Dogcharmer: A place of her own

And making a graceful exit.

SkidHer is trying to be less anxious when going through an open door. — Courtesy Tom Shelby

Hi, Tom.

SkidHer is making some progress! How do I train SkidHer to go to a place or spot and stay there? I also am wondering how to choose the spot. I am thinking I want one by the door that I can use. Right now I have just put a bed there, hoping that she will associate the spot with a nice place to be. I’m also wondering if I should make the bench by the window her spot. Then she is up out of the way, and she gets to see. I have put a rug on the bench in preparation for this possibility. 

Another question is less succinct. SkidHer has an entrapment fear, and also a transition fear. Going in and out of a space can be anxiety-producing for her. She feels the need to charge through the door. Although I can tell her to wait before going out, and to stop and wait on the other side, she charges through the door as if fearful. How can I help her?


Dear Maryanne,

I know that you rescued SkidHer from pretty dire circumstances, and for that I thank you, and know that in her own way, SkidHer is truly grateful. Picking a spot for SkidHer to stay is what I call the “place” command. The location should be in the loop of activity, out of a traffic pattern, with a good purview of what’s happening. To me, the place command is actually three commands with the one word, “Place.” 1. Go to the designated spot. 2. Lie down. 3. Stay there for six months, or whenever I release you, whichever comes first. I think a “place” by an active doorway will serve as a strong distraction not to stay, as people are coming and going.

I think the bench giving her a window view is a great idea, which she’ll probably love, but not as a “place” location where she Has to Stay. To teach “place,” she needs to already be reasonably cooperative with “Stay” and “Down.” There needs to be a comfortable bed or blanket in the location, as you lure her there with a treat after saying “Place.” Once there, she needs to be lured to lie down and then given a special toy to work on, such as a hollow marrowbone with a piece of meat wedged in the middle. She then needs to see your flat hand signal to “stay” as you walk away. With success building on success, try to release her with a happy-sounding release word, while keeping her staying longer and longer. My release word is “OK,” while my son says “Free.” In most cases I’ve suggested a “tie down” to be used initially, just so that she understands she has to say there, which, between the comfortable bed, the special toy, and the purview of all that’s happening, ain’t so bad! 

As for her “thru the door” anxiety, the first thing I’d suggest is carpeting, if there’s none there. A slippery floor will exacerbate her anxiety. Once or twice a day, with door open and you at the door holding the leash loosely, lure her very, very slowly across the threshold using special treats. Also, with door wide open (weather permitting), try putting the food bowl (with some extra delights in it) right in front of the threshold, and let her eat one of her meals right there in front of the open door, hopefully working toward eliminating the need to scoot in or out. In this case you will be either holding the leash loosely, or it will be attached to something. 

Thank you again for being a dog rescuer.

Dogcharmer Tom

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