One step at a time

We were fortunate that Casey came home on a Saturday, as it gave us lots of time to spend together as a family. However, it became extremely apparent how much of Casey’s life had involved movement and having a job to do.

Our usual routine was something like this: a morning walk (a mile or two), a play session where he’d chase a ball or practice some dance steps (for breakfast), an evening walk through the neighborhood and an evening play session involving a variety of toys & treats (aka “dinner” some nights). Now, with limited mobility there wasn’t much that Casey was interested in. I prepared a Kong stuffed with liverwurst & kibble — Casey didn’t even lick it. I tried cream cheese and peanut butter with no success. He was depressed, likely in pain, and not interested in making an effort to do anything. It was disheartening.

Finally we had a small breakthrough — I was able to get him to play a game of touch*. I sat on the floor next to him and presented my palm to him (close enough so all he had to do was reach forward) and he touched his nose to my hand. At the moment he touched my hand I marked the behavior with a click and gave him a tasty treat — chicken. It was a start and I was thrilled. He had a job. In addition to giving him something to do it helped build his interest in eating again.

This was just the beginning of how I was able to use Casey’s years of training to help us navigate the obstacles we encountered during his weeks and months of recovery.

*About touch — it is an orientation exercise that has lots of applications in dog training, I teach it in puppy class as an emergency recall and it’s used in upper-level classes to teach a dog to work at a distance and develop involvement with other objects (like ringing a bell or turning a light switch).

To teach touch put a small piece of food (lure) in the palm of one hand and then present that hand, palm forward with fingers facing down, to your dog. As the dog reaches to sniff your palm/fingers “Mark” the contact with a Yes or a Click and give a treat out of your other hand. Once your dog gets the hang of touching your palm with his nose remove the food lure from your presenting hand.

Next time — more progress and how training continues to help in recovery 🙂



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