One significant issue that we are continually working on is Ray’s obvious discomfort around people he does not know. If somebody “invaded” his space, or made a move towards him, or reached out to touch him, he was likely to bark and lunge towards that person. Clearly this is an undesirable response so we have been slowly introducing him to the concept that good things can happen around people he does not know.
On our walk last Monday, he took me downtown to the Lululemon store and, as we arrived there a little after 10:00am, they had just opened and were consequently not busy. This was a wonderful opportunity to recruit some training assistance because only a week earlier, he had barked at a young lady who worked there. This was not a complete surprise because I was talking about Ray to a young man (who also worked there) and therefore not watching him for any signals of frustration or concern. Where I was just a little surprised is that Ray is more sensitive to men than he is to women and the young lady had just successfully given him treats and he allowed her to stroke him. I therefore suspect that it was a “Where’s my next treat?” bark.
I was hoping that we could try again with the same young lady and hopefully monitor the interaction much better so that he did not feel a need to react. She was not to be seen however, the same young man was there and immediately came over and asked about Ray. One willing volunteer was acquired!
Ray will “touch” on request so I first asked him to touch the young man, which he did and subsequently got a treat after which I coaxed him back to my side. We did this once more, successfully, and then we changed the process a little. I asked Ray to touch, and the young man held out his hand with a treat on it. He took the treat (absolutely no surprises there!) and then came back to me. This was working very nicely and so we repeated it. Now we changed things a little more and Ray was told to touch. The young man offered him his treat and as soon as Ray had taken it, he took his now empty hand and stroked the side of Ray’s face. As soon as his hand made contact, I told him to step back thereby respecting Ray’s space. From my perspective, it was a textbook performance!
I was so pleased that Ray was prepared to entertain a stranger, a male one at that, and perhaps next time he will tolerate a little more attention. Way to go Ray! If you only knew how many total strangers would love to gently touch you!