One of the things we are trying to teach Spencer is to run away from Scary People and not toward them. This is a key point of rehabilitating a reactive dog. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned many times, our fence is a particularly sensitive point on the side facing the school. Not only can Spencer see the Scary People, but the strip of land between our fence and the school is narrow, so people come very close to our house and sometimes they have noisy, terrifying lawnmowers. (Cue melodramatic music.)
In the previous article, I mentioned the gardener passing by frequently to tend plants that are now along the edge of the school. His almost daily presence is making it easier to desensitize Spencer because practicing often is critical for a dog to master a concept like this.
Spencer likes to sit in the sunroom when it’s nice, which gives him a clear view on anyone coming near our house from the school. When he starts barking, I coming running from wherever I am, babbling like a crazy person in the Happy Voice on Happiness Enhancing Substances, “Oh! Is there a stranger near the fence? How wonderful! We love the gardener! This is amazing!” Then I encourage him to run to the living room which has thick walls and high windows (and his crate), where he gets treated for coming to his safe place instead of going towards confrontation.
Today, he started barking, and I went running with my crazed monologue. I wasn’t even at the bottom of the steps yet when he was already on his way out of the sunroom. He trotted calmly into the living room and then turned to me to get his treats. When I stopped handing them over, he spontaneously sat down, then laid down and then rested his head on his paws. We had a big treat party then!