So what happens when Donna wakes up from a nap or feels bored just lying around by herself?
She looks for the humans!
Don’t be boring, human, come and play! says the attention-seeking dog
That above is Donna inviting you to play fetch or tug with her.
In the early months when we first got her, we did some research and decided it was necessary to teach her the concept of the “invisible door“.
There were various reasons for this decision.
- The rooms in our flat were pretty small and pretty messy and not very dog-proof.
- I was also allergic to dust at times and Donna sheds. A lot.
- Donna does make a mess on the floor when it storms and our cheap laminated flooring cannot withstand a soaking. It will pop out.
So we preferred her not to enter these rooms, even when the doors were opened and the human wasn’t in the room. That of course is the perfect time for any smart dog worth his salt to sneak in. Hah!
It took a lot of patience just going through motion, repeatedly luring her back out of the room when she comes in, making a big deal of it when when she comes out of the room with us and of course, lots of treats. Until slowly, she realised that she wasn’t meant to be in the room. That every time she comes in to find us, we go out of it so she followed us out again. That she gets treated only outside of the room and not within it.
The behaviour sticks until today, which is why even though we’ve pretty much stopped the positive reinforcement for invisible barrier training, she still stops at the door and stares at you from there when she wants your attention.
Depending on how busy we are, sometimes she gets the attention, and sometimes she doesn’t. That’s when she hunkers down for the long haul.
I have tons of patience, human. You’ll have to come out of that room sooner or later!
But somewhere along the line, I’ve started to feel that this invisible doors thing was creating a distance between us and the dog. I’m not sure if that’s truly the case but when she settles even within the same room, she always settles a distance from us. (And no, the human does not have body odour, thank you very much.)
So for the study at least, where we spend much of our time, we started to let her in the room. That was when I noticed that this was a great space for her during storms. Her thunder phobia got noticeably milder when she is in this room, compared to others.
So we let her in more often after that, but only when we are in the room since it still is not very dog proof. Haha!
She still retains her habit of waiting by the door, although now she knows she has the option of coming in. Sometimes, she sits at the door and stares at me and I wonder if she’s asking for permission to come in or she’s asking for me to go out and play with her.
Eventually when she decided she had waited enough, she would come into the room and poke me with her nose. Interestingly enough, she started doing that after I taught her the nose to hand.
Forget about “nose”, human! Just gimme the treat!
And more recently, I’ve started having her on the sofa and do “relax” on my lap because well, the dog probably does not have lap dog in her but the human craves a lap dog :P We do this while we watch TV and I give her treats every time she rests her head on my lap.
The result is, she stopped poking me with her nose when she wants attention. Now she’s started resting her chin on my lap instead!
Hello human! It’s time to stop working and start relaxing with your dog!
And I find this so very endearing and adorable, although half the time she really is distracting me from something I want to get done.
The point to this story?
I just find it intriguing how the dog can take what you have been currently teaching her, and use it quite effectively to get the attention she wants.
I can see how the interaction we have with her changes her behaviour along the way, and to me a lot of these changes are unexpected but not unwelcome.
And that’s also why I like to spend the time training Donna. She is a living, breathing individual of her own. The stimulation of learning new things, learning what is encouraged, continues her development in terms of how she has learnt to interact with the world beyond the shelter and build relationships with the people that she meets.
And that can only be a beautiful thing.
See Beautiful with Sugar the Golden Retriever.