This is Twig. She generally seems to be an optimistic girl but she doesn’t like it when visitors come to the house. For the first several minutes she barks loudly and darts around. Eventually, she settles under the table but her owner wishes she would learn to greet guests more politely.
What concepts do you imagine might be needed to help Twig cope with the arrival of people? Whether or not Twig is worried about people, you may decide that she needs to practice more CALMNESS. If she is worried, she may need some OPTIMISM so that she can see new arrivals as a positive, rather than a negative thing. So, to overcome the barking when visitors arrive, Twig’s owner could begin to grow CALMNESS and OPTIMISM in Twig’s daily life, to help Twig associate CALMNESS with the arrival of people to the house and to generally be more OPTIMISTIC.
To overcome the barking when visitors arrive, Twig’s owner could begin to grow CALMNESS and OPTIMISM in Twig’s daily life
A perfect game for teaching OPTIMISM and CALMNESS is DMT; Boundary Games or Scatter Feeding are super for CALMNESS; and, Crazy Lady Game associates door knocking, greetings and arrivals with CALMNESS and OPTIMISM.
If Twig’s owner tries to play any of these games when her visitor arrives, she may find that Twig can’t concentrate on the games and they do not work. She might think that the games will never work. But the trick is to power up the games in advance; really adding value to practising the concepts that Twig needs to grow.
Long before the guest arrives Twig’s owner can play some simple DMT sequences to remind Twig of the game: see or hear a distraction, use a calm marker and then deliver a treat. There are 3 stages for developing DMT. The first stage is to mark and reward as soon as you see the distraction whether or not your dog has apparently noticed it; the second stage is to mark and reward when your dog notices the distraction; the third stage is to wait for your dog to notice the distraction and then orientate back to you before you mark and reward.
So, Twig’s owner starts by marking and rewarding Twig for events happening in and around the house. Then she knocks softly on something before saying NICE, a calm and gentle marker word. She pauses for a second and gives a treat to Twig: slowly, steadily, nothing too exciting. She does this a few more times and as long as Twig remains quiet, the game can progress and she can knock a little louder. If things continue to go well, she walks a few feet away and knocks on something different or gets someone else to knock somewhere in the house. If Twig barks, her owner goes back to DMT without the knocking. The knack is to go slowly, building up the challenge level for Twig. Her owner never plays this game for more than a minute or two but she does play this game often. Entire meals can be invested in the game.
While we are powering up DMT, there are, inevitably, going to be knocks at the door and visitors. Twig’s owner could use Novelty Scatter Feeding when there are knocks and greetings. Having built some value for Scatter Feeding in a safe place in the house, Twig’s owner could simply Scatter Feed into that space whenever there is a knock at the door. Scatter Feeding encourages CALMNESS and OPTIMISM.
When it comes to CALMNESS generally and especially when we have visitors, we love Boundary Games.
Boundary Games and DMT together are a super powerful combination. By playing DMT along with Boundary Games Twig’s owner is teaching Twig that visitors are cool, something to be OPTIMISTIC about and that visitors mean rewards for CALM and controlled behaviour on the boundary.
Soon, after practising DMT and Scatter Feeding, with or without Boundary Games for a few days, Twig will be ready for the next game, Crazy Lady. Like before, it begins with a game of DMT with knocks. This time Twig’s owner goes to the door opens it and says:
By playing DMT along with Boundary Games Twig’s owner is teaching Twig that visitors are cool, something to be OPTIMISTIC about
‘HELLO’ even though no one is there. She’s teaching Twig that the knocks, the door opening and greeting her guest are all non-events. And the best part is that Twig is learning that by choosing SILENT she earns a reward and that visitors are not something to worry about or become overexcited about.
Instead Twig responds with the emotions of OPTIMISM and CALMNESS. Dogs are efficient creatures and will do the thing that earns a reward more often than the thing that doesn’t; plus Twig’s owner is pairing the very thing that caused excitement and over arousal with a different, incompatible behaviour. The knocking and the greeting at the door are becoming paired with a CALM reward. Twig’s owner uses a CALM reward delivery; this transfers to Twig – creating CALMNESS in her too.