I had a wonderful second lesson with a woman and her recently adopted dog today. When I met them last week I was pleasantly surprised because the woman had described the dog as a recent adoption with a lot of fear issues. I sort of expected this dog to be a shivering mess, but instead was greeted by a bouncing, wagging happy doxie/chi (?) cross. She is afraid of people carrying books/magazines and was terrified of their stairs.
The owners biggest concern was the stairs. She spends a lot of time in a finished basement workshop and the dog will just sit up stairs and cry. The owner is not physically capable of carrying the dog down the stairs. She has a house keeper that managed to carry the dog down once after the owner made him stop trying to drag her down. The owner said she has tried everything she can think of, but did not want to traumatize the dog.
I started with some targeting to warm her up then we went over and hung out by the stairs. I had the dog target my hand all around the first step. Then I had her reaching for my hand to target it on the step itself. I put the treat on the step for her to take it from. She clearly wanted to try and never once tried to retreat away from the stairs and my game, but she just couldn't do it yet. No pressure, we hung out and did this for a while and had snuggles at the top.
After I felt she was comfortable, I carried her down to the second to last step and let her hop off, c/t. Then I lured her up to the 3rd step, c/t, lured her down, c/t. Each time I added one step. I added the name of the direction early because this dog seems to attach cues quickly and I wanted a little more ability to converse with her at the top step. She did pretty well until we got to about 3 steps from the top, then she ran to the top and looked afraid to reach down again. I carried her down and started over. After a few minutes I stopped clicking for the up part and only on the down. We noticed that it seemed to be the wood threshold on the top step that caught her attention because once on the carpeted steps she was seemingly fine. I had the owner get a bath mat to put on the top step. This clever little dog, I just adore her, she started digging at it right away to reveal the wood beneath! As soon as the wood was fully exposed she stopped digging. I kid you not, she was saying "You can't fool me, it's still here!". :)
By the time we got back to the top step she was flying down the stairs. She hesitated at that first step again briefly, then took that leap of faith to start the steps. From there she was actually playing on the steps!
We celebrated with a hot dog party!
After a little longer of me standing at the top step and cuing her to go down the stairs, clicking and tossing a treat to her on the bottom landing the owner and I stopped to discuss everything. Lola lay quietly at my feet ( a behavior she learned for the first time last week!) and then after a minute gave me a very intense look and then bolted down the stairs! She got to the bottom and gave me a full body wiggle! This was such a heart lifting thing to see! I love dogs who really *want* to try and really *want* to figure the puzzle out. I also love having students who have learned from mistakes with past dogs and want to do right by current ones!
"I Don't Whisper, I Translate!"