Where Have I Been?

I have been wanting to become current on Tinker’s status but am plagued by a physical situation that has in the recent past rendered my hands and arms completely and quite literally useless due to tendonitis. Because of this I am cautious about how much typing I do; it takes much longer for me to complete things having to type in smaller increments so as not to overdo. Any soreness or pain has me dropping all activity related to typing  because of the fear of losing the use of my hands, and since I haven’t completely trained my voice recognition software, I have not been able to regularly post anything except Facebook entries and to handle email. At this juncture I am becoming a bit frustrated but have resolved to work through the fear so I may get caught up on so many parts of my work that need real attention and completion.

The other reason I haven’t posted even a small update about our boy Tinker is that every time I have a blog posting on my day’s to-do list, he does something new or different or surprising, so I think to myself that I would like to add that in to my posting so I’ll wait and write it all up at once. Which, of course, I haven’t.

I shall try in the coming days and weeks to give you an overview of where Tinker is now. More than likely I will have to do so in installments until I get caught up, because trying to put everything that has happened over the last few months could very well end up being a small book!

Stay tuned…



Spring Forward

Tinker’s progress had, for whatever reason, seemingly plateaued for a bit. I don’t worry about this because I know that when he’s ready he will take a leap forward. True to form, this is what happened today.

I had begun our interaction today in the usual ways: reuniting properly, asking him to come to me, etc. and we had started our heel work and Stop, Start, Change Direction when I heard one of my other dogs, Emmett, ascend the stairs. Tinker, as he always does when he knows one of the other dogs is nearby, made a beeline for his crate. I decided to use the time practicing SSCD with Emmett instead so Tinker could watch.

Emmett and I walked, circled, backed up, paused over and over again as Tinker watched from his crate. I had Emmett on a leash, which I always have attached to my two other dogs when they are in Tinker’s presence so I have control of them, keeping pressure off Tinker. Emmett and I stopped in front of Tinker’s doorway and he watched as I rewarded Emmett with praise, some good petting and cheese.

After about 5 minutes of practice I began walking Emmett into Tinker’s room, and rewarded Tinker with a bit of cheese after asking him to reach toward me for it, then I asked Emmett to go into a “down” in front of Tinker’s crate for his reward (I only asked for this because I didn’t have a way to make a space between Emmett and I so I could call him). At this point they were approximately a foot or so away from each other. As soon as Emmett received his reward, we walked out again. Short and sweet. We repeated this interaction over and over…and over again.

As mentioned, Tinker seemed to have plateaued for a bit. For a little while, his SSCD practice was going well, and then it wasn’t. I’m unsure as to why but didn’t want to dwell on it, choosing instead to focus on recall with him and keeping interactions positive and calm for him, engaging him very briefly in heel work but not pressing him on it when I saw he was edgy. I thought at some point he would decide to try again. It seems as though today was the day.

I finished my practice with Emmett and brought him back to the main floor, where he stayed of his own volition. Both of my other dogs have been very accepting and respectful of my time with “the man upstairs”, something that is a demonstration of their belief in my leadership. They know that when it’s their time with me, I will summon them. They no longer follow at my heels. Emmett’s bark this morning was met with a lack of response from me and he had begun descending the stairs when I decided to call him back up for practice. His return to the main floor was my decision as well and he accepted it willingly.

When I returned to the TV room, I sat on the floor and laid a slip lead on the floor, something I had already planned to do today. I placed it next to me in such a way that Tinker, poor eyesight or no, would definitely notice when I called him to me. I asked him to come to me and when he came to claim his reward, he took some cursory sniffs of the lead. I thought it would be more jarring to him to have the lead on the floor but he didn’t seem to mind its presence. I called him back to me periodically, slowing moving the lead closer to me by inches each time and eventually had it on my lap. Tinker would take a few sniffs here and there but largely ignored it.

I began having him come to me with the lead in my hand, rewarding him when he came and he did very well. After several interactions I picked up the slip lead, opened the loop to a large size. Holding it in front of me, I would reach my hand through the loop to give Tinker his reward. We repeated this over and over, and slowly I moved my hand back toward me so that Tinker would have to reach his head through to gain his reward. I didn’t have him come all the way through but he had to reach far enough so that his head was about halfway through. He did very, very well even though he did startle a few times which caused him to really take a good sniff of the lead.

That was more than enough for the day! On to SSCD practice…

It had seemed quite curious to me that Tinker had done so well with the slip lead practice; his confidence and calm was marked, even though he had been interacting with Emmett just a little while before. Sometimes this kind of activity will lead him to close down for a bit, and sometimes he is totally fine afterward. But today Tinker was decidedly different.

I requested him to “heel”. He joined me quickly; we began to move and Tinker walked with me beautifully and weirdly smoothly. He paused when we had to pass through a doorway, which is something he always does. I think this has something to do with his poor eyesight. After a moment’s look at the doorway he began moving forward once more. We kept moving, and the practice become one of those moments with Tinker in which time drops away and it almost feels as though we’re in a bubble together. The focus is there from us both; everything else fades away and we’re just moving together, back and forth; circling, pausing; stops, starts, forward and backward.

I have never seen him more confident. It was so incredibly touching to see him enjoying the practice, deciding to push himself, showing me that he could do it, too, just as Emmett had. And, more than this, he trusts me enough to follow willingly, happily and, for him, following almost blindly.

Yes, of course…I cried a bit.

Something I had learned in my AB training and something I try so very hard to impress upon my clients is that dogs learn by watching, not by telling one another what to do. Emmett was the teacher today, Tinker the student. I was simply the facilitator. As Jan Fennell says, it’s easier to train multiple dogs because they will, if we get out of the way, learn from one another quite quickly. That was certainly the case today.

Tinker clearly could have had a longer practice, but I didn’t want to risk pushing him beyond his tolerance so I ended our session together, reluctantly.

I can’t wait for the next one!




I am sitting here watching Tinker sleep.

His body is stretched out with his head draped over the end of his little bed. Not a care in the world.

The fact that he is sleeping is unremarkable; it’s where he is sleeping like this that is.

It is almost ten P.M. Tinker’s bed is in the middle of the TV room.

Normally Tinker is in his bed when it the sun begins to go down, and there he stays, sleeping for the rest of the night. The fact that he is sleeping in the middle of the room, in the wide open, at this time of the night is a first. Add to this the way he is sleeping; stretched out long, rather than curled up tight; head lolling over the side and resting on the floor.

Complete bliss.

Another step forward.

I watch as he stirs, stretches, then rolls onto his back to rest there, legs splayed, for just a moment before he stretches again, bringing his front paws to his muzzle in that sweet doggie prayer position, then rolls onto his side and back to stillness.

I can’t quite believe it.

To see Tinker at total ease like this gives me even greater belief that one day he will be truly as carefree as our other dogs.

I shall continue to hold to that vision while he does the hard work.


In my last blog post, I detailed how Tinker not only had become seemingly quite comfortable with being stroked while in his crate, but had actually begun asking for affection. I truly had expected that we would remain at this stage for a while, but Tinker had other plans.

About a week or so after I had discovered Tinker enjoyed receiving pets and scratches while in his crate, we were hanging out together in the TV room. I was reading, and Tinker was in his bed nearby. I was ready to take a little break so I put my book down and lay down beside Tinker’s bed. This placed me in close proximity to him and while I was settling onto the floor, he watched me with wide eyes and wariness. I ignored him and made myself comfortable.

As always, I had a food reward with me. I asked him to come and gave him the reward. He didn’t have to leave his bed completely, but I do require him to physically move toward me to gain the reward. He did so and as he was enjoying it, I slowly moved my hand to the side of his head and neck. This ensured that he would see and sense the movement and orientation of my hand and I wouldn’t surprise or frighten him.

Tinker came to stillness as he saw my hand and arm moving and I thought he would simply stand up and walk back to his crate, but I felt it was the time to at least try so I could gauge where he and I stood in terms of our relationship and his confidence.

Tinker didn’t move, not even one inch. It was as though he wanted to just wait and see what was going to happen.

I gently stroked the side of his neck a couple of times, then withdrew my hand but let it rest on the side of his bed.

Tinker sniffed at my hand, gave it a couple of very quick licks, then positioned his head, chin down, just as he had previously while in his crate. He was asking for more!

Tears sprang to my eyes, and I will be completely honest and say that I complied with his request for more affection. This was a huge, important step forward in our relationship. Tinker was inviting and enjoying physical affection while laying in his bed in the middle of the room; fleeing was an option and one he regularly employed and yet he was clearly choosing to engage physically with me. I couldn’t help but be touched by this moment. We enjoyed it together, and Imade sure that I didn’t let it go on so long that Tinker could make the choice to end it, and then I left the room.

Once I was out of range, downstairs and enclosed in my bathroom, I indulged myself in a good cry. Why cry? And why close myself away?

To reach a point with such a fearful dog, a dog that no one had much faith in and who had such fear that it was advised by the majority he should be destroyed; a dog who was quite literally afraid of his own shadow and wouldn’t emerge from his crate with others present for weeks and weeks at a time;to share a moment when such deep trust is gifted by him to me was both overwhelming and completely humbling. I didn’t ever honestly expect to be able to share affection with Tinker. I had put that idea out of my mind and oriented myself to just making sure each interaction in the present was done correctly and well for his sake, and I would find out whatever the future held when that time came. In this way I had no expectations, thus would experience no frustration with him. To reach this point was in a sense a huge surprise to me.

Why close myself away? Dogs have certain qualities they are looking for in their leader, qualities that must be evidenced in every moment, and in every interaction. This is a matter of survival for them, it’s not an idle wishlist for what would make the perfect pack leader. Leaders must be unflappable, strong, calm, ready for anything. To display the level of emotion I was feeling could send the signal to Tinker that I am unable to lead for the time being and when there is doubt about the capability of the leader, then everyone is at risk. Tinker is certainly not leadership material and he clearly knows this. To have me laid low could make his fearfulness rise again and possibly set his progress back. It’s just not worth the risk to allow myself to break down in his presence.

Dogs are so generous and have such heart. Their willingness to try again and again with humans is a quality unmatched by the human race. Dogs have so much teach us, if we would simply listen.


I find that I like experiencing moments with Tinker much more than writing about them. I have some catching up to do, once again.

Weeks ago I had mentioned that I had begun giving Tinker a quick stroke every once in a while when he is in his crate, something that actually made me uncomfortable because this meant that Tinker didn’t have much of a choice about the interaction. I suppose, given the size of his crate, that he could retreat if he was very uncomfortable with the contact, or perhaps even nip at me, but still there was a part of me that felt I was taking advantage of his being unable to make a choice and I truly didn’t ever want to push him to a place of fear within our relationship. To help us both feel better about things, I made sure to only attempt a stroke or two if he seemed up for the interaction, meaning if Tinker was curled up in a ball, or showing me half-moon eyes, I would leave him be. If he seemed engaged, sitting up, looking interested, then I would briefly stop at his crate, with my side facing him, offer him a food reward and ask him to ‘come’. By ‘come’, I meant he needed to make a serious effort at moving toward me in order to get the food reward. Then I would stroke his head and neck once or twice, and leave.

I had thought that we would be at this level of contact for quite some time, so I was unprepared for what happened one afternoon. We went through our usual routine, with me bustling about in his room, ignoring him; I then knelt down at the crate entrance, asked him to come, rewarded him and stroked his head a couple of times. Something distracted me for just a moment, causing me to just leave my hand at the entrance of his crate while I was attending to whatever had called my attention. I felt a little lick on my hand, and saw him do this in my peripheral vision. He licked, then positioned his head near my hand and became very still.

At first I wondered: was Tinker actually requesting another pet? I left the room, and turned it over and over in my mind, trying to figure out if what I thought he was doing was in fact what he really was doing, which was asking for more petting.

The next day I repeated our routine, gave him the ‘come’ request, rewarded him, then stroked his head. As he did the day before, Tinker quickly licked my hand and positioned his head, chin down, clearly with expectation. He really was asking for more! I sat very still for a moment, thinking about what I should do next. Should I comply? Every fiber of my being said I should encourage him by complying immediately. But then I remembered my end goal, which is to make sure I behaved in a way that Tinker would clearly understand as being leadership so that he would trust in me completely to lead, guide and protect him; this meant that every interaction must be on my terms. After debating with myself, I left the room.

The next day, after settling in and having Tinker come forward for his reward, I once again stroked his head but this time I didn’t stop with just a couple of strokes. I petted his little head and began scratching his head and neck, while watching his reaction closely. What I saw was lovely.

Tinker’s eyes, fairly soft to begin with, softened further, looking more and more sleepy. His head drooped down until his chin was resting on the side of his bed. He did flick his tongue once or twice at the start, but clearly he was sinking down and down into relaxation and enjoyment. I kept the session rather short (even though I didn’t want to), and when I stopped his eyes immediately popped open and he lifted his head as if to ask me why I had stopped.

How completely wonderful. Tinker had let me know that he trusted me enough to allow me to offer him physical affection. I was surprised, thrilled, excited and at the same time, trying not to get too excited about this turn of events. This little guy has proven he’s full of surprises, and this was big…but there was an even bigger surprise coming!

What is that Sound??

A few weeks ago I was working on my computer and a sound came to my attention. It entered my consciousness slowly, because it blended in with other familiar sounds in the environment, including the sounds of construction that come from our new neighbor’s continued progress in building their new home. In fact, I thought is actually was a sound coming from the construction site.

But it was more rhythmic, more consistent.

The sound became a distraction; it was tickling at my mind, becoming more and more insistent to the point I could no longer ignore it or even try to ignore it, because my attention was becoming divided.

I finally stopped typing and listened. At first I focused my hearing on the sounds of construction outside, but very soon knew it wasn’t coming from out there, but actually from in here.

Strange, since the noise sounded very much like a drill trying to push it’s way through a knot hole in a piece of wood.

I turned my head this way and that, trying to discern where this sound was coming from and what exactly it was.

Stealthily, I stood and began making my way through the house’s main floor oscillating my head like a radar dish. As I crept, I came upon my two dogs and observed them peacefully napping in their respective places. I moved on…

I moved through the rooms until I came to the base of the stairs leading to the second floor and determined that this sound was coming from above me, from the second floor. I began to make my way up the steps, soundlessly, one by one…


Then suddenly, realization dawned upon me and the mystery was solved:

Tinker was snoring!

The sound of deep, unconcerned, completely confident sleep! What a victory for this little guy!

Since the first instance of my discovering his snoring, he has progressed to the point of snoring even when we are in the adjoining room, watching television.

Now I find myself listening for this funny, weird, drilling-through-a-knothole-sound, and it fills my heart with happiness for this little dog, who has truly worked so very hard to reach out to us.


Have You Read It?

As one who is a Dog Listener, I’m often faced with folks who freely and vigorously state their opinions about Jan Fennell’s work; what it is, the theory behind it, etc. Or at least, what they’ve heard or led to believe.

I am often informed by these individuals that Amichien® Bonding is based upon dominance theory, something that we now know is incorrect and based upon faulty research, and that pack theory is an “old, outdated school of thought”.  Add to this, they claim that Jan’s work is based upon her observations of her own dogs, and not ‘real’ canines. (Note: The gentleman who first wrote about dominance theory has, thankfully, publicly stated that it was based on faulty research on his part and that he regrets ever publishing his book in the first place because it has been proven to be a huge disservice to dogs and has been the catalyst of much abuse of dogs in the name of training. Jan Fennell has never, ever advocated dominance theory. Hierarchy, however, is a ‘real thing’, and in fact is something humans share with their canine buddies.)

I listen patiently, respectfully, calmly. I observe how emotional these people become when making these statements, and think how passionately they believe in them. I nod, giving my total and serious attention to them while they do their best to ‘enlighten’ me.

The conversation usually goes something like this:

Me (after they’ve unloaded their thoughts on me:  “Have you ever read Jan Fennell’s work? Such as “The Dog Listener”? Or, “The Puppy Listener”? Or, “The Practical Dog Listener”? Or “The Seven Ages of Man’s Best Friend”?

Them: “No, but I know plenty of people who know her work, and her theories are outdated!”

Me: “But you’ve never taken the time to learn for yourself?”

Them:  “I don’t have to! I know my friends are very well informed…one of them attended the Canine Behaviorist program in California! She knows what she’s talking about!”

Me:  “Oh! How wonderful for her! Did you know it was the behaviorists who introduced the shock collars and prong collars? I’m thinking you must approve of those, if you’re a fan of behaviorist thought.”

Them: “No, of course not, I think those are terrible!”

Me: “Ah, I see…Jan Fennell doesn’t approve of them, either. In fact, her method is and has always been non-confrontational, nearly silent, gentle, all-positive and completely free of gadgets, force or threats…in fact, the techniques aren’t based on theory, as are the behaviorist’s, but on first-hand field observation by Jan of canines in the wild; they are replications of the rituals wild canines around the world engage in with one another to communicate their leadership, which means humans can use them to communicate with their dogs in the way dogs can recognize and understand.”

Them:  “Oh…, well, I don’t know about that, but I am a fan of Turgid Rugaas; I believe what she talks about.”

Me:  “You mean as in her book, “Calming Signals”? You must have read it, then.”

Them:  “Well, no, not yet but I intend to…”

Me:  “Lovely book! I was re-reading it the other day and particularly liked when she mentioned how canines organize themselves around their social hierarchy and how important it is to understand this about dogs so we can become their leaders.”

Them:  “Yes! Exactly!”

Me:  “Just as Jan says…”

Them:  “Oh…”

Me:  “Then you understand that “social hierarchy” is “pack hierarchy”, right? And that Jan’s work helps one to understand how to establish the proper hierarchy with our dogs so we can become their leaders…?” I think it’s wonderful that Rugaas also mentions that dogs have a universal language, something that Jan Fennell has demonstrated with her method of Amichien® Bonding for over 25 years now. What fascinated me as I was re-reading Rugaas’s book is that she states quite clearly that she made her discoveries by observing “tame” wolves, those in captivity, as well as her own and her client’s dogs. Huh…not the same as wild ones, eh?”

Me:  “Is there anyone else who has ideas you particularly like?”

Them:  “No…”

Me:  “Well, it’s been such fun chatting about dogs, thank you! And when you get a chance to read “The Dog Listener”, let me know. I would love to talk with you again!”

Them: “Sure…” (as they hastily leave)

Have you read it?

Where Are We Now?

It’s been quite some time since I last wrote about Tinker’s progress. It’s not that he hasn’t made progress; rather, each time I would be ready to write an entry, he would do something new and I thought I would write the post to include his new behavior. The changes I’ve been seeing happen on an almost daily basis, thus the entry has been significantly delayed. All to the good!

Tinker continues to put himself out there, continues to take what for him, are risks. Our reuniting ritual has developed into quite a show, with jumping up, touching me with his nose, giving quick little licks, invitations to play, intense sniffing, tail wagging, spins, and sometimes relentless barking, all to get my attention (of course to no avail). Oftentimes he comes out of his crate in the morning to give me a good sniff and a few licks on my hand when I tidy up after our night of sleep and before feeding. When I call him for greeting, he will sniff my face well before even taking his reward, as if the food has become secondary to greeting me, and we’ve even had times when he has come when I called, greeted me, then walked away without the reward, something I thought would not happen for a much longer time. Add to this, he walks over with a gently wagging tail. I hadn’t been sure he could even wag, given his quirky physical development, so seeing that relaxed tail leisurely wave back and forth when he’s called really warms my heart.

Rarely does Tinker remain curled up in his tight little ball of self-protection any more. He sits up in his crate, looking at me, as if to ask, “What’s next?” During feeding, as soon as I complete Gesture Eating and begin to place his bowl down, he’s out of his crate, headed to his bowl even though I’m leaning over him to pick up his water bowl for re-filling, and begins to eat even before I’ve stepped away.

When I’m in the TV room with Tinker, practicing recall, heel work or Stop, Start, Change Direction, and we take a little break he will either lay on his belly next to me, within a foot or so, or will go to his little bed to wait, rather than put distance between us by laying at the doorway or going back to his crate. He really enjoys playing Hide and Seek, and no longer shies away from me or jerks back in surprise when he finds me; instead he leans close to my face for a good sniff, then takes his reward. When he does secure his reward, he no longer retreats to eat it choosing instead to consume it right next to me. Sometimes he will, of his own accord, walk over to me and begin sniffing me from head to toe. I ignore this, but enjoy the level of comfort we have achieved.

He grumbles and growls much, much less and is now reserving it for times when he truly feels he has something to worry about, or when he’s trying to figure out what I’m asking of him. His response to Thank, Look and Isolate is much better, normally responding with quiet when I thank him, except when strangers come into the house, especially when they are male. Then his barking will reduce to grumbles and growls and he’s now quieting himself after a short period. If I can tell he’s beyond being able to calm himself, I close his door so he feels a bit more secure and will stop barking.

When I am moving around, attending to business upstairs Tinker will now step out of my way or will walk in a circle, rather than running back to his crate. In fact, I can really see he makes a conscious choice not to go back to his crate, and will try to tempt me into the room with him. When my husband joins us, Tinker will walk into his room sometimes, but will just stand in his room waiting for him to pass by rather than get into the crate and will then follow him to see where he’s going. All this he does calmly now, no skittering with panic.

I’m seeing more grooming behaviors now, something that has come in little bits over time, but yesterday he sat in his bed, enjoying a good grooming of the likes I hadn’t seen before. Then he settled down for a rest, stretched out in his bed, rather than curled up, just a few feet from me, struggling to remain awake.

Rarely do I see Tinker look behind him any more. This behavior used to be so frequent; his head would swivel almost every minute or less, first checking to see if his crate was still there, then as he moved further into the TV room he would check to make sure his exit was still there, always checking his path to safety. Now he does this only occasionally and he usually when my husband is in the house. Even then, however, he doesn’t seem to feel the need to keep making sure he has the ability to flee to safety.

Tinker still allows me to scratch his chin and throat a bit when he takes his food reward, occasionally pressing his chin/side of his muzzle against my hand. It’s a challenge to figure out ways to progress in this area because Tinker is so hand-shy and I think some of this is due to his vision issues. He can see shapes I’m sure, but I can’t imagine what a hand coming at him looks like to him, causing him to jump back in response. I tried putting peanut butter in the palm of my hand to encourage him to stay longer, thus allowing me to pet his chin and throat a little longer but so far that hasn’t worked very well. He takes a bit on his tongue, then takes a step back while he’s tasting it. Too wary.

What I have begun doing is to stroke his head when I am in his room cleaning up and he is in his crate. This way I’m not appearing to go to his crate for the reason of interacting with him; it’s an effort to make it appear to be more incidental contact so I can keep our interaction correct. Just one, soft stroke of his head and I move on, no eye contact, no speaking to him. Thus far he hasn’t responded with surprise, growl, lip-licking or even curling up more tightly, all good signs that I haven’t pushed him too far, too soon and run the risk of his developing distrust of me. I will take my time increasing the strokes, always being mindful of staying within his comfort level because I don’t want him to feel forced into accepting this contact. While it’s certainly not an ideal situation to do this while he’s in his crate, thereby taking away his flight option, I don’t know of any other way to begin this process when he’s out of the crate. He’s far too wary.

Interactions with our other two dogs is at a snail’s pace as well, although I will say that Tinker and Emmett came nose-to-nose one day last week while Tinker was standing in the doorway to the TV room, and he stood his ground rather than running to the safety of his crate. He allowed Emmett to sniff his muzzle for a moment, lifting his lip just a tiny bit while uttering a short, low growl. For Emmett’s part, the growl didn’t startle him (surprising in and of itself..well done, Emmett!), and he continued to sniff a couple of seconds more, then I drew him back away from Tinker to give the poor guy some space. They stood there, regarding one another. Emmett then looked to me. When he did, Tinker decided it was time to return to his crate, but this he did calmly, and it seemed with some measure of dignity as well. A choice made deliberately, but not one made in the throes of panic.

I am still so encouraged by Tinker’s progress and have great hopes he will continue moving forward. He loves SSCD and will walk along with me through the rooms with few hesitations, and his heel work has greatly improved, to the point where I can walk more upright rather than stooped low, tempting him along with food. We are still practicing off-leash and when I see more confidence from him, I will try a slip lead to see how he does with that. This will be done in baby steps, of course: first leaving the slip lead around for him to investigate it; slipping it over his head and taking it off: working up the time it’s on him, etc. And it’s almost time to move his crate to the main floor to really integrate him with the other boys and to begin working on house training. All in due time.

Tiny steps that add up to big gains for Tinker’s progress and happiness. It may take a couple of years to really have him behaving more normally, but we’ve got nothing but time!

Testing, Testing

The evening of my heel work session with Tinker had a twist: Tinker decided he would throw me a curve.

In his previous home, Tinker would begin to bark when the woman pulled into the driveway at day’s end and would not stop until she gave him attention and food. This was a daily routine they had and his carer had remarked that he just wouldn’t stop barking until she spent time with him. Clever boy!

I had noticed at times that Tinker would be more barky in the evening hours, around feeding time (although I do vary their feeding times quite a bit so they can’t demand it), but it hasn’t been a consistent enough behavior so I had chalked it up to being alert barking, since our other two dogs bark when my husband arrives. Tinker sometimes would bark beyond the time when the other dog’s had quieted, so I would use Thank, Look, Isolate, although I think I had isolated him perhaps once by briefly closing his door until he quieted. The evening after introducing a little heel work was decidedly different.

Tinker began to bark along with our other dogs when my husband pulled into the garage and kept barking. And barking. And barking. I thanked him, I looked, and then had no choice but to isolate by pulling his door closed. I stood at the door, waiting for Tinker to quiet, but he didn’t. So I began giving him information: when there was an even the briefest of pauses in his barking, I began to open the door. When he resumed barking, I pulled the door closed.

Open. Close. Open. Close. Open. Close. And when I say ‘open’, I mean just beginning to slowly open the door, then having to pull it closed again.

I could tell he was actually getting the message, because the pauses would become marginally longer; it became obvious, however, that this little guy was determined!

I worked with him for about 10 minutes at the door, then decided he truly needed some time to think about things, so I left the door closed and went about my business.

Tinker barked for a solid 23 minutes.

When he had truly quieted, had stopped his grumbly/growly sounds, I re-opened his door and walked away from him. It will be very, very interesting to see if and when he decides to repeat this behavior that had gained him much in his previous home, but absolutely nothing here.

If I were to use traditional training methods, which would mean I would respond to Tinker’s barking with a command of ‘quiet’, then a food reward when he complied, it would mean he would actually gain exactly what his goal had been all along, which is to get attention and food. So much better to offer him an opportunity to learn that his barking won’t yield a thing but being separated from his pack. More efficient in terms of time it takes for the dog to learn, and the learning goes much deeper when the dog puzzles it out on his own.

How I appreciate Amichien® Bonding!

Did That Just Happen?

Today I had a day jam-packed with things to get done so it left me little time to work with Tinker but honestly, sometimes less is more.

I didn’t take much time to just hang out with him and practice much recall; instead, I reunited with him, called him once after our greeting, then decided to get right into heel work. He was nothing short of being one hundred percent on board.

I stood up, slowly turned around and invited Tinker to heel. He came instantly, with no hesitation. I stayed in the same spot, asking him again and again to heel, trying to keep him near me rather than allowing him enough time to do his usual stepping back from me. I picked up the pace of my request little by little until he was only taking two steps back. I sped up a little more, then he was taking only one step back. Finally, I got him to the point where he was staying where he was, in the heel position, next to my leg. Success!

I decided that since he was so enthusiastic about this exercise, I would step forward. I invited him to heel, took a half-step forward (at which point he stepped back out of reflex) and invited him again, moving by baby steps while keeping the pace up enough to have the sense that he was following me. I did a small loop in the room, and even kept moving right out of the room onto the landing, at which point he balked. It must be mentioned that there is a fairly wide threshold that is a different color and material than the flooring. One of my other dogs, Emmett always jumps over it, rather than walk on it, so I wasn’t surprised when Tinker stopped, since I had seen him do that little hop over it also. A miscalculation on my part, so I busied myself for a few moments away from him, then came back and called him to me. He came immediately.

To have Tinker follow me as he did, which wasn’t a natural ‘follow’ in any sense, was still enough to have seemingly made a difference in our relationship in just one day. Tinker has never followed me, except for short stints of running up behind me as I leave the landing to go downstairs so, in reality I have left so he’s not really following me. He has always kept himself ahead of me so he can race back to the safety of his crate. This experience seems to have made quite an impression on him, because when I had determined I was going to end our session together, I arose from a seated position on the floor with Tinker resting on his belly nearby, perhaps five feet or so, and he didn’t move. At all. Normally, he would have sprung to his feet when I was even in the process of standing up, and would be making moves necessary to be ready to run to his crate. But now, he didn’t stand up. I moved laterally, then began moving forward to try and make my way around him and out the door. Tinker remained on his belly, just watching me move around. I was dumbfounded.

It was only after I had moved a few steps forward to go past him did he stand up. He stood up and backed up a few paces, but didn’t race for the door. He allowed me to pass and walk ahead of him and through the door. He followed me to the doorway and stopped, looking at me. Just stood there, looking at me, then looking back into the room behind him. He moved back further into the room, seemed to look around, then came back to the doorway and looked at me. Message? He wanted to stay in the TV room, and he wanted me to stay with him! I could have been knocked over with a feather.

We stood silently a few moments longer as I tried to figure out how to deal with this new situation. I needed to close the door to the TV room because when I don’t, Tinker runs in to toilet (dogs don’t like to toilet in their den), but I didn’t want to startle him or do anything to compromise the trust we had so carefully built. I finally decided to risk heading downstairs, then coming back up the stairs again, hoping he would then decide to go back into his crate.

Tinker watched me go over the crate, not moving. I descended a couple of steps, and he came forward to the gate, still watching me. I walked downstairs, moved a few things around and headed back upstairs, at which point I could hear him head to his crate. Trotting, not skittering.

What a difference a day makes.