As I said in my last post, after the letter of complaint from my landlords, in fear of losing this creature who had changed my life, I ran to Julie for help and advice. She went through the letter point by point and helped me distinguish between which were reasonable requests and which were not, and developed a point-by-point action plan to work towards the reasonable ones. She also helped me find some of the words that would reassure without making promises I couldn’t keep.
My trainer, Julie Daniels, asks that we all take a moment to remember where Chico was when he came to me a little over a year ago. He was frightened and confused, distrustful and often panicked. Through an investment of tens, if not hundreds, of hours, and a not insignificant amount of money, he is now a much improved, happier and more confident dog. She and I have developed an attainable set of goals and a set of actions to attain them for Chico that will address your concerns.
The first step in this plan is to teach Chico not to go [into the road] or past the edge of the yard without me, even when tempted by a stranger, a dog, or a car or truck. It is a big job, it will take a lot of work, and we are starting now. Over time, this will teach him that what happens on the road is of no concern to him. This training will also reduce his barking when people come near the house.
This does involve putting up some markers (like those used to guide snow plows) to set a boundary line for him, I hope that will be permissible. We’ll start with two reflector-topped markers at the place at the top of the driveway where it turns to pavement.
Some of the work involved in this behavior change happens with a leash, some without. It is unreasonable to expect that a dog in this setting never be outside off-leash. [Our town] actually doesn’t have a leash law at this moment, but the one we are voting on in March says that a dog must be accompanied by a person and may not run at large except for work, competition, or training purposes. Chico is always with me, never simply turned loose to run while I sit inside or leave the property.
With M’s cooperation, I would like to start conditioning Chico to the machines, first while they are off and garaged, later to their sound while operating but not yet moving. When Chico learns that the machines mean treats, he will lose his fear of them and instead of running to bark at them, he will run to me for a treat.
Chico is a good and loyal guardian of the house. It is likely that he would not let [M] into the house if I were not here, that is not uncommon with dogs. Keeping strangers out is one of the things dogs do for us. As a single woman living in a removed spot, I appreciate that about Chico. Chico is an “alarm barker” barking to let me know someone is nearby. This means he barks but chooses not to bite. Experience after experience tells me he makes good choices.
Anyone who wants to make friends with Chico can do so by giving him a treat whenever you see him. I would be happy to provide dog biscuits. Being friends with him would reduce barking and change it from fierce-looking “go away barking” to happy, “please give me a cookie barking.”
While I cannot promise any timetable for these changes, Julie tells me that I ought to be able to have him trained to stay out of the road by spring. Please know that I appreciate you giving me the time to do the work to make Chico a good citizen and neighbor.
In a future post, I’ll describe implementing the action plan.