Attire Woe

Bailey's never been fond of things touching her.  A friend with a Belgian Shepherd (of the Malinois variety) once called her dog "non-tactile" and I immediately started using that word to describe Bailey.  It's like she gets the heebie jeebies when she is touched by anything she's not solicited.

Wearing a diaper in heat?  GET THIS THING OFF ME NOW!
A jacket when it is freezing cold?  I CANNOT POSSIBLY MOVE!
A collar?  OH DEAR DOG EW!

No, really, she was crazy bad about having things put on her, or being touched by someone she didn't know.  It's gotten better over the years, I think, and it's not because I actually did anything about it.  11 years of coping with having things put on and taken off should make some changes.

A while back I tried to pair putting collars/leashes/harnesses on with REALLY GREAT FOOD!   This did not go well.  She started refusing food.  I talked with Kathy Sdao about this at the Midwest Veterinary Conference after one of her sessions where she said "Don't backward condition, it can create a trigger.  Don't feed to prevent problems."  She said this more about reactive dogs and the advice of some to feed-feed-feed in the presence of a trigger in hopes of using classical conditioning to change the dog's viewpoint, but it really relates to Bailey's problem too.  By pairing an undesirable (having "things" touch her) with a high value reinforcer, I did not make the problem better.  I made her start to avoid that food in all settings.  Kathy was right on when she asked if the food was now a punisher for Bailey.

At Kristen's prompting, I took a video of putting on and taking off all collars/harnesses "with meaning."

Car harness and collar with tags means we're going out.  This one specifically has gotten a lot better in general.  I used to have to make sure I had a hold of her before trying to put the harness on, or she would run away.  Despite trying to teach her to put her head through the opening, she would actively avoid me and the harness.  I demonstrated this for another trainer one day and her comment was "she knows it means going on the car, so it should be a happy time" but it clearly isn't.  In the video she did NOT try to leave, but she sinks down, her tail stops wagging, and her ears go back.  She even does some lip smacking/licking.  There is significant lip licking when I present the collar.  She stands absolutely still and puts her ears up/forward when I place it on her neck.  As she walks away, her tail is up.  That is a classic "Bailey sign" of discomfort.  If she's relaxed, her tail is down.  If she's stressed or otherwise bothered, her tail is up.  After she shook off, her tail came down and started wagging.  She "shakes off" every time I put "going out gear" on her.

X-back harness means wonderful, wonderful, wonderful events will happen.  It means bikejouring, it means going running, her two most favorite things in the world.  She normally howls with excitement when she sees it and then demonstrates a lot of conflict behavior.  She'll dash up to me present her head then duck away at the last second.  She absolutely hates having it put on.  You can see her just squish down and she really didn't appreciate me touching her after it was on.  Her tail went up and she kept going to the door.  She really, really, wanted to go outside.  It normally means really great things.  She shakes after it's removed.

THE tracking harness means slightly less wonderful things but is still very exciting.  She approached me happily then crouched down when I slid it over her head.  This piece of equipment seems to have the least negative connotations associated.  I can't explain why, other than it is the most recently introduced.  I know I harness her after I've laid a track, and she knows that so I wonder if the prospect of tracking overpowers?

Slip leads aren't a big deal going over her head because there is so much room!  The problem with slip leads is when it tightens.  I need to get a video of that, for another day.  Taking it off, I do tend to scratch her neck before removing it 98% of the time.  I'm not sure why I do with that and not other things.

Slip collars tend to be a big ordeal.  It is generally tighter fitting, meaning it touches more of her head when it's put on.  No problems once it's on though, vastly different from leaving harnesses on her.  (I've never done a hand target for removing collars, so I shouldn't have done it in the video, but it worked REALLY well.)

Walking harness (H-style) is something we've been using since her rehab started.  It's a harness she doesn't pull on and hopefully distributes weight more evenly along her back than pressure on a collar if she does hit the end of it and pull before I stop her.  It means slow, controlled, walks.  I don't know if it's the sensation, or what it means that causes the avoidance she shows (or if she just smelled something really good outside).  The  foot presenting behavior is something we've worked on, and something I expect when putting this harness on. The delay isn't always predictable, but it does happen fairly frequently.  I was surprised that she didn't sink down when I buckled this one.  Really surprised. 

Not shown: gentle leader.  Last January I put a gentle leader on her and she hit the floor whining and crying.  Plastered herself.  I had absolutely no idea why.  It scared both of us.  This summer I found a lump at the base of her skull, right where a correctly fitted gentle leader would sit.  I would guess it put pressure on an already sensitive area and that sent her over the edge.  She's normally a very stoic dog, so it shocked me when she cried out.  Thankfully the lump is just a lipoma, but she doesn't wear gentle leaders anymore.

1 comment:

Kristen said...

What a good baseline.

We'll have to see where the training goes!