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Teach Your Dog to Settle by Growing Calmness – Part 2
In last month's post, you were introduced to the concept of a ‘ladder of responsibility’. The ladder of responsibility is a way for you to think about how much responsibility you are putting on your dog and whether they can access the emotion of calmness with the amount of responsibility given to them.
In today’s post, you will learn how to deal with setbacks, how to tell if your dog is improving, and watch the concept in action with Piper.
Dealing with setbacks
Setbacks may happen and if they do, simply move up the ladder until you find the rung where your dog can settle and be calm. You may need to spend more time farther up the ladder or it may have just been a full bucket day, and you can go back down the ladder the next day.
Know your dog, pay attention to your dog’s bucket, and adjust as needed every day.
How can you tell if your dog is improving?
Keep track of how much time your dog spends in calmness. Behaviour improves on an average and it will be easier to see positive changes if you are looking for them!
A 1% improvement is an improvement to be celebrated. Small improvements tell you that you are heading in the right direction!
Applying the concept to Piper’s struggle: people entering the yard.
I have been working with Piper to grow calmness and disengagement when people enter the yard.
I have seen some progress using Distraction Mark Treat (DMT) and she is learning to engage with me when she hears the calm marker word (niiiiice) but I’m not seeing a reduction in her level of arousal.
I thought about the ladder of responsibility and contemplated how much responsibility I needed to take on to help grow her calmness.
First, I asked myself:
Well Piper loves her crate and loves her food! So, my first step was preparation.
I stuffed a few Kongs with a variety of different ingredients along with a 4” bully stick and put them in the freezer.
Now I was ready whether I knew in advance if someone was coming over or whether they just dropped in.
My second step was to do a dry run to see how long the frozen Kong would last.
It took Piper almost 45 minutes to finish the Kong complete with the 4” bully stick…perfect!
My third step was to put the plan into practice!
When the person was expected
Our first trial was planned to coincide with the arrival of my mom’s house cleaner. I knew approximately when she was arriving, and I put Piper in her crate with the frozen Kong 15 minutes before the arrival time.
Piper was still working on the Kong when the house cleaner arrived. She was totally focused and there wasn’t a peep from Piper! Success!!
When the person isn't expected
When someone arrives that I am not expecting, Piper will usually disengage when she hears her calm marker word. I toss food into her crate, she goes inside to eat the treats, I close the door, and get another frozen Kong or long-lasting treat.
I want the crate to be her ‘go to’ spot if someone enters the yard; stranger entering yard predicts something amazing for her.
What is the difference between the two approaches.
Think about the level of responsibility you have given your dog. Are they calm, and can they make good decisions with the responsibility you are giving them? If not, how can you take more responsibility to help your dog succeed in that situation?
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