Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 4 -- Steps Forward

Atticus is going to be a big boy. So my biggest concern this week is getting him comfortable with stairs and getting in the car. I was very pleased with our progress! He made it up more stairs than he had yesterday and he tried to initiate going up the stairs several times today. We practiced some on the front porch too. Those are a little easier for him to manage because it's not such a big flight of stairs. And, I might add, he went into the entry way and out the front door with his tail wagging today. The slow, no pressure approach works well for him. Pulling him towards something that he is nervous about could make it worse. But allowing him to approach on his own terms helps him to build up the confidence to get it done.

Most dogs do not really know where their back feet are. So, when Atticus tries to go up the stairs, his front feet will creep up but he forgets to bring his back feet along. I can help him a little by picking up a back foot and setting it on the next step to get him started. I also plan tomorrow to set up some obstacles in the house that he can navigate around and hopefully start to think about those back feet.

We also worked on the car today. All we did was approach it. I didn't open the door or have him get in. We'll save that for another session. I don't want to overwhelm him or feel pressured that he will have to get in the car. But if we approach it several times and he gets a lot of praise and rewards for that, he's going to start to associate the car with more happy things.

And, while we were out, it gave us a great opportunity to practice walking on a loose leash. He did great! I talked to him and praised him when he was in the appropriate position and gave him an occasional treat. He did really well sticking with me even when I made tight turns. Changing direction a lot will help him pay attention to me more while we are walking. In seemed he was getting more accustomed to the traffic as well. That makes me happy! Although he lives in a small town, it's nice to have a dog who is comfortable going into a variety of environments and he's at a good age for socialization.

We are continuing to work on "Stay." We're still working on building up his duration with this exercise. I can reward this with kibble from one of his meals. I reward periodically, just enough to keep him in his down. If he starts to break it, I'll say "ah ah ah" and ask for a down again. I won't reward him right away (I don't want to reward breaking the stay) but I wait a bit and then start rewarding again. When he has a little bit more duration on his stay, I can start to add in distractions or distance. I won't do any of these at the same time, at least not until he's really mastered it. So, if I'm practicing with distance, I won't ask him to hold the stay for a long duration. And, if I'm working on distractions, I won't ask him to do that while I'm far away. At least not in the teaching phase. As he gets older and has a really good understanding of "stay" I can start to mix and match components.

Busy day but we got a lot accomplished. Looking forward to tomorrow.

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