Happy Learns to Enjoy the Great Outdoors

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 15, 2014

HappyHappy is a one year old French Bulldog who has become so attached to her owners that she doesn’t like going outside by herself.

When I sat down with Happy’s owners, I asked what rules and limits were in place for Happy to live by. After thinking about if for a minute, they realized that they never had any aside from not going to the bathroom in the house. I have found a number of dog behavior problems are a direct result of the dog thinking it was on equal footing to their owners. While some dogs find their place without rules and limits, for many dogs adding a few simple rules and boundaries can help a dog better understand the limits their owners want them to respect.

I suggested a number of new rules such as asking the dog to sit and wait for permission to come in or outside. As Happy doesnt like going outside by herself, I suggested that her owners start by only practicing this when the dog wants to come inside. By only allowing he dog to come inside after sitting on command, her owners can help Happy see herself as being in a follower position.

To help Happy learn to go outside on her own, I opened the back door and tossed a high value meat treat through the doorway. I had already given her a few treats inside so she knew how good my treats were. As soon as I tossed the treat out, Happy jumped out the door to get it. I did this to determine how much of an issue going outside alone was for her.

Since going out the door wasn’t an issue for Happy, I moved on to the next step. I went out into the back yard and made a trail of these treats across the deck towards the edge of the yard. I placed the treats about 12 inches apart and in a straight line so that when Happy was retrieving one, she could see the next treat only a foot away.

Once I finished laying out my trail of treats, I went back inside and then tossed the first treat so that it was right next to the trail of treats I had laid on the ground. Happy eagerly trotted over to the tossed treat, then moved on to the next one and continued until she was across the deck in the yard.

We went back inside so I could repeat the process, but this time I positioned the treats about 18 inches apart. As soon as i tossed out the treat, she eagerly bounded down to scoop it up and followed the trail to the yard.

I suggested that her owners repeat this process a few times a day for the next week, spacing the treats about 4-6 inches farther apart each time. Next I suggested that they get a week’s worth of prizes (antlers, bones, rawhides, etc) and each day add a new prize at the end of the trail of the treats laying on the lawn.

The treats will condition Happy to move to the yard on her own. Once there, the added prize will further encourage Happy to go off exploring the rest of the yard on her own. By using positive reinforcement to encourage Happy this way, she will learn that there are rewards and benefits to exploring he world around her.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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