Well, he used to.
I am teaching him that it's OK for him to be alone and not to follow me abso-jolly-lutely everywhere. In baby steps, with small amounts of time and with the help of the Treat and Train®. I resist petting when he follows and solicits me for attention; this will only reinforce his shadowing behaviour and make him pushy for attention. I am selective and save it for reinforcement of any other desired behaviour, such as when he's resting in his crate or doesn't follow me to another room or doesn't jump. He's such a softy, so it 'aint easy not to cave in and cuddle him whenever he asks, but it's worth it. Some of the benefits include:
1. It will improve his emotional wellbeing i.e. less distress at being alone.
2. It will enhance his confidence.
3. It will subsequently increase his adoptability.
4. It also gives me some space when I need it.
Just as an aside, here’s an example of how caving in to Turbo’s requests for attention and petting may prove detrimental in the long run. When friends come over, Turbo loves to say hello by nudging them and putting his head in their lap. If they oblige him by scratching his ears and rubbing his head, he stays there. If they stop, he nudges again. If they don’t resume, he proceeds to nudge more and may try to hop up onto their lap, because obviously they are not getting the subtle message. If they start laughing, he loves this and snuggles up closer. Once you let him know you are a push over, you have a very large lap dog! Cute? Well, yeh….until he asks at inopportune times and then you have to physically remove him (because he doesn’t know “off” yet) and he keeps trying because, hey, you usually let him do this. However, with me, because I am consistent and avoid giving him a pat when he nudges, he comes up and waits patiently for me to engage. It never gets to the point where he is pushy or tries to become a lap dog. He learns that waiting gets him what he wants with me. One of my favourite catch phrases is, “Our behaviour can change a dogs behaviour”. So the same dog can behave very differently with two individuals.
Guess who was able to go to the toilet and have a lie down in the bedroom by themselves, shadowless for the first time? Turbo stayed in his open crate patiently waiting for the next piece of kibble to drop from the Treat and Train ®. He had the choice to follow, yet he stayed in the crate for an hour, trotted in to see where I was for a minute and then trotted back to the crate for another 40 minutes. Anyone with a velcro dog knows how momentous this is. He could not have done this last week.
As another aside, this is actually an unusual situation where I'm trying to increase the value of food compared to petting and attention (verbal, eye contact etc). It's often the other way around where I try to increase the value of other reinforcers like play, toys, praise or petting compared to food. This is just another example of how each dog should be assessed as an individual and a plan devised accordingly. Recipes in training just don't cut it.
Stay tuned for more milestones.
To adopt Turbo and see his profile http://greyhoundsaspets.com.au/