Tuesday, September 29, 2015

More environmental management and Viva learns more cues!

We have an issue with our front and back door when going outside.  In Viva's world those doors provide unpredictable things showing up.  Viva and unpredictable things do not work well together. 

Our front door is a problem with people/dogs walking or running by during her early days with us - lack of management on my part.  This was before I understood how activated Viva gets by just hearing, let alone seeing these things.  

Our back door is an issue because there's a dog that is randomly outside behind our fence.  He's actually only outside maybe about 20% of the time but, the time he is out Viva doesn't react well.  So, even if Viva doesn't hear the dog, she wants to dart out the door to get downstairs to see if he's outside. 

So, I have some undoing that we are working on.  My job is to do tighter management of the environment. Meaning, I'm trying to make both doors more predictable -  that random things won't just show up.  While also teaching Viva some new behaviors.

Here's the management piece:

When we are going out of the front of our house, I do my best to ensure that there are no moving objects near us (people, bikes, dogs).  This requires that I walk out the front door without Viva to see what's around.  If it's clear then we go out and if we have people, bikes or dogs we wait until they have moved on.

With the dog behind our house, I can go out on our deck (minus Viva) and see if the dog is out. If the dog is out, we don't go out the back door.

Two new cues:

We've been working on new behaviors that help her focus and give her something else to do other than darting out the door.
We've been practicing for a good amount of time and Viva knows the verbal cue of "Wait".
Another new skill is a release cue "ok".
I opt to start working with Viva at our back door since that's less activating for her and I can put a baby gate up at the top of our stairs so she can't run downstairs.

She wants out that back door!

Time to work on "wait".  We have practiced this in rooms in our house and she can do it no problem in that setting.  Moving to the door is harder since we have competing needs of her wanting to do the behavior I'm asking and her wanting to dart outside.

The squeaking you hear is the backdoor opening... 

Viva is smart and here we go again and she does great!

We practiced this for a number of repetitions.  I've not asked Viva to sit - she's offering that on her own.  As long as Viva isn't over threshold she picks up on things very quickly and is happy to give you behavior for a food reinforcement.

Time to add in the second part of what I'm asking of her.  I ask for the wait and then I give her the release cue of "ok".  As soon as she gives me the behavior of moving once I say "ok" I mark that with the yip.   Viva likes this game and it trumps running out the door and the stairs!

So, we will keep at practicing and hopefully we will be able to do the same behaviors when we are going out the front door!

Good girl Viva!! 


  1. Environmental management is a challenge for us, too...we continue to work on greeting house guests with courtesy, and wow, is it a lot of work. It's tough to anticipate when someone is going to come to the door to get ahead of the situation. We would love to hear more about how you deal with that...in the meantime, it looks like Viva is making great strides every day.

    1. It is a lot of work but, it for sure pays off! Look at my post tomorrow 10/4 on "go to mat". That's a really good skill to teach because if the dog gets really good at it, you can ask them to "got to mat" if something unexpected happens - like someone showing up at your door.