I recently decided to start working with Indigo on a few things that cause her minor stress in life (I say minor because they are things that don't happen very often. She may feel a larger amount of stress about them than I imagine!). I thought I would blog about it, as simple as it seems.
Ever since we got her at 6 months she has disliked having a harness put over her head. I noticed with the harness first but anything that goes over her head is the same for her. At first she would let me put it on but every time it touched her on the way over her skin would crawl. Then she started watching to see if I was getting the harness or just a leash and if it was the harness she would back away and not want to go anymore. I stopped using it. Instead I wrapped her leash under her body and over a shoulder so she wasn't putting so much pressure on her neck. She doesn't mind that.
I had worked with her a small amount in the past but it never went very far and I wasn't very good about continuing the training. This time I was committed to doing it every day for a few weeks.
So every night after work I got my clicker and a handful of treats (I usually use her dinner kibble because she will work for it happily) and we started with the pretty purple leopard print slip lead I got for agility. In the past she would allow me to put it on but then not want to walk in it. She would freeze.
I started out just running my hand over the top of her head to give her the feeling of something going over her head. Before doing this each time I used a predictor word, "over". Each "over" got a click and a treat.
Next I held the lead and click/treat for her touching it with her nose. Then opened the loop and click/treat for touching it again, giving her the treat through the loop. Then I waited for her to put her nose or muzzle into the loop which she did. After that I felt good about putting the lead over her head. I continued saying "over" before putting the slip lead over her head to help her know what was coming and hopefully feel more in control of her situation. If she backed away from the lead at any time I backed up and when she came toward me I would click and treat that. If she were to back up and not come toward me again I would put everything away and do something else for a while.
I also clicked and treated her walking toward me while wearing the lead.
Here is our video, everything we've done over about two weeks, complete with Smokey the cow cat help!
I have moved on to the harness and she is doing very well. I had to switch from kibble to something more special since the kibble just wasn't worth it. Chicken or beef heart makes it worth it!
I put the harness on slowly so nothing flaps against her since that seems to be what she hates and her skin still crawls when it touches her but she doesn't back away from it anymore. She still won't reach down to eat a treat off the floor with the harness on but can walk in it now. Such a good baby girl!
It is somewhat startling how much I love this being.