I decided that I'm going to go for it and shoot for completing the 100 days of training! It's started some fun thoughts in my head for little behaviors that I could train Dom to do. Things that I wouldn't otherwise have a reason to try out, but wanting to keep having something new to post will, I think, help keep those creative juices flowing. And Dom loves training, so it's really a win-win.
From my general search on Facebook, the 100 days of dog training challenge is to do a daily post about a trick, behavior or exercise that you're working on. A nice broad area. I will post daily on the Facebook page, but I think I'm going to still stick with weekly blog posts that involve a wrap up the videos that I've posted. We'll see how it works out.
Our first submission is around the counter conditioning I'm doing with Dom in the hallway outside of my bedroom. I either didn't realize or it didn't manifest until after Miley's passing, but Dom is pretty uncomfortable walking past the baby gate in the hallway. Previously, Miley was the one who wasn't comfortable and I focused on her and Dom seemed to be fine. After Miley passed, it became readily apparent that he wasn't comfortable moving around the gate.
Dom's nose touch to my hand is a strong behavior that has a solid reinforcement history. It's a fall back behavior that I can use to assess his comfort level. It's also a behavior that he feels very confident performing. Having him do a behavior that he is confident in around something that he is less comfortable with has helped to counter condition his response to something that he's not completely comfortable with. I also worked him both directions in the hallway on alternating days so that he didn't become okay passing the baby gate in only one direction. Though I only apparently recorded on days where he was moving out of the bedroom.
Initially I focused on rewarding for the nose touch, but I changed up the location of my hand based on which direction he was showing some discomfort in. If he eye balled the baby gate in between nose touches or cocked an ear towards it, I would place my hand in the direction of the baby gate. This allowed him to do the behavior that he was confident in while being able to keep a solid visual on the thing that he was less comfortable with. After a couple of strong nose bumps, I'd move my hand elsewhere. I'd do the same thing if he was starting to give the bathroom the hairy eye.
Gradually I would take a step backwards so that he had to also gradually move further out into the hallway. I would stop taking steps backwards once the "pull" from him was too great. Basically, once I felt that he wouldn't voluntarily move forward any further without me actually luring and essentially taking him beyond the point where he was most comfortable.
Progress was slow, but he was ending each session just a smidge further into the hallway than the previous session. We finally hit a point where I felt that we had plateaued and we weren't gaining any ground. I decided to change the picture a little and add an additional element. I've trained him previously to touch an item with his feet and it's been a pretty solid behavior. I would warm him up with nose touches to my hand and then add in the foot target. Initially he wasn't entirely sure about the set up. I started by rewarding him for effort. He may not have been hitting the foot target every single time, but he was definitely trying. It was just a matter of increasing his confidence in doing this behavior in this setting.
I also started adding in jackpots for steps forward, which was the ultimate behavior that I was aiming for. Any time that Dom took a step forward with any foot (which did require me paying attention to the back feet that I couldn't always see super well) I would jackpot the foot movement, regardless of whether I had asked for any other behavior. That saw a larger improvement in willingness to move down the hallway with a happy attitude. Happy attitude I based off of ear placement and how he was taking the treats. Ears up and faced towards me was the desirable position. Taking treats neither too hard or too hesitantly also indicated that he was comfortable with the position that he was in.
He is now comfortably working down the hallway and the number of glances towards the baby gate has decreased. Even though I have hit the desired "end behavior," I will continue working on the counter conditioning for a couple of reasons. One is that I don't know for how long of a period of time he has been uncomfortable moving past the baby gate. Miley was obviously uncomfortable and he may very well have been flying under the radar. So he quite possibly has a longer history of being uncomfortable than comfortable, that I would like to counter balance. And two, it's and easy and fun way to warm up to a training session of other behaviors. I can also continue to add in other behaviors with a longer reinforcement history to spice things up and keep it fun and interesting.