Posting days: Sunday and Wednesday and, sometimes, maybe, extra ‘news flashes’!
Sunday April 9th 2017
Thank you for your very sensible advice and suggestions. I found everyone’s comments very helpful.
I’ve been unrealistic and have expected far too much of little Isis.
We’ve changed our regime, and begun, as I should have done in the first place, with the basics.
Several of you commented on the fact that Isis was obviously very startled by the whistle and would therefore be unlikely to respond positively to the sound, let alone approach its source.
This is challenging as, obviously, she can’t see hand signals and, as she’s no longer very food-orientated, exciting smells don’t draw her in from any distance either. To complicate things further, this particular whistle is the only sound she’s ever responded to, except for birds screeching close overhead and angry dog barks. These frighten her too.
But, you suggest, there’s hope yet.
And there is. Hairy One always has treats at night after her last visit to the garden, and she waits for them expectantly as soon as we come back inside. We can build on that.
O.K., I follow your suggestions. I hang the whistle round my neck before offering my handful of treats for her to sniff. Then I go into the back room and sit on the futon. She follows me immediately and sits down close to me. I put my arms around her – she allows this now, as long as I don’t get too soppy – and fuss her gently while I blow the whistle. This time I don’t blow it as loudly as I can, only as loudly as I need to in order for her to hear it. I blow it in a little ‘toot-toot-toot’ pattern, rewarding her with the treats as I blow.
For the first time, she appears to be unfazed by the whistle. She no longer starts, jumps, or flinches.
Before, I spread the treats around the room, in her den, under my desk, on rails and chair seats etc. She couldn’t wait to rush off and find them. Surprisingly, she has taken to the new arrangement without any hesitation.
She has only introduced one rule of her own: when there are only two treats left, she leaps to the floor and waits for me to ‘hide’ them, one in her den and the other under my desk. I’ve no idea how she knows that we’ve got down to the last two! I expect I’m giving off some kind of unintended signal which is perfectly obvious to a dog.
I intend to be as patient as I should be, and continue this routine for at least another two weeks. (Does that sound about right?)
Of course, if she ever appears reluctant to leap onto the futon at treat time, I’ll stop and think again.
If all proceeds according to plan, may be the next step is to shift myself further along the futon, requiring her to move towards me in order to receive the treats.
She’s such a good little learner, I have high hopes of our eventual success ………………………
There is the question of her teacher, though, of course.
Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk