by Chaille Johnson
My 7 month old is fine when walking on a leash around the yard or with her older sister who is a year. But this week I am trying to walk her by herself outside of the yard, she walks fine and does not pull like my older one. But as soon as she hears another dog bark or comes too close to a mailbox or a street sign she freezes up and cowers behind me or on my feet.
I am trying to take it slow, and get her to go near them, with treats and other things, but she just wont budge. Because they are such big dogs I want them both trained right before attempting to walk them both at once.
I sat outside my house my our mailbox for about an hour today trying to wait it out till she would walk by it, but she wouldn't budge and I didn't want to get impatient with her so I called it a day. So I figure it's time for some help.
You've got the right idea about rewarding her for moving closer to the mailbox. But, it sounds like she has experienced some kind of trauma, so you may need to back up and take things in smaller steps.
If you've been using a regular leash during your desensitization sessions, I would suggest you get a long line (a cloth lead that's 20 - 50 ft long). These are often used to teach recalls in unenclosed areas. This allows you to give her more freedom without having her run off if that's a concern.
I would forget the mailbox for now and go to another place in the yard away from the mailbox where she is likely to be comfortable. Call her to you and reward her when she comes.
If she already knows "come when called" so much the better. She'll be getting lots of reinforcement on the front end
When she reliably comes to you when called, you can begin ever so slowly inching yourself closer to the mailbox so that when she completes the recall (comes to you) she will be a little closer to the dreaded thing than before.
When she hits her resistance point, end the session. Put the treats away and try again later. You can do several short sessions each day if you want of maybe 5 - 10 minutes. I would never go longer than 15 minutes even if she's doing well. It's great when you can end on a high note and leave her wanting more.
The idea is that by rewarding her for making baby steps eventually she will be willing to walk right past that old mailbox to get to you and receive her reward. At that point, you'll want to work on having her walk past the mailbox from different angles.
Be sure to use high value treats for these sessions--not kibble. While there are some premium training treats that are commercially produced, you could just use left over chicken cut into small bits or hot dogs if she likes them.
Another thought is that if she finds the presence of her older housemate comforting, you might want to try to incorporate the other dog's presence into your sessions. Perhaps work one while the other dog watches and then switch out. You may need an assistant to be in charge of the dog that's observing.
Kaylie sure is a beautiful girl and she's lucky to have a patient, loving owner like you. Feel free to write back and let us know how things are going with her.
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