Impulse Control — Wait at an outside doorway

Continuing on from my last post… Now that your dog understands the basics of the wait behavior it’s time to try using it at a door that opens to the outdoors. If you have a fenced yard, use a door that accesses it for added safety.

Set your dog up for success. As you may recall from earlier blogs, I’ve mentioned that dogs do not generalize well. What this means is that while your dog may completely understand “wait” as it relates to the doorway you’ve been practicing at i.e. between the kitchen and the family room, he may not automatically understand that the same behavior applies when the “wait” cue is given at a doorway opening to the outside. As a result a little additional training may be needed.

Set up for success:

  • Exercise — If your dog is young and full of energy, you’ll want to make sure he has been well exercised before you start this new step in his training. (The anticipation of having access to the outdoors can be very stimulating to many dogs.)
  • Practice — Bring your dog to the inside doorway where they’ve been practicing up until now and get one or two successfully cued “waits” before you move to the outside doorway.
  • Leash — Continue to practice with your dog on leash, just in case!
  • Treats — Have some training treats strategically placed near the outside doorway for rewarding good behavior, but not so close that they are a distraction from the exercise.

Wait at an outside doorway (door opens into the room where you are standing)
Walk your dog up to the doorway on leash. Ask your dog to sit just to the side of the threshold. If the door opens from left to right your dog will sit just to the left of the doorway. Cue your dog to wait (and use your hand signal if you have one). Reach for the door handle. If your dog does not move give him some nice gentle praise and re-cue the wait. If he does move, reposition him and repeat.

After you’ve re-cued the wait, open the door about 2 inches; leave it open for about 3 seconds. If your dog successfully holds his sit, shut the door, release your dog from the wait, and go get and give him a treat. If your dog got up re-start the whole exercise.

Assuming your dog was successful, the next time you open the door you will open it about a foot.

Cue the sit/wait and open the door about a foot wide. If your dog starts to get up you will move your body in front of him to block his motion and simultaneously close the door. Re-cue the sit & wait and repeat the exercise.

If your dog successfully holds his wait for 5 – 10 seconds at the open door you can release him and let him go outside — that’s his reward. Don’t let the release/reward be too exciting as this could make your next attempt at wait more challenging for your dog.

Gradually, in 3 to 5 second increments, you will increase the amount of time your dog holds his wait while the door is open in front of him. You will work to getting at least a 30 second wait before you even consider trying the exercise off leash.

Wait at an outside doorway (door opens out away from the room where you are standing)
You will train this the same way as indicated above, however, note that your body will automatically be in a position to help block your dog’s forward movement, should he get up prematurely from his wait sit.

Now that your dog understands “wait” you should be able to bring in groceries or hold the door for entering guests without fear that your dog will make a mad dash for the outdoors.

Good luck 🙂

 

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Onward & upward — Casey’s recovery from CCL surgery

Can’t believe it’s been a month since my last blog 😦

LOL

Casey continues to do well, yippee! We make a point of doing his physical therapy daily. His routine includes a 1-mile walk plus one or two shorter ones each day augmented by his exercises. I’ve found that by adding music the time passes more quickly and we both seem to enjoy our time together. I’m not sure Casey isn’t all about the treats, but as long as his tail’s wagging while he’s doing his exercises I’m happy!

In the last two weeks Casey has passed two milestones:

1. He returned to dance (canine freestyle) class! While his endurance still needs work he was really able to keep up with the rest of the class.

2. Last weekend we took Casey out on his first real hike at a local nature preserve. We were out for exactly an hour, going up & down hills, across fields, etc. You could see how happy he was and pooped by the end.

Casey should be off all restrictions next week, however, I will likely keep him on leash for going down the stairs. It may be his eyesight vs. the leg but I’ve seen him lose his footing on the final steps and don’t want to take any unnecessary chances.

This has been quite a journey but I’m thankful that all has turned out so well. Many thanks go to our support team of family, friends and medical professionals — we wouldn’t be where we are today without everyone’s help — Thank you 🙂


Permission to Walk

Casey was given permission to start doing short, 5 minute, on leash walks as soon as his bandage was removed (following his ACL/Cranial Cruciate Surgery). Being all terrier — meaning he’s quite resilient and self-assured — Casey was ready to give it a shot. The literature we were given indicated he might not bear weight on the foot for up to 2 weeks, but that we should be looking for some toe tapping within a few days. Well, my boy toe tapped from the minute the bandage was off. Within the week he was balancing himself on the bad leg to pee!

The following week we had some very wintry weather, not terribly conducive to lengthening our walks to the 10 minutes as prescribed. So I decided to do our walking in the basement. How boring to walk aimlessly around a basement for 10 minutes…so I added some music and all of a sudden we were dancing 🙂

As soon as the music started Casey’s tail started wagging. He was delighted to walk to the beat. Yes, there were treats involved, which made the entire experience much more fun. The change in Casey’s attitude was instantaneous. Here was another instance of being able to use his formal training (canine freestyle) to help him rebound from his injury. Adding music has been so successful that we have incorporated the “dancing” as part of our program even when we’re able to go outside for longer walks.


Importance of Early Socialization

Recently I’ve had a couple of 15 or 16 week old pups come to my Puppy Kindergarten classes — the class is open to pups from 10 wks to 16 wks. In both instances the owners had “kept them home” until they received their second round of shots.

Unfortunately puppies have a developmental window that is just about closed at 16 weeks and what I’m finding is that these puppies are scared of EVERYTHING! While there may be a genetic factor, and it’s possible they are going through a fear period, there is no doubt in my mind that the lack of exposure to a variety of stimuli has severely retarded their social and emotional development.

So what do you do when you have a 35 lb. lab or doberman puppy that’s scared of the 6 lb. cockapoo, not to mention the other puppies? Here’s what I’ve done, that has brought some success:

First of all do NOT over face the puppy. Don’t let the owner coddle them either. Instead the owner should be encouraged to engage the puppy with treats or toys while observing the rest of the class from a little bit of a distance. After the class has been in session for about 10 minutes I do a first round of introductions. I have 2 puppies meet at a cone in the middle of the room (handlers using a food lure at the puppy’s nose to get them to walk to the cone). Once at the cone I say “let them meet” at which time the puppies (on leash – which must be kept loose) get to sniff one another for 3 seconds. Then I ask the owners to return to their chairs, again with food at their puppy’s nose. I select the quietest puppy to meet the shy one. Often the first meeting with the shy puppy is a non-meeting, but we try.

Then we continue on with class. All the while all the puppies are scoping out their neighbors. For the next round of puppy play I divide the group by size & play style, if needed. As I do this I gate off the scared puppy and let him be “off leash” in his safe haven, so he can watch the others play. Based on how that scared puppy is acting I will determine whether it’s appropriate to introduce him to one of his classmates. I find limiting the exposure to a single, quiet puppy is helpful. I will have the scared puppy off leash & the classmate on leash, so that I can collect the classmate up quickly if needed.

The socialization process at this point is slow, but once the scared puppy gains confidence with his classmates the changes in class behavior for that puppy can be significant. However, I’m not at all certain that the now more confident puppy will ever have the level of confidence or resilience in new situations that he might have, had he been exposed to more things (in a positive way) earlier in his life.

The lesson to be learned — get young puppies (by 10 weeks) out into puppy safe environments where they can begin to experience the world.

Have fun 🙂