Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Worried Wall-e update

Many of you probably know about Wall-e's very stressful experience at the fun match in the middle of December. If you missed that post, you can read it here if you like.

Ever since that day, Wall-e has been terrified of the sound of the kitchen fan over the stove. We have a really loud fan. It completely freaked him out. Before the fun match, he was a bit wary of it, flicking his ears back occasionally, but he didn't mind being in the kitchen and eating his supper there. But after the fun match, he wouldn't even step anywhere near the kitchen. He'd lie on the couch in the living room at the front of the house, looking stressed the whole time. Thank God I've experienced stress with Mika or else I probably would have tried to lure him into the kitchen, which would have put a ton of pressure on him and wouldn't have accomplished anything at all!

He would take food while lying on the couch while the fan was on. So I just fed him a treat and left. Then I'd come back to feed him again, and then left again. I did this again and again for a few days, every time the kitchen fan was on.

A few days later, after I gave him a treat, he dared to jump off the couch as I started to leave. Jackpot! I fed him a whole handful of treats. That was a huge step for him. Soon he was following me down the hallway. He'd stop about halfway down the hallway.

Every day he'd improve. He'd walk a couple little steps further than the day before. Finally, at the beginning of January, he could walk into the family room, next to the kitchen. I allowed him to leave the room to escape into the hallway after I fed him a treat. I've learned from Mika that the biggest thing about counterconditioning stressed dogs is letting the dog make all of the decisions. Wall-e bravely walked into the family room on his own, unprompted. I didn't lure him forward at all with a treat. I fed him wherever he stood, and then let him leave. He would lie down in the hallway each time he left (he tends to lie down in situations where he's stressed).

Soon after, he actually walked far enough that his toes touched the kitchen floor. Woohoo! Jackpot time! The same evening, his front paws made contact with the kitchen floor, and then the next day, his whole body was in the kitchen. Awesome job, Wall-e! I rewarded him in the family room when he stepped into the kitchen because of how close he was to the fan (about 15 feet), so he wouldn't have to stay that close for an extended period of time.

Gradually, over the next one or two weeks, he grew more and more comfortable and offered to go closer and closer to the fan. Soon I could give him his supper in the kitchen (which he found too stressful before because it meant he had to stay in the kitchen for a longer period of time).

Then one evening, almost two weeks ago, he must have been feeling especially brave. I was at the kitchen table, and he looked at me and walked closer to the fan, about 7 or 8 feet away. He had a very relaxed expression, ears pricked and jaw relaxed in a little smile, so I rewarded him where he was and went back to the kitchen table. He started to follow me and then went back where he was. He did that a few more times. And then (listen up, here's the big part), he actually walked right over to the stove, where the fan is, and stood there with a cheerful expression, looking at me expectantly for his reward! MAJOR JACKPOT!! GOOD BOY Wall-e, GOOD BOY!!! I gave him so many treats that it could have been his two meals for the day and then some.

So that's Wall-e's accomplishment of the year. No, really, I'm super proud of that dog for completely overcoming his worry of the kitchen fan. He went from escaping to the living room when it turned on to being able to stand right under it happily and relaxed. Worried Wall-e is such a brave boy!


  1. WOW! That is great! Good boy! And kudos to you for taking it so slowly and listening to your dog!

  2. That is amazing! Awesome job of helping Wall-e cope with his fear and ultimately overcome it! Thanks for sharing this experience - I learned a lot from it!

  3. Thats great. Most of us probably would have just let it go, which would have lead to other things. Great job! Diana

  4. WOW, what a great dog-so very smart and brave and what a great friend/trainer he has to help him!!!! CONGRATS to you both!!!

  5. Thanks everyone! I'm really impressed with Wall-e and surprised that it worked out so well!

  6. Great stuff Nat! Go Wall-e go! That little dog can do anything. :)

  7. Yay, Wall-e is lucky to have a great trainer!

  8. What a brave Wall-e. We are so proud of him (and you).

    Essex & Deacon

  9. Just remember Nat there's both good stress and bad stress it isn't taking the dog's stress away, but teaching them to handle the stressful situations that are thrown in their direction. Experiencing stress is a part of life, we teach them to handle it properly, or show them they can. GOOD JOB for both you and Wall-e!!