When we left off last month, Luke and I were working on the “Relaxation Protocol” as a step to try to calm him down when strangers come to our house. There’s bad news and good news. The bad news: I made the huge mistake of bragging about how he made it all the way to Day 10 of the protocol. I definitely spoke too soon…because that’s as far as we made it. We never got past Day 10.
The only different thing Day 10 added to the routine was me knocking lightly on the wall when I left the room. The strange thing was, he didn’t react to the knocking….he stayed on his bed, and when I came back in, got his treat. But then he got up off the bed and didn’t want to go back to it. This happened several times over the course of trying for a few days and taking days off from trying too.
But it wasn’t just that he wouldn’t stay in the bed. It got to the point where he didn’t even want to go to his bed, and then even started to not want to come downstairs where we were doing his training (normally he got super excited when he knew we were headed down to train). That was the point when we stopped, and I decided it was time to try something else. He seemed to be going through a spell too…he wasn’t being as good about his “stay” and “here” at other times. He is approaching two years old and I wondered if he wasn’t just starting his “terrible twos” early.
We worked on things outside…reinforcing “here” and “stay”. I could get him in a “down stay” out in the yard, with his sisters out there as well, and walk all the way around the corner of the house without him breaking it until I called him! I don’t think it was a behavioral issues then, I think it was just something with the protocol. Maybe he was just bored with it? I don’t know, but it was time to move on to something else. We went back to doing fun things downstairs so that he would want to come down again, and he will go to his bed now as well.
The good news: I was left deciding where to go from there. One of our blog friends had suggested that obedience training is a good way for dogs to learn confidence, so I decided to go back to working on his basics, and back to the trick training that he loves. I found this fun Clik Stik (affiliate link – we may receive a small commission if you click on that photo and order through it) online, and wanted to use it as a tool for some new things….”spin” and maybe even turning lights on and off.
No, you don’t need this fancy tool to train these things, but I really like this because it’s extendable and it has a clicker built right in! It took no time at all to train Luke to touch the little ball on the end of the stick. Just click and treat when he touches it. He’s really cute too because sometimes he’ll slide his nose along the stick until he gets to the ball.
I’m sharing this short video of him doing his spin and the touch. At the very end of the video, you will see him do the spin for the first time without me using the target! I was excited about that!
In the photos below, you can see him learning to touch the light switch, and it didn’t take long also before I had him touching it just by saying “touch” and pointing at it. Now, I just need to figure out how to get him to hit the actual switch! I wish we had those flat light switches because I think that would make it easier. We’ll keep working on it, and I’ll let you know if we get there (or if anyone has done this and has any hints it would be appreciated).
The other good news: I wrote about other progress we were making in other areas in this post: “Small Breakthroughs = Big Deal with a Reactive Dog” At the end I mentioned that because of his progress, I was learning to look for strangers on our walks, instead of avoiding them. I talked to our immediate neighbors, and in the past I had asked them to just ignore us if we walked by, but now I was ready for them to speak to us so that Luke would see them, and we could work on his reactions. We saw more than one neighbor on one of our walks for #DogWalkingWeek, and not only did Luke only growl once, for the first time he actually looked to me for a treat instead of focusing only on the strangers! I really felt like that was another breakthrough, and that we are making good progress here.
Because we are trying to sell our house, we’ve also had more people coming to the house for various reasons (we don’t stay here for showings though). Right now we are keeping Luke outside when this happens, but where he can look in and see people but not really interact with them. He’s done pretty well with that too. One of the times I stayed outside playing with them, and the TV man was in and out of the house where Luke could see him. He would run and bark at him, but again, I was able to distract him with the ball and get him to not just focus on that. We’ll be keeping him separate from people for a while, until we think he’s ready to be in the house with them.
I have some ideas rolling around in my head for more tricks for him to learn. I want to keep building his confidence in whatever ways we can. My future ideas include nose work classes, but I don’t think we’re ready for that yet. There’s a place online where you can earn a “Trick Dog Title” and I am thinking about doing something fun like that, which we can do on our own at home. That might be something to do over the winter, along with continuing nose work at home too. I also just keep sucking in all the hints and information I can, by reading books and blogs. This hop itself is a great resource and I’ve already picked up some new hints this month!
We are joining the Positive Pet Reinforcement hop this week. It begins on the first Monday of every month and runs all week long. The hop is hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier, and Rubicon Days. Please visit them as well as other blogs through the links below for more positive pet training tips.