Which we all know, of course, but we had a HUGE reminder of just how well positive reinforcement works earlier this week.
But first – flash back to last summer. I had just moved to Louisiana with the three dogs. We worried about them (Cooper, in particular) meeting Newt. Emmett couldn’t care less about it, pretty much from the first moment. Cooper, to our immense surprise, decided she was his best friend ever, and the two haven’t stopped playing since. Lucas… well, it was about as bad as it could’ve been. He wanted to eat her. So, six months of daily positive training, a whole bunch of setbacks, then a few leaps forward, and today, the three boys and Newt are fully integrated, even when we leave the house! Even out in the yard!
We had her isolated for a few days, but as her fleas disappeared and as she started to get bolder (and bored of being in the bathroom), we decided to dive right into Petey/dog training. We figured that if we got Petey socialized to the dogs while she was still an impressionable youth, it would go better.
So, how did it go?
We’ll get to that. But… Let me say that we made one mistake. After the first round we realized that we should have let the boys into the bathroom one at a time to sniff all of Petey’s things and the space. They never go into that bathroom, so it’s an unfamiliar space and all her scents mixed with the novelty. We sort of just expected them to focus from the outset, but we should have let them drink in the room’s smells first. But, we learn from our mistakes! Every time they’ve done “Petey training” since that first night, we’ve held Petey while they run around and sniff like crazy.
Ok, so here’s how it went:
Emmett just didn’t care. He got super annoyed because she kept leaping up and grabbing onto his legs, biting his ankles, and chewing on his tail. He kept flicking her off, like she was an annoying little gnat. When he started to give us The Look, we knew it was time to call it. It’s been the same every time we’ve taken him visiting.
Cooper wanted to PLAY. Immediately.
He took one look at her and was like, “OK! You look like fun! You can be my second best friend!” We tried to keep him from getting too rowdy because she is so small and he could really hurt her. He did a decent down/stay while we let her wander all around, but he got very frustrated, crying and snuffling. We’re giving him a bit more freedom than that first night but still closely monitored.
So, the big question: How did Lucas do?
We started with him very conservatively. I held Petey. John brought Lucas into the bathroom and asked for a down. He got out the cheese and started rewarding for calm behavior. Once he looked around the room and realized I was holding the kitten, he started to whine a bit. John set the kitten on his lap, and we increased the rate of reward.
BUT!! He did EXACTLY what we trained with Newt! That is, he looked at Petey for a second or two, then IMMEDIATELY did a watch-me on his own without being cued!!!! I know this is a lot of CAPS!!! And EXCLAMATIONS!!! BUT!!!! He did it exactly right from the outset. Check out this watch me!
We’ve done a few more visits, giving him a little bit more freedom each time. We’re keeping the sessions super short because he’s still really whiney, which means he’s not entirely comfortable yet. But, whoo!! All that work with Newt totally set him up for success with Petey. I’m so proud of how hard Lucas has been working, and I’m thrilled that those six months of training had such a direct baring on this situation.
Next steps: Visits with Petey in a room other than the bathroom, a space that’s more “the dogs'” space. Then, we’ll do two dogs at a time, until we can work up to all three. Hopefully we can get them rock solid before she’s off her quarantine so that we can focus all our attention on introducing Petey and Newt! (Which, btw, I’m terrified about… I have zero experience with this.)
Have you had any training successes to celebrate? Leave the in the comments so I can cheer on your victories, too! I just love when we can see training work!!!