A good day at school

We had a lovely spring day for Spencer’s lesson today. It was the first time we saw Irène in two months. Since we think Spencer has been making loads of progress, we were eager to have her opinion.

Signs were good as soon as we got out of the car: Spencer started frolicking in the long grass. In the past, when we’ve gone to the big park (Bois de Vincennes for those of you interested in details), he has been far too concerned with the strangeness of it all to frolic.

Irène had a new helper today — a young Brit named Grant. Grant’s job was to be the Scary Person. Greg’s job was to hang out with Irène and shuttle back and forth between her and me giving instructions and comments. My job was to work Spencer through the exercises. Today, we played the Bucket Game, Look at That and Walk Away.

In the Bucket Game, every time Grant popped out from behind a tree and Spencer caught sight of him, I immediately stuck a bucket of food under his nose. The point is that he associates the sudden appearance of this strange person with getting yummy stuff. He eventually starts looking to me for the food as soon as the Scary Person appears. Spencer really likes this game because Spencer really likes to eat.

Look at That basically entails calling your dog’s attention to Scary Things and then rewarding the dog for staying calm. In this game, when Grant popped out from behind the tree, I clicked if Spencer didn’t bark and then gave him a treat. So Spencer started to look directly at me for a treat when he saw Grant.

In Walk Away, Grant leaned against a tree. Spencer and I walked toward him and then before he hit “threshold”, we turned around and, if he came of his own accord without reacting negatively, then he got a click and a treat. We then gradually got closer before turning around. Spencer did great! He only barked at Grant once, but didn’t charge, and we were subsequently able to move much closer to Grant afterwards. Interestingly, the game actually got more complicated as the same technique was helpful when passersby caught Spencer’s attention.

Irène seemed to be as pleased with Spencer’s progress as we had hoped. Yay!

On our way back to the car, the positive vibes continued. Spencer met two dogs, one of whom really wanted to play with him, but unfortunately the owners called the doggie back. Lots of people told us how handsome Spencer is. And we kept frolicking. On the way back in the car, Spencer was so worn out from his big adventure that he took some micro-naps.

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