We have been working on Ray’s interactions with people and dogs for a long time now and, as a result of a Behavior Adjustment Training program*, have been using a standard positive reinforcement philosophy.
In simple terms, Ray was persuaded to accept that people and dogs probably meant treats for him. Once he seemed to have accepted the idea that when approached by people or dogs, treats were likely imminent, we progressed to coaxing him to initiate any greeting. We use “Ray – Say hello” with a hand pointing to the “target”. He soon caught on to the idea and would “nose touch” as necessary.
When I recently came back home after a brief time away, Carol told me about an incident in a downtown park. The park has a group of sculptures consisting of a moose and three wolves**, and it has been quite some time since Ray was their last. In fact the last time was when he was rather apprehensive about approaching the sculptures.
This time, apparently, Carol took him close to the moose and said “Ray – Say hello!” and to her surprise, he went over to just beneath the moose’s head and lifted himself up in order to touch it with his nose! There was no hesitation, and he was so controlled as he stood on his two back legs that not only was she surprised by his immediate response, but was really impressed with his physical ability (his strength and balance).
Much as I would have loved to have witnessed that event, I had to settle for an alternative. I suggested that we take him back there to see if he would repeat his performance, and this time in front of a camera!
At the time of writing this Post, Ray has progressed from touching upon request, to now trying to touch anybody who comes within range! The ones who have treats in their pockets certainly get a warmer reception but, in general, he is now a rather outgoing guy. Such a change from two years ago when he barked and lunged at almost everybody!
*See “Dingo Lingo” – August 8, 2015
**See “Beware – Sculptures” January 5, 2015