The young Golden Retriever stops on walks.
She sits. She won’t move. When they go to get her, she rolls onto her back.
The people I went to see yesterday have just emailed me with something different (Goldie is wary of new things). Their neighbour has had a trampoline erected in their back garden today. Goldie is barking at it – it’s something new that she can see.
The lady has been going out with food and the clicker. She is clicking and rewarding many times while Goldie is being quiet but clearly aware of the trampoline.
I replied, ‘Clicking for quiet is a good way to deal with the trampoline. You are ‘training’ her to be quiet. However, a better way would be to deal with the problem at source – changing how she feels about it. This would involve, with every look at the trampoline whether she is barking or not, chucking food on the ground or feeding Goldie.’
The case of Goldie going on strike is puzzling.
Since she first went out at three months of age she would sit down and refuse to move. She was little so they were able to pick her up. Now she’s a fully grown Golden Retriever it’s not possible anymore to lift her when she stops.
I would like to deal with this at source too – but where does it come from?
There are a few facts: It’s always on the way home that she stops – after exercise. She has an uncanny sense of knowing when they are on the return journey home or to the car. Putting the lead on at random and going a different way doesn’t fool her.
Her ears go back and, from the sound of it, I would interpret this as looking scared or wary. Why would this be? The rolling onto her back could well be to appease. I’m assured she’s never been punished for it though there has been a lot of enticing and bribing and exasperation for sure.
Goldie is fourteen months old so it will now be well ingrained behaviour – a default response when she feels a certain way.
What way is she’s feeling, though?
The other day things took a turn for the worse. She had sat down and as usual rolled over onto her back, making it difficult to get her up. The lady grabbed her harness to try to make her move.
Suddenly Goldie leapt up and at the woman’s face.
Mouth open. Snarling.
It’s happened two or three times within the past few days. The lady is very upset and scared to walk her now.
Why is it Goldie has, since she first went out, stopped and refused to move? We considered various possibilities:
- She stops because she doesn’t want to go home (that doesn’t work because she always does go home).
- Or she stops because, when small, she was picked up and carried and she liked it.
- She stops because it gives her attention.
- Or she stops because the arousal previously created in her system from her walk has been too much for her.
- She stops because after exercise she may be uncomfortable in some way.
Each time the only result it’s generated for her is to be made to move.
Recently Goldie has started to do other things she used not to do. She has begun to dig in the garden and to hump the lady. She is whining in the night.
She was spayed shortly before these things started. Could there be a connection? They visit their vet next week who can check.
In the context of the past few weeks there are indications that she has, for some reason, been more stressed in general. She’s a sensitive dog. Something has recently pushed her over the edge. To quote the lady, she’s flipped.
Either Goldie has been unable to handle the frustration of the walk coming to an end and has lost her temper. This is what the owners assume and is very likely.
Or, just possibly, instead of not wanting something to stop (the walk), she doesn’t want something to start (going home) and it’s scaring her.
Her stress levels could come from unexpected quarters, both at home and when out. They could include the fallout from extreme exercise – running free and hunting, being restrained, being forced to do something against her will. Many little things could contribute to the build-up. She doesn’t like the sound of metal on metal, for instance.
Although I can so far only guess at the cause, we can create a plan that should be appropriate anyway.
Our plan uses stress-reduction as a basis to work on, along with relationship building.
We’ll focus on the walker being much more motivating and rewarding.
If she wants to be with her humans more than anything else, then she should want to continue walking with them.
Walks will be done a bit differently in order to try to interrupt the learned sequence.
They will do lots of work walking back and forth near to the house, loose lead, making it fun and with bits of her meal dropped from time to time – but only when in the direction of home. The same thing can then be done on a long line in open places.
The parallel with my trampoline advice is this:
It may be possible to train her to get up and move if they had sufficient time, using a clicker and rewarding. They would need to click and reward every small movement like rolling onto her front, sitting up, then looking ahead, then sitting higher and then standing – then taking a step and so on. This could take much too long in the middle of a field in the dark or on a busy pavement!
However, if they can stop her feeling she needs to sit, roll over and go on strike and prefer to keep walking, they will have dealt with the problem at source.