Direct eye contact isn't always a scary thing!
It’s assumed that dog trainers have the interest to work with their dogs. Whether or not the people we live with or come in contact with share our interest is another story. Years ago I made the decision that maintaining the relationship I had with my husband trumped attempting to turn him into a dog trainer or force him to share my enthusiasm for working with our dogs. Don’t get me wrong, he loves and enjoys our dogs but we are very different in regard to our interest in the whole ‘dog scene’.
When Sunny first came to live with us and I was struggling with how to work with him to achieve the most success in dealing with his fear issues I was at risk of becoming a nag.
“Don’t bend over him!”
“Stop staring at him!”
“Don’t pet his head!”
“I don’t care if you stubbed your toe, don’t yell.”
“Hand feed him.”
When other people have had to take care of Sunny it has helped his ability to feel more comfortable with them, but my husband is not inclined to be the dogs’ primary caregiver nor are all of our petsitters or guests willing to engage in a few rounds of treat/retreat, though I usually manage to cajole them into tossing a few frisbees.
One of the activities my husband enjoys engaging in with the dogs is frisbee tossing. During the past year my husband has been willing to play a round of 25 tosses almost daily (I give the guy a break, when he’s home after 5 or 6pm having been up since 4am is it any wonder his first choice may not be to head outside and play with dogs?). Finn catches the most but Sunny has his successes as well, leaping into the air, nabbing the frisbee and doing a half twist before landing. This usually prompts cheers and applause from anyone watching. Although John’s arrival home is tinged with apprehension and likely dread for Sunny, the duration of visible anxiety has become shorter and shorter with Sunny racing off to pick up a toy in anticipation of a game. We like this.
We hit upon another activity which has buy-in on both Sunny’s and my husband’s part-Hide & Seek. I’ve played this game with Sunny for years, hiding a toy or ball in pile of leaves, under the snow or around the yard, and sending Sunny off after it. It’s not clear if Sunny is actually tracking the toy by scent or merely checking all the locations I have stopped at to hide the toy, either way he loves the game. Even better it’s one more fun activity that my husband enjoys engaging in with Sunny, which makes all of us happy.
It’s not always easy to get everyone in a household onboard when it comes to training any dog, but if everyone involved can have some fun it sure helps.