haven’t posted every day. I’ll give you all a synopsis.

Katy was tethered to the couch for a few days. She had her own water and was fed on the couch. Sometimes she would try to go somewhere else but not often. I don’t think it was too stressful since that’s where she spends most of her time anyhow. We had to take the coffee table out of the room because she kept getting wrapped around it.

With shy dogs, it’s always best to let them set the pace on social interactions. Forcing them sets back any progress made up to that time. Then you have to work back to that spot again. My colleagues have all cautioned me against it. I’m sure there is some finite reason I could document that made me think it was ok with Katy at the time. I’ve been thinking about it for days and I can’t come up with it.

On the evening of 3/31, I picked her up. She pulled away from me when I first tried it, so I stopped and stroked her slowly, talking quietly. She relaxed a little so I tried again. She let me pick her up and hold her. Ever so slightly she leaned into me. That was the turning point. From then on, her facial expressions softened enough that I’m 99% sure she won’t bite me again. I can pick her up and take her outside. I can pick her up and put her on the couch. She leans into me every time. She let me pet her while she was on the leash outside without trying to run away. She never runs away when I approach the couch. I can sit and stroke her any time. Any time she balks I just slow down until she relaxes. The morning of 4/1 I got a small but sustained tail wag while I approached!

I can now walk her on a 6’ leash, too. Calmly, slowly moving at her pace she’ll come with me. I use the cue, “Let’s go.” She will pee and poop on leash. I haven’t asked Burt to walk her but she and I have worked out a system.

She’s loose and dragging the leash unless we have to go out that day. Then she’s walked outside on leash. She’s in her crate when we leave still. The past couple times we’ve left her, it appears she’s tried to get out. So far she’s neither pulling the crate apart not injuring herself in those attempts.

We had a friend and her two dogs visit yesterday. Our friend sat beside Katy without touching her or looking at her & Katy didn’t try to get away. Our 5 dogs, she, and I were sitting in the yard for awhile & Katy kept moving closer to us. The visiting spaniel tried to get Katy to play but Katy ran away from her. However, she did continue to come closer and walk around us. Katy is still trying to get Candy to play but the biggest response she’s gotten is a play bow. Today Molly gave Katy a play bow to try & get her to play but Katy ran away. From Katy’s body language I think they would have played if Molly had run with her.

Katy’s been getting frequent non-contingent reinforcers this week. She gets a treat or a bite of my food with no expectation of earning it in any way. She likes most treats but not all, mac & cheese, Triscuits, hummus, yogurt, ice cream… I also found out I can put a little food in the bottom of a yogurt cup and she’ll clean it out. She still won’t work on a Kong. When she’s loose in the yard and I’m walking around I get squinty eyes and she’ll get about 12’ away from me.

Overall, big movement in the past week.

 

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