This old, scary house

I’ve been a bit vague here about the goals of my training with Frankie — so much so that my friend Mary, over at Dancing Dog Blog, assumed in a comment here that I was attempting to get Frankie to cease humping his houseguests. I can see where she might have gotten that impression. I alluded to that incident as my impetus to start training.

But Frankie is not a humper of humans, and we rarely get overnight dog guests, so being sexually inappropriate is not at the top of my list of behaviors I’d like to see changed.

In fact, “changing behaviors” isn’t even the right phrase for what I would like to have happen.

I realized I don’t have the vocabulary to explain it — imagine me, the English doctor, saying that! — so I asked our trainer (facilitator? therapist?), Crystal Saling, for help.

Q: How would you articulate our goals? Getting Frankie into the car more comfortably? Getting him to get over his fear of car rides?

A: To get Frankie to walk out the front door to the car without hunching his back, tucking his tail — and to be able to not only take food on the way, but to be able to follow a well-conditioned cue such as “Sit,” “Look at That,” etc. If that goes really well, we can see if we can get car rides conditioned — but that means that you will have to stop taking him anywhere in the car until it is conditioned, and I don’t see you wanting to do that — at least I wouldn’t if I had your routine.

In general, to teach you more about Frankie’s body language. The cool side effect of training, especially clicker training, is that even owners who are amazingly close to their dogs (such as yourself) become even closer because training has taught them to really watch their dog’s behavior.  Since dogs “talk” through their body language, paying even closer attention to that helps the human end of the leash to better “hear” the other half of the daily conversation they have with their dogs.  It is truly an amazing thing to watch. This is what is so reinforcing for me and many other clicker trainers.

Perhaps I am a “conditioner” then? That sounds rather clinical. And “dog communicator” sounds woo-woo. Well, at least you get an idea of what we’re aiming to do.

Explanation of the explanation, including a brief bout of (verboten) guilt

Frankie has been somewhat car phobic for as long as he’s been with me. I have always thought that, if only he had a smoother ride, he would not be afraid. There is some basis for this notion. He seemed a lot less unhappy riding in a mid-size rental car I got when my Hyundai was in the shop.

But since I cannot afford to buy Frankie an Escalade or an SUV (to which I am opposed anyway), he’s been SOL. I’d hoped Crystal could help.

Only now I’ve discovered that, not only do I have a shoddy ride, but I have a fear-inspiring house. True, I live on a very busy street — someone once said, I always wondered who lived on your street, and now I know, it’s ex-New Yorkers — but I always thought Frankie was used to the noise, as I am. Crystal pointed out that Frankie seemed disturbed by particularly loud noises — e.g., ambulances and police sirens — and that opening the front door, which we have to do in order to reach my car, was part of the reason he didn’t like to go out to the car.

Great.  I’ll put “move out into the desert” on my to-do list, right after “get a new, quieter car.”

Next week: What we’ve been doing to address the issue, and how it’s been working.

19 thoughts on “Training Tuesday: Goals”

  1. It is very true that learning the dogs signals makes for a much better conversation between human and dog. One if my dogs does not like to play that much (never did) but just by learning his signals I can now get him to play. All I do is watch his expression/body language and if I see he is happy I tap him, again watch his reaction and if he accepts it, a couple tickles or taps more and off we go.
    Before I could wave toys, play growl,do a doggy bow, rub his mouth and nothing !

    I guess I was always missing the moment. I think you will see this after learning Frankies signals. I am still a dog stutterer rather than a dog wisperer but a little understanding really goes a long way.

    Any idea if the car straps work ? I see them sold in pet stores and I wonder if they give the dog a sense of security. I cant get them for my dogs because I cant find any that fit. My doggy Rocky has a 48 inch chest and a 32 inch neck and they just dont make them in that size. I even have to have his collars custom made….sorry to rant….I am looking forward to hearing how you are helping Frankie overcome his fears.

    1. It sounds like you’re going the extra mile, Don — doggy bows, growls… I hope you have videotape. 😉

      I’m not sure what you mean by car straps. Frankie wears a halter and is attached by it via leash to a tightened car seat belt. Do send a link!

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  3. Oh yea, doggy bows always get lots of play. sometimes I do the ” walk like an egyptian”walk and the dogs go bonkers over it! For me it was a real thrill to discover I could use body signals for fun.
    They dont seem to like my dancing or singing to much, that always brings howls and barks instead.

    Here is the strap thing. I was just wondering if it helps or hinders actual progress.

    1. I sing to Frankie all the time, and he doesn’t complain. Which doesn’t mean he likes it. Since he can’t turn up the car radio when I sing — as certain of my passengers have a tendency to do — I can’t tell. Speaking of the car, that strap thing is fairly similar to what I’ve rigged up. Frankie’s not crazy about it but it keeps him from flying into the front seat if I stop short, so his opinion doesn’t count!

  4. First the absurd suggestion: double-paned windows are said to block out noise. MUCHISIMO DINERO. Now the slightly more practical: can you park your car in the back alley instead of in the front? I tried the dog strap and Archie went bonkers–made the already tense ride almost impossible.

    A shout-out to Don: “dog-stutterer” is hilarious.

    1. Ah, you’ve anticipated part of the program: parking the car in the back. Unfortunately, there are big scary dogs across the alley that often bark when we come out — frying pan, meet iron. Problem is, even if my house was soundproofed, opening the door to the traffic noise would frighten Frankie all over again — even more so than before because of the contrast. But the good news is that… well, you’ll have to wait until next week.

  5. How often does Frankie ride in the car with you? Where does he go with you when he is in the car? Does he end up at places that he doesn’t like ie. the vets or groomers?

    1. We go every single day by car to a place he likes: The trail where we walk. Everyone smiles and comments about how happy he looks. I rarely have to take him to places he hates like the vet.

  6. A question for you: where does the car usually take Frankie? And could that have something to do with the situation? For example if the only car ride is to the vet’s office, he is not likely to be fond of car rides. Our guys love car rides, because they take them cool places.

    Another good idea I read about in one of the books, sadly can’t remember which one is doing this very gradually. In and out right away, and reward. Then slowly increasing the time. This particular author would even get in the car with her dog and just sit there for a while and read a book.

    1. Hi Jana,
      As I told Karen yesterday, I almost exclusively take him by car to someplace he likes: our daily walk on the trail. But I like the in and out and reward idea; currently we’re working on rewards that are not food oriented because Frankie has diabetes so I only work with him during mealtimes now. Once we get those down maybe we can work on a program like that.

  7. Ha! That’s funny – I did assume there was a humping problem – abject apologies to Frankie…and you! And thank you for the mention:)

    I am looking forward to the trainer’s approach to Frankie’s fear. It sounds similar to what can happen with country dogs that are suddenly put into a city neighborhood; a flood of everything unfamiliar. When Tashi and I moved from the country, I found myself wishing that Bose made those nifty noise canceling headphones for dogs, too!

    1. Frankie forgives you — and won’t tell me where he’s from originally. For all we know, he’s a city dog! But apparently he was found wandering the streets of Tucson so maybe traffic noise is a particular fear.

  8. Welcome to the fear of driving club 🙁 First, let me talk about Ty. His motto: have bed will travel. In the car, NOTHING fazes him. A while back, a minor travel snafu resulted in us driving almost 700 miles in one day. Ty snoozed through it all and then “slept through the night” when we finally got to our hotel!

    Then there’s Buster. O. M. G. We know he was abandoned … based on his reaction to driving (starting up, slowing down, even clicking and unclicking seat belts) we imagine he was “dropped off.” He goes into barking jags that make you have to cover the ear closest to him. And you can’t yell at him because you can see he is doing it out of fear (as opposed to doing it just to be spiteful).

    We’re working with him. He has good days and not so good days. The funny thing is, he LOVES the car (or RV). Before we started our road tripping, Buster would run for the garage when we walked out of the house. When we worked around the house, Buster (and Ty) would love to hang out in the car. Weird. Sad. Frustrating.

    1. Oh, poor Buster — and poor you guys for having to drive with a full on fear bark chorus! But it sounds like you’re coping well and doing the best you can.

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