As Spencer started to show significant progress this past winter and spring, we made the resolution to use this summer to socialize him as much as possible. It’s easier in summer because the days are longer, providing better conditions for walks, and we can have visitors in the garden, which is less stressful for both the people and the dog.
Based on the results, I’d say it’s paying off immensely. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating by saying that Spencer is making progress everyday. There are many signs: Continue reading
Yesterday, Sherlock and his family came over for lunch. It was a lovely day (despite the bad weather forecast), and both dogs did really well. Sherlock made himself right at home: jumping on all the toys laying around the yard and bringing them under the table.
We decided to keep the dogs separated to keep the stress levels low. It seemed to work. Continue reading
So when we were looking for a vacation rental, we asked lots of questions about fencing. We didn’t want to take any risks of Spencer escaping our attention and trying to chase away some unsuspecting person who wandered by.
Not only did the house we rent have a fence all the way around, the yard was huge (3000 sq. m or 30,000 sq. ft). This meant that we had lots of room to run around off-leash in the yard. We also thought it would give us a comfortable security margin for any passersby. The house is set back in the middle of the lot, and Spencer has never been bothered by strangers at this distance when out walking in the park.
What we didn’t realize was that Spencer apparently understands that the park is a public place. He had very different views about the appropriate distance for people walking by “our” property line. Continue reading
Spencer makes peace with the lawnmower
Like many dogs, Spencer is afraid of the lawnmower. He used to remain in the house or the other half of the yard when we were mowing.But he’s making a lot of progress recently. Now, he can tolerate our lawnmower, as long as it doesn’t get too close. And he is more comfortable when he is behind it than in front of it. I can only assume that is because he sees me behind it and figures it must be safe there.
Today, we worked on approaching the lawnmower on command (“Touch”) when it was off and not making scary noises or moving.
Spencer supervises the lawnmowing
I put a chew toy on the patio and encouraged Spencer to consider that a safe spot (“couché” and “reste”). It seems to have worked, because he didn’t look too stressed while I was mowing.
However, he still goes crazy when the gardeners at the school next door start mowing along our fenceline. Apparently, Scary Men with Mowers are not OK when they are near our haven of peace. I’m working on desensitizing him. When they come, we get a comfortable distance away and he is rewarded for looking at me and sitting down instead of barking at them. It hasn’t “cured” him yet, but he gets less intense than he did before, so there are good signs that he’ll gradually learn to be Zen when they are working.
So we’ve had a new cleaning lady for a few weeks now:
- The first week she was here, Spencer barked a lot from our hideout in the living room.
- The second week, we organized an off-property encounter. It went well at first and then something spooked him, and he started barking, so I took him back to the house and closed him in the living room. He didn’t bark when she came into the house with me, so he seemed to recognize that I had admitted her.
- The last time she came, it was raining too much to do an outside meeting again, and Spencer barked a fair amount at the living room door.
- I counted on organizing another meeting today but we were foiled by one of the neighbors who set up shop in the passageway to trim the very large hedge. I knew that would scare Spencer, so there was no point in trying to take him out. However, things are going great. He barked a little when Rosa came in the house, but is mostly sleeping and undisturbed by all the noise she’s making.
What has changed? First of all, we have been working on his reaction to the doorbell. Every night when Greg comes home, we do a simulation that it’s a stranger, trying to make it as realistic as possible. That makes the doorbell less scary.
Second, now that Spencer is calmer when the doorbell rings, we are starting to put him in a sit-stay or down-stay while I go to the door and let in the stranger.
So this means that when Rosa came in after ringing the doorbell, Spencer was at a much lower level of excitation than in the past.
Then I think he recognized her voice and smell and certainly the fact that I was chatting pleasantly with her.
He barked a little bit when she came in, but quickly quieted down, even before I went into the living room where he was contained. I gave him his lunch just after her arrival, and the routine of doing tricks to earn his kibble seems to have helped signal normality to him.
He actually slept most of the time she was here…right up until the vacuum got very near the living room door and the he started barking at the door to scare it away. He stayed a bit reactive after that, but less than in the past.