Saturday, December 27, 2014

Teaching our dogs old tricks

We’re re-educating our dogs, teaching them old tricks. They already know what we want from them, and how to do it, so this is really more about giving them confidence. And we have no idea why it’s even necessary.

Yesterday, we replaced the dog door that all three furbabies use to go outside and come back in. The old one, which we’d put in not long after we moved in more than 8 years ago, finally broke. So, we bought a new one (on Christmas Eve, oddly enough) and installed it not long after we got home yesterday.

The dogs wouldn’t use it.

We slowly managed to coax them to go outside through the new dog door, but then had work just as hard to coax them back inside through it. This continued most of the day and evening, and then into this morning. Even now, they’re reluctant to use it. We have no idea why this is happening.

The new door is the same brand, look, size and everything as the old door—it’s just new. We thought that newness could part of the explanation: It doesn’t have their smell on it, it’s not scratched from years of dogs going in and out, and the plastic isn’t dulled with age. But the cat uses the new door all the time and without hesitation.

This morning, I thought maybe Jake had worked out that if he hesitated he’d be offered a treat to use the door, but Sunny is even more treat-oriented than Jake, and she’s far more reluctant to use the new door (and she’s also the “rough” one normally—barging through the door without a care). So, I’m not sure that treats are all that relevant.

Still, treats—and vocal praise—are part of the effort to get the dogs to use the new door, just as if we were training them for the very first time. Only, they already know how to use a dog door. For some reason, they just lack confidence.

I think we’d better wait awhile before we straighten the other dog door on the side door (it’s slipped and is now a bit crooked). Training them on one door is hard—and weird—enough.

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