I would like to tell you about a character of note called Troy. He is an amazing dog in most aspects but his mouthing and jumping problems have prevented him from moving from WIP (Work in Progress) to our Adorable Adoptable area which is why I started working with him, in conjunction with his caregiver Savannah. As with every new case, we had to do a full assessment to find out exactly what his triggers were and how severe the jumping and mouthing issues were. Before the assessment I was given a host of information by his caregiver. This information is vital when writing a behavior modification program to work on a specific issue because no 2 dogs are the same, so his program has to be tailor made just for him.
His BMP (Behavior modification program) consists of a few different aspects. One part of this program for Troy was to decrease the opportunity for him to go over threshold as that is when he is most likely to display the unwanted behavior, which in this case is mouthing and jumping. Instead, we give him an alternative behavior to perform, to ensure that he stays calm enough to actually take in the information and ultimately make each experience a positive learning experience.
Initially we started from outside his garden, where we asked for sits. We asked for this specific behavior because we know that he is able to perform this behavior even when slightly aroused, so that gives us a basis to work from. We gradually asked for other behaviors too when entering his garden.
Another part of his BMP was to get him to perform a required behavior at a slight distance to ensure that there is a gap between him and the handler. Once he was comfortable enough, we started working on the duration of the behavior, which in this case was “SIT”. We also later introduced a target for him to sit on as we entered his garden and this was repeated a number of times until his duration was solid. Only then did another aspect of his BMP p come into play, which was fitting the harness. This could only happen when he was in a SIT-STAY meaning that he was still below threshold and able to take in information.
Troy is responding very well to his program but we still have a a while to go before he can be considered to move to the Adoptable Area, but judging on the progress he has made up until now, I have no doubt that it will happen sooner rather than later. Ultimately we would like to send Troy to his target even before we enter his garden. He is slowly but surely getting there but an interesting thing about this experience with Troy was realizing that the initial goal of stopping the mouthing and jumping had kind of become secondary in that he established a routine with is caregiver and is now already at a point where she can successfully train him without him going over threshold. Because of this, he is now able to be trained on new behaviors outside his garden and hopefully we will be able to bring those new behaviours into his garden in order to give him a broader spectrum of behaviours to perform as alternative to his mouthing and jumping.
I am very proud of both Troy and Savannah and I will touch base with them regularly to make sure that Troy is making progress and if not, we will adjust his program as needed to make sure he gets all the help and guidance he needs to be the dog we know he can be.