Working on her relationship with Guion

Playing with Guion

Pyrrha and Guion are still working on their relationship, but they’ve been having fairly successful play time together in the evenings. These photos are from a few weeks ago, but you get the idea.

Guion has reported to me that she will never initiate play or respond to play invitations from him if I’m not home. When I’m at work, he says, Pyrrha usually sulks around the house and just coexists with him.

Playing with Guion

Part of this is due to the fact that she’s a very mellow dog by nature, especially during the first half of the day. At night, however, she starts to get frisky and wants to romp, wrestle, bark, and gnaw on human limbs. We’ve tried to capitalize on this by having Guion play with her during those bursts of energy (hence these dark, blurry photos on my old camera).

The one issue I can’t seem to solve is this: Pyrrha refuses to go outside if I’m not there. Even if she has to go, she will wait for hours until I come home. If Guion opens the door for her to the yard, she literally runs away from him in the opposite direction (often retreating to the safety of her crate). He has been good about never forcing her, but we’re kind of at a loss as how to fix this. If I’m home, she will go outside with him, but only if I’m nearby and even then, her body language is very hesitant.
If he absolutely has to get her outside, he has to put her on her leash and walk her around the outside of the house to the fence! It is very weird and getting a little ridiculous.

All of you are way more experienced than I am, so I’m seeking your dog wisdom here! What do you think is going on? How can we help Pyrrha overcome her fear of Guion opening the back door? I’m all ears!

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12 thoughts on “Working on her relationship with Guion

  1. I just popped back to your previous post and was very pleased to see you are using toys as part of the feeding process. Not knowing Pyrrha obviously makes it difficult to give advice but it sounds like a confidence issue to me. Does Guion feed Pyrrha? It looked like it from the previous post. That is good as trust needs to be built between the two of them. How is Pyrrha regarding going outside with both of you? Will she go a bit further away from you, when outside, if you are still in site but she is with Guion? Could you start with doing this and constantly increase the distance, with you staying where you were, so that when Pyrrha returns, there’s no fear that you have moved and left her? Pyrrha sounds likes she’s food orientated. Maybe if Guion had some really tasty treats to feed her during this process.

  2. Anything my dogs are hesitant to do, I just add food. For the past couple of days, my two are eating breakfast and dinner in my tub getting ready for winter and possible indoor baths. Luckily I have hungry dogs who like their dinner. They now both admit they can jump in the bathtub when motivated enough so I’ll just keep repeating until they will do it for a single treat. That’s why I’m starting in August.

    For a similar issue with the outside, I’d start giving every meal outside with Guion being the one to take her out and hand her the food toy (love that you’re doing those!). Start with you as near as you need to be and gradually keep stepping a foot back so that you’re farther and farther away. Before attempting ones where you are out of the house, I’d try you in another room, maybe even with a closed door.

    If she likes something more than food, do that, too. Play is great if she’ll engage but if it overwhelms her, that will backfire. If she is too nervous to eat outside, I’d let her take the toy back in the house, but she should still get it outside if at all possible. Also, try to avoid bribing where you show the toy before she steps outside. If she will step outside without seeing the toy, start there and then surprise! with the toy.

    I’m sure others will have more ideas. Let us know what you try and how it works.

  3. I agree with the above. Food is a great motivator. When we moved into our previous home, we had to go down a flight of stairs to get to the yard. Toady was scared to death of the stairs, no matter who was with him. One of us stood at the top with him, the other at the bottom with a treat. After doing this for awhile (and eventually stopping the treats) he got over it and has no fear of stairs now. I have found that dogs are generally scared of the unknown. If you are both out with her, and you go inside, will she stay out with him, or follow you in?

  4. I’d start by feeding her those Kongs outside. She is free to take them inside, but she should receive them outside.

    I’d also start having Guion play with her outside when she’s frisky in the evenings. If ever you want to generalize her play and happy excitement, moving to your backyard is the first step to that. If that means that you start the play when she’s frisky and are only approaching the back door, that’s fine. Take it in steps. If she’ll happily go outside and play, do it. If she wants to take the toy back inside, let her. Eventually, you’ll want her choosing to go outside. Imagine all the things that are possible with a greater space: throwing the toy, racing her for the toy, beating her to the toy and teasing her about it, tugging, having her chase Guion for the toy, jumping into the air for the toy.

    I really believe in the power of food and I think the above suggestions are great (especially shaping your distance away from her), but for confidence and relationship building, play is so essential.

  5. Quadruple agree! Treats to reward positive and willing behavior will make all the difference. I know it’s a pain, but if he can get her to obey a few commands and treat her positively, they could start building up to a routine for her to go outside with him. Sitting at the door, a command for her to come to him, etc. etc. I am very happy to read about your progress 🙂 Oddly enough, Rufus has been so very affectionate lately with Alex, it’s been amazing. He even offers him kisses in the evening which is just crazy, but so awesome.

  6. It is possibly a trust/bond issue. As you say that she does not have the bond with your partner that she does with you, she may feel anxious outside of the safety of ‘the den’ if she doesn’t trust him completely inside, she will not trust him outside. I would say work on the bond indoors first, before pushing her too far. We used Primula cheese (not sure if you have that in the US, but it is basically cheese in a tube). Get Guion to feed it to her straight from the tube, sh should lap it up and go all sleepy eyed and relaxed. Only do it in a completely safe environment. Eventually it should help build the bond. It can also be used to calm her if she is stressed/afraid.
    We also taught Tuchena to tell us when she wanted to go out, rather than us telling her. We leave a set of keys in the back door and she knocks them with her nose and makes them jangle when she wants to go down the garden.
    One last idea – it might sound crazy, but Guion could try opening the door and going out side and making a show of checking that it is safe, a quick perimeter check and a glance up at any trees/birds etc and then calling Pyrrha out.
    I hope you find an answer!

  7. If she’s already eating her food out of treat dispenser types of toys, I’d take her dinner out there and let her eat and play a bit outside. You might want to think about trying a really high value treat like cooked chicken or liverwurst that she really likes and only gets when she goes outside for a week or two. She seems to be really food motivated and quick to make associations, so that might do the trick for her.

  8. Lots of good suggestions. I started feeding our foster pup Cherie outdoors so I could work on her house training. But it had a secondary effect of making her more comfortable out here at all times.

    I recently watched the TACT series on working with fearful dogs. http://www.cleanrun.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Product.display&product_id=2979. They introduced a new person to the dog by pairing him with someone already familiar to the dog. So, if Pyrrha allows you to let her out in the yard, try to do it with Guion as often as possible.

    Yeah, I know it would be pretty crowded. Don’t forget that thresholds are very scary for dogs too. They give them less control. So you want to be careful she doesn’t feel trapped. Maybe you and Guion go out side first and call her to you and have Guion give her lots of really delicious treats.

    You got lots of interesting suggestions. I can’t wait to hear what happens next.

  9. That’s great that they are becoming more bonded! I think with her being able to go outside with someone else, it may be a trust issue. The more time he spends with her, the more she will trust him. But I think if you try accompanying the two of them, she will get used to him going with the two of you when you take her outside, and eventually she will expect him to be there when you do so and hopefully she’ll be less timid. I had a similar situation with my dog Luna, as she bonded to me much more than her daddy, Eric.

    Wish you the best! =)

  10. Everyone here has mentioned food as a great motivator. You can also try having Guion give her platinum level treats – her very favorite thing. Maybe that would be cooked chicken or meatballs. Pull out the very best. Then only he would give her that food. Those treats would never, ever come from you. Soon she would begin to associate those awesome treats with him and hopefully look forward to spending time with him to get the treats.

    Also, he can try working on teaching her something so that she is a bit distracted from realizing that you’re not there. Maybe he can teach her a few involved tasks – get your slippers or put her toys away in a bin. The point is to keep her mind occupied from being afraid that you’re not there. Then they are bonding and she’s getting all those yummy treats.

    I know – easier said than done! It can be a slow process. Good luck.

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