Homework for our Bogeydog class.
Inventory of Triggers
This is the tricky part for Sei. He will sometimes react at people or dogs that surprise him, but it isn’t consistant as to distance/time of day/location/type of person or dog/type of surprise. It seems to be more of the normal ‘adolescent herding dog’ variety that people keep telling me about. He definitely has overarousal/frustration issues if a dog is running or playing, but that is a separate thing. He is not generally fearful of people or dogs. He is often reserved on first meeting a person but once he has had a good sniff, he tries to climb inside their sinuses and be their new best friend. He sometimes startles at loud noises, but is not generally sound sensitive.
Mostly our issue seems to be stress in new environments and/or suburban environments. It is very subtle and I am really trying to learn how to read Sei. My biggest tip-off to stress is Sei’s inability to play, eat, or interact with me (discussed more below) in new places and certain familiar places. Instead of being his bright, engaged, and happy self, he is ‘flat’. He gets intensely interested in sniffing and often stares off into the distance at nothing that I am able to see. It looks like he is ‘distracted’, but through various approaches, it seems that distraction is less of an issue than avoidance. Perrin is extremely confident but easily distracted, and it just looks and feels different. He does better in grassy places than paved ones, quiet places than loud ones. I think being on leash/confined makes the issue worse. He does better on a longline than a leash (although it isn’t always an option). He is simply a completely different dog in my backyard, in the house, at the farm, or at the cottage (hereafter referred to as Sei’s happy places) than he is anywhere else.
He is much more able to take food, play, and engage when Perrin is with us than when he is on his own. This is logistically difficult as together they outweigh me.
Inventory of Reinforcers
- Food (broad categories based on value, he is not picky about specific foods)
- Peanut Butter
Those fall off Sei’s radar in that order as discomfort increases. He will work for all of them in his happy places. I mainly use kibble at home because he can get too excited over the others depending on what we are working on. Kibble is never taken outside of the previously listed happy places. Hotdogs/cheese sometimes are, depending (~50% of the time they are not spit out), PB is the most reliable, but still not a given. Sei will often spit food out when outside of his happy places. Often when Sei does take food it seems that he doesn’t want it, but is taking it to make my hand go away. He is also not eager to work for the food, he may take it, but then immediately go back to whatever it was he was doing (staring, sniffing). If he does turn to look at me, it is a fleeting glance rather than a sustained offer of interaction.
- Chasing toys dragged on the ground (no tug, no retrieve), ie flirt pole
Sei is eager to play with and work for a variety of toys in his happy places. Everything from discs, balls, boring (ropes, flat leather) and interesting tugs (fur, squeaky). The strongest part of play for him is the chase part. As stress, exertion, or frustration accumulate, Sei loses the tug and retrieve parts quickly. He will chase something thrown a little bit longer. Chasing something dragged on the ground will be the last kind of play to be lost. Playing with toys does not hide anything with Sei. He has to be really comfortable to be able to play with toys, he will not channel stress into playing with things and will actively avoid toys when he is uncomfortable.
- Personal Play
- Wrestling/rolling around on the ground
- Chasing me/run between my legs
Sei loves chase. Chase is likely tied with PB for the very last things he loses the ability to do as he gets more uncomfortable. We have never tried the ‘ground’ playing outside of his happy places. It is a new one to our repertoire.