Archie and I have been working hard this week on following all the training advice from Linnea (including her amazing FIFTY PAGE training guide).
In particular I’ve been working on improving our communication and strengthening our bond. Key to that has been eye contact, so I’ve been repeating over and over again the game of tossing food on the floor near Archie but waiting for him to look at me and ‘ask’ if he can have it (and waiting for me to say ‘yes’), rather than just grabbing it immediately as he would have done previously. I’m amazed how we’ll he’s doing! He’s picked it up really quickly. We do the same with his breakfast, and any treats, and it’s definitely improved our eye contact.
I’ve also noticed that he’s been bringing me his toys to play with, and putting them on lap to ask for a game of tug. Adorable 🙂 He used to do this in Belgium and I assumed he’d stopped playing so much because he was tired from daycare, but obviously we’d not been spending enough quality time together. He makes me laugh so much when we play together so it’s a really welcome development. He’s still sleepy in the evenings, but raring to go at 6.30am… :S
We’ve also been practising staying in his bed and his crate; still a work in progress. There is certainly improvement, and he’s using his crate voluntarily much more as a safe resting place, but he struggles when he hears noises in the hallway. When we had friends (strangers, as far as Archie was concerned) pop round this morning there was no hope of keeping him in bed or stopping his barking. He barked like mad at Rachel until he remember she was a friend, but was very well behaved at brunch and enjoyed cuddles and treats fed under the table.
I’m trying to practise Zen-like behaviour in the house (not easy for me!) and keep Archie from getting overexcited (not always easy for him!) so that our household is calm, peaceful and relaxing. Apparently even positive excitement (say, about going for a walk) gets him all hyped up and much more likely to panic and overreact to triggers outdoors. So only a calm, quiet sit, with no squeaking, produces the lead and opens the front door.
I think energy is the root of his separation frustrations too. After our walk yesterday morning (slow, calm, on the haltie lead) I put on the dog monitor and left Archie home alone while I went out for a run. I was gone for a whole hour and monitored him off and on via the monitor and app. Not a peep out of him – I was overjoyed and thought maybe his separation issues were cured. Totally prematurely, it turned out. When I tried the same feat in the evening, he went nuts, throwing himself at the door, barking and howling for a full 10 minutes until I turned around and came home, more than a little annoyed that he’d ruined my night out.
I need to work out what was different between morning and evening, and what his triggers are. Maybe he was better in the morning because he was tired from his walk, or wearing his Thundershirt? Maybe despite trying to be equally calm and ignoring him with a treat for 10 minutes before I left, I projected a different kind of energy? Maybe because I was drying my hair and getting changed he could tell in advance that I was leaving? I’m not sure. I tried again this afternoon and the first time he again banged at the door and barked, so I waited for a moment of quiet, came back in, took off my coat and ignored him for 10 minutes or so and then calmly left, and he was pretty calm (I could watch him on the app’s video) and totally quiet the half an hour I was gone.
One to ponder, and experiment with a bit more. Still, I’m really pleased with his (our) progress.
I loved the new BBC programme Me and My Dog: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08lnlqg
The first episode this week was all about building better communication with your dog; all the stuff we’re working on. Benny the little rescue pup, is our hero! He was once so nervous his owner Ellie couldn’t even put a lead on him, now he’s an amazing little guy. Something for us to aspire to.