Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 3: Learning From Each Other

The third day of a Board and Train stay is often a turning point, as I get to know my canine guest better and he shows me what I need to know to help him learn and be successful.

One of Tintin's challenges (he's a terrier after all, and a teenage terrier at that) is learning to tolerate frustration - the kind that a young dog feels when he wants to do something or go somewhere that circumstances don't allow. Like staying by himself behind a barrier (a door, a fence), in a confined area (room, kennel/crate, car) or on a leash or tether (e.g. tied up outside a store). All useful life skills - but not Tintin's idea of a good time. What's a dog to do? Bark, whine, scrabble -- is anyone going to listen to me and LET ME OUT OF HERE!

Realizing that it was asking too much of Tintin to stay by himself in a new and strange environment,even for a short time, I set the bar lower, with mild restraint and/or restriction of his options: a few minutes in his kennel with me in the room, longer periods on leash tethered to me or a piece of furniture in the same room as me, and finally, after he was very tired from hiking, a very short time alone in his kennel in his room. On a tether, Tintin fairly quickly makes a choice to sit or lie down, and is rewarded for that. In his kennel, he is rewarded for lying down quietly, and also for calm exits (Sit/Stay while the door is opened). After the hike, Tintin stayed quiet in his kennel while I left the room and returned five minutes later. Success!!

Self-amusement toys like this Tricky Treat ball are good for channeling frustration
After a good nap, Tintin was up and raring to go again, so ... time for evening classes.

Another exercise in self control is the Go to Mat/Bed game. A dog can learn to associate pleasant relaxation with a mat or dog bed, towel or blanket. Handy for helping Tintin to settle in  a variety of exciting settings.

First he was rewarded for choosing to put one paw on the mat, then two, then four, then for sitting and then lying down on the mat. In between he got to play Pounce on the Kibble Mouse with a treat tossed along the floor away from the mat to set him up for the next try.

Appearances (in the photo) to the contrary, Tintin loved this game and learned it in 5 minutes flat (he was so quick with it I wondered if he had learned it before?)

This game's fun but get that camera out of my face!
After his lesson, Tintin put it into practice during dinner - he lay down so nicely on his bed, didn't fuss with the tether, and did Down/Stays with me out of sight, walking in and out of the room, etc. A very peaceful evening with a very sweet, smart dog.

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