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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday's Training TIP: Whoa, What is THAT?

A recent Monday morning at the Bicegos. Sleepy girls zip their backpacks and munch on toasted bagels before school. 

Nat in the am.

I take FLD Scout out to "park" and decide to help by taking the trash to the curb. Anne has these nice cans that roll, so it's easier than dragging. I grab the trashcan handle and tip it onto its wheels.

FLD Scout balks. As I turn to look at her, the trashcan rumbles forward a few inches. Scout is now writhing at the end of her leash, trying to get away from that GREAT-BIG-SCARY-BEIGE-MONSTER.

Ah-ha! My perfect little puppy is afraid of something. The five-minute job of taking out the trash turns into a 20-minute training session.

What did I do?  I took advantage of the situation. Here's how.

  • I did NOT try to console Scout by saying things in a baby-voice like, "It's ok puppy! I won't let that big bad garbage can hurt you."
  • I did NOT let Scout run away.
  • I did NOT pick her up and coddle her.

  • I stayed calm and confident.  I tipped the trashcan back into place and squatted next to it.
  • I re-directed Scout's attention.  I used name recognition to get Scout to look at me. I praised her when she did. I told her to SIT and because I always have puppy food in my pocket, I rewarded her after she sat.
  • I gradually re-introduced her to what frightened her.  I touched the trashcan and encouraged Scout to come closer. When she did, I rewarded her with another treat. I touched the trashcan again to get Scout to sniff it. When she did, she got alot of praise and more treats. I stood up and praised Scout when she stayed where she was near the trashcan. I gently tipped the trashcan and moved it slightly. When Scout then backed away, I set the can back and repeated everything. Again. Eventually, Scout stayed close when I tipped the trashcan. I re-directed her again by telling her to SIT. Then I rolled the can back and forth. If she got up, I set the can down and put her back into a SIT. When Scout finally stayed in her SIT when I gently rolled the trashcan, I had a party and she got more treats!
  • I rewarded the behavior that I wanted.  Every step of the way, if Scout acted curious, I treated her. If she acted confident, I treated her. If she sat when I commanded her, I treated her.

OKAY! Now you should have the idea. I took BABY STEPS to get Scout used to the trashcan, to learn that it would not hurt her. I GRADUALLY re-introduced her to the can and PRAISED and REWARDED the behavior I wanted. I stayed CALM and CONFIDENT.

YOUR reaction is key! I like to compare this to when a child falls and skins a knee and the startled youngster looks to his or her parent. If the parent freaks out and rushes over, no doubt the child will erupt into tears. If the parent takes a more matter-of-fact approach, or even jokingly yells something like "Safe!" the child might brush him or her self off and not be a drama-star. It is the same thing with your puppy--she will look to you for guidance in how to react. Make it a "no-big-deal" and that is what it will be!

HINTS for taking advantage of a training session.
  1. Have puppy-food morsels in your pocket at all times!
  2. Learn to recognize a training opportunity. This means paying attention to your puppy and your own reactions.
  3. Be calm, patient, and consistent.

Eventually, FLD Scout walked at my side as I rolled the not-so-scary-anymore trashcan down the driveway and out to the curb. In fact, she happily accepted two more rolling trashcans!

Cc'd Rosie next to a tired-out-from-learning FLD Scout.

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