Our training plan for the Hurley Monster and his bad shop behavior is well underway. Here are our goals and how we are going about accomplishing them. The #1 most important thing we've undertaken is the Nothing in Life is Free Program. Hurley's response has been so rapid that I am hopeful he'll be returning to the store sooner rather than later. :)
1. Diffuse the importance of Mom. We hope to accomplish this by increasing the importance of Dad. So far, we've instituted a pretty strict (when we're consistent about it) Nothing in Life is Free program. Hurley has to sit to gain access to everything he could possibly consider a resource - the backyard, toys, bones, food, affection. While this has many benefits, it helps to diffuse how important I am to him because many times it's the Hubster who is asking for the sit and granting him access to the resource he wanted. Hurley has chosen twice in the past week and for the first time ever to hang out with Dad over Mom so I'd say our plan is working. The two will also be undertaking "Dude's Week" once the Hubster is done with school for the summer. A week full of fun, new and exciting adventures, all brought to Hurley by Dad.
2. Create alternative rewards for Hurley besides food (toys, affection, etc). This is where the Nothing in Life is Free program shines. Hurley has always had a hard time sitting if you don't have a treat in your hand. By making him sit to earn other types of resources, I see him beginning to realize that play, toys, attention - yup, those are all things he can work for and it's not just about food. We haven't seen any improvements yet in terms of how he behaves around food but I know it will take time and maturity for him to calm down in that area. I'm just glad that I no longer have to wait 30 seconds or longer for him to sit before I open the back door!
3. Continue to build on his good behavior around other dogs outside of the shop. This is where Hurley gets to have lots of fun. Increased trips to the dog park, doggie play dates, and participating in events like the Doggie Dash all serve to increase his confidence around other dogs.
4. Create a default "Look at me" behavior when he sees another dog. Any time Hurley and I are out and about, I am constantly asking for "Watch Me's" but especially when we run into another dog. By creating a default Look when he sees another dog, I will therefore be able to guide his response to that dog. This one is going to take months but he's doing really well. At the dog park the other day, he gave me such a sharp swivel of his head when I asked for a "Watch Me", I was floored. He definitely is beginning to solve the simple equation of Look at dog + Look at Mom = Treat.
5. Create neutrality in Hurley when around reactive dogs. Ultimately, I would like Hurley to always be solid regardless of the behavior of another dog. In one on one situations with a reactive dog, he is likely to react back. When surrounded by many dogs (like at the dog park) and one reacts, he avoids or ignores the situation. He really just needs more training to encourage avoidance in all situations, even when it's just him encountering one reactive dog. We practice on our walks and any time a dog barks, he gets a treat. When we walk by a reactive dog in their yard, he gets a handful of slowly dispensed treats. It won't be long before he starts associating a dog's bark with yummy treats. And knowing Hurley, if he thinks a reward is for his taking, other dogs do not exist. Unfortunately, this also means that Hurley cannot go on walks with his sisters right now as everyone is more reactive when walking together as a pack. Once we've resolved the individual issues, we'll be back to multi-dog walks but for now, everyone gets one on one time with Mom & Dad.
Them's our goals! The plan is to see significant progress on each goal before considering allowing him back in the shop. I've seen such a difference in him these past two weeks of undergoing Nothing in Life is Free and staying at home. I'm no longer his sole reason for being, he listens better, he comes better and he seeks out affection more. All in all, I'm incredibly pleased with how much he's progressed in such a short time and believe he'll be back in shop before the end of the summer for sure. We're going to take it slow and reward him with time in the shop. Another way he has to earn what he wants. :)
Thanks for your thoughtful comments on my previous posts about Hurley's shop issues. It helps to keep us going and not give up!