06 January 2009

Shanti - miniature pinscher

Shanti, my vet’s dog is staying with us for three weeks, while her owners are in Chile. She is a very nice dog, quite well behaved, and as long as she has a coat on she happily joins us for our walks in the woods. I’m planning to work a little on some issues she has while she’s here.

The first one is nervousness. Like most pinschers she has a tendency to bark at anything that might be a little scary. We noticed that a lot the first day she was at our place, she ran to the door or window whenever she thought she might have heard a sound, trying to scare whatever to go away. After she settled in a bit it got better, but still I want to see if I can help make her a more confident dog. Mostly the method is about counterconditioning. Scary things = treats. This way I hope to give her some happy expectations whenever she gets nervous, and have her turn to me instead of barking her head off, trying to make it go away. I went to a park in a city with her, and it seemed to work very well. Whenever we met a distraction I got her attention and she kept seeking me to see if I could provide something better than the scary man, dog, etc. I used the same kind of strategy with one of my own dogs, but that was more in benefit of contact training. He learned that he wasn’t going to get to run after that dog anyway, so he might just as well behave and look in my direction - something nice might happen.

Another issue is her food aggression. It applies to any kind of situation with a resource that might just turn out to be valuable to her. Like when my boyfriend dropped an id-card on the floor the other day. My dogs certainly defend themselves if someone tries to steal a very tasty treat from them (that i do understand!) but they don’t try to kill anyone within three feet of anything of any kind of value. She is obviously not very used to living with other dogs, which is understandable enoug since she lives only with her human famliy.

One of the things she is getting used to is that in our house there is always boring cow-skin bones all over the place. If she tries to defend one, my dogs will just walk away and find another - it’s not a high value bone to them since there are others in the next room. This seems to work out fine, she can live with a bone in the room and still relax. Improvement! Today she even played with Orkan and an old sock, they had a great time without too much teeth and barking.

She is also working on sitting with my dogs in front of me, being fed when behaving nicely. A bit difficult for her when one of the other dogs move, like when they perform a trick, but so far we’ve had no accidents. When she acts out she just gets to leave the situation, no treats for her. I’m going to train some crate games with at least Shanti and Orkan, maybe even with Storm, to work on releasing only one dog at the time. My dogs are very good at “misunderstanding” release cues when I release the other, something Susan Garrett’s post on “table trading” gave me a bit of inspiration on. This will provide a training situation suitable for the treat acceptance. If she acts out, she’ll have to go back in her crate, simply like a time-out.

We also try to get rid of her barking to achieve just about anything. Like when we stop the car she is convinced that the only way to get out of the crate is to bark. Hard nut for her to crack, that we leave her alone ’till she’s calm and quiet :-)

It might not sound like it, but Shanti is really a very nice dog! If she had a bit more furr and ability to move in snow, I might just have stolen her… Hee hee! Thanks to Laxmi and Sveinung for giving me the opportunity to learn a lot about this little girl and dog training for some weeks. Hope you’re enjoying your vacation!