Friday, 10 July 2015

The Great Gatsby Project: The Plan

So now you know who Gatsby is and that I feel we - K, Gatsby and I as a team - can do this. We can 'rehabilitate', as K casually called it, Gatsby to be less dependent on her person (that's K) and to be able to adapt to and thus better enjoy the world around her.

All right, who am I kidding? It's mainly so she and I can survive the couple of weeks next month that I'll have her at my place. Right now, she whines and barks when K is out of sight, much less away for a long period of time. (She's absolutely fine at home without K, though. She fusses when K leaves more than when she's gone. Not to mention the pawing at the bathroom door, even though she's perfectly comfortable at home. So my guess is, technically, it's more resource guarding her human than separation anxiety.)

So, time for The Plan:

6 weeks until K goes away.
3 goals to achieve before she turns up at my doorstep:
  • a reliable recall "come"
  • ability to leash her 
  • "speak" and "quiet"
Now, let me qualify: I know I can't achieve 'a reliable recall' in 6 weeks, but I mean reliable enough for me to get her to come to me in normal situations, like in the backyard when I want her, or from the other side of the house to take her for a walk.

Which leads me to the next point - 'ability to leash her': she's not easy to leash and unleash, a vital skill in my eyes.

The last point, 'speak and quiet', is the flexible one. That goal may change as our project progresses. I just needed something different and more fun (I've never taught a 'trick' before, only very basic living-with-human skills) to motivate me to keep working with her, and since she tends to have very long, loud conversations with the doggie next door to my house, the ability to quieten her when she gets too garrulous would be just lovely.

(If you're wondering how K manages without these things, she doesn't have to manage without them - she's reliable enough for K, because K is her person and the only thing in her world - just not anyone else right now.)

So to achieve these self-set goals, K and I have penciled in dates, about twice a week, for us to work with Gatsby. We originally included one overnight stay at my place, but we've upped it to two because K thinks that if she stays with Gatsby at my house first, Gatsby will feel it's safe and then be happy to stay alone with me. The following 'trial run' alone with me will still happen - to test to what extent she'll whine her little head off the entire time, and whether or not my family members can put up with it!

So, what do you think? What's vital for you to be able to dog-sit? How's our plan looking?

This is how I feel right now...

Under pressure but excited!


  1. I think this is a great plan! To teach her more independence, you might want to incorporate some sit-stays, with gradually increasing duration of the you are gradually taking a few steps away from her as she stays, then leaving the room for a second, then for a few second, etc.

    I'm also a big fan of trick training for dog psychological health. I have some ideas for tricks on my blog if you want some, but it sounds like speak and quiet would be good ones to start with.

    1. Thanks for the input, Kirsten! It's interesting you suggest sit-stays for more independence. How does that work? Does it mean she might be more focused/secure knowing she's asked to stay than if we were just with her and then left [eg. for K to grab coffee from the counter]? That makes sense to me because she'd have something to focus on, but then the reality with Gatsby is that she can't focus when K leaves. She's already too over threshold because of that. So it would be a tough one for sure. I suspect getting K to teach her the sit-stay would be of most benefit, if we're hoping to have her settle better when K moves away. I guess it doesn't work for longer periods though, it's not like she can always 'stay' until K gets back!

      I would LOVE to teach some tricks later, aside from stimulating her mind, I think I'd find it even more fun than the dog would!
      (I have to ask, though: does teaching a dog 'quiet' REALLY work?)

    2. Well, I think the sit-stays just gradually teach her to be more settled in her own little mind. If she can stay in one position while the human goes away for one second, she learns she can do it, then two seconds is easier, then three, and so on until she is able to remain settled for longer periods of time. You make a good point --having K work on it with her would have the most benefit. But if you work on it with her too, she'll know the basics when K starts working on it with her.

      Something we groomers learn is that some anxious dogs are even more anxious when their owners are around! It is so important for owners of these dogs to work with them in a positive structured way (independence practice, confidence-building activities, trick training...) I think tricks and skills involving novel use of paws are confidence-building--here are some ideas

      I don't know if teaching Quiet works--I only ever managed to teach the "speak" part! :) I did teach my old dog Lamar to "whisper"...but that was something he did anyway, and learned to do on cue :)

    3. That theory makes sense, Kirsten. I'll let you know how it goes. (Also, I'm working on getting K to work with her - she's getting better at little things like making Gatsby wait when she's demanding something, but not up to structured training sessions yet.)

      Hehe I remember your posts on paws. Gatsby actually can do "hand", believe it or not - which is raising her front paw up off the ground, and it's infinitely useful when we're out walking because she gets tangled in her leash all the time (haven't figured out why that happens yet), and she lifts a paw for me to pull the leash back out from under her paw. So I could definitely work on further paw behaviours - shake or hi-5 sounds so much fun, and we all know how much better things go when the human is having fun!

  2. I agree with Kristen and her blog has some great ideas. I've been teaching our deaf boy Trail to be "quiet", especially at mealtimes since he tends to get over excited...FOOD!! I stop what I am doing and put my hand across my mouth until he quiets. So far, so good. Being deaf and food motivated keeps his eyes on me all the time.

    1. At first I read that as you putting your hand across HIS mouth, and wasn't sure how that really taught him, until I realised you meant over YOUR mouth! Wow! I love hearing about how different people train, especially adapting to different situations. Thanks for sharing!


Thoughts? I'd love to hear them!