Twiggy and her Stuffies
From what we can assume, Twiggy’s life before Dogtown did not involve other dogs, or at least no positive associations or interactions with other dogs. She is an older lady and is very, very much set in her ways. She made no secret of the fact that she is quite happy being on her own and sharing her space with another dog was not on top of her list of priorities. She would much rather cuddle the humans than mingle with other dogs. This made me sad because it must be so lonely living on your own, so in true Dogtown style, a behaviour modification program was written especially for her to see if we can help her to find a friend 🙂
In cases like Twiggy’s, it’s hard to work with her and real live dogs because she is not comfortable. So to make her feel safe and comfortable and to allow Twiggy to go at her own pace, we use dummy dogs. These are stuffed dogs (sometimes known as stuffies) that we include in our training sessions.
We start off by using stuffies that are the same size as Twiggy, so that she doesn’t feel intimidated. What we basically do is position the stuffie somewhere along our waking trail, and we walk towards the stuffie dog. The moment Twiggy sees the stuffie and acts appropriately (look away or ignore the stuffy dog) – she gets a big reward, usually a yummy treat. Twiggy eventually felt so comfortable with the twiggy-sized stuffy that we moved to a bigger size dummy dog.
We followed her behaviour modification plan and within a few weeks (and lots and lots of rewards) she is finally comfortable with a husky sized dummy dog! How awesome is that!
She has done so well and made suchprogress that we have have started doing this exercise with real dogs, as you can see from the pics she was quite happy eating treats with Bonnie about 2 meters away from her. This is such amazing progress from the first session we did with Twiggy and I am so proud of her!
We are not quite at a stage where Twiggy can live with another dog but we are getting there … watch this space!
By Wilmi, Caregiver