She has been doing awesome with her bathtime desensitization. This isn't a recent video (have to take a recent one!) but it's shows how much improvement she's made. She used to run and hide every time we even opened the bathroom door. Now, as you can see in the video, she hops in the tub with her trademark joy. The wet weather last week made her have allergic reactions to the grass and she soaks her feet in the tub now to help her feet.
The progress we got from this was because we've been feeding her wet food in the tub. We started with the least scary exposure that she could handle and built it up from there. We used a very high value reward (wet dog food) and slowly built up her tolerance to her fear trigger by exposing her to small steps.
First, just coming into the bathroom. Then, feeding near an empty tub. Feeding in the empty tub. Feeding in the tub while we poured water from a measuring cup directly over the drain. Feeding in the tub while we poured water from a measuring cup further up the tub. While the tap was on in the sink. While the tap was on in the sink and we were pouring water from the measuring cup. Then we started turning the tap on in the bathtub. And slowly increasing the flow until it is what you see in the video above. Right now, she can sit in the tub with the tap off but the tub filled with water.
You can see that it's a slow process, but going at her speed has changed her perception of the tub from the scariest thing in the world to something she gets excited about.
It's very important to not use the food to lure her into a scary situation. It's important that she make the choice and then food appears as the reward.
She also got a Kong Wobbler! And goodness was she scared of that toy! She wouldn't go near it and barely touched it. She tucked her tail and shut down as soon as she heard the kibble rattling inside. I can only speculate, but I believe that someone used the method of filling a can full of stones or pennies and shaking it to punish her for being her normal, hyper self.
I used clicker training to encourage her to interact with the object on her terms and she quickly learned to touch it. She needed help and encouragement in order to touch the object and I often placed a treat near the toy because it was hard for her to touch it hard enough to get the treats to come out.
Soon, she was able to attack the toy on her own! She went from shut-down scared of this toy to batting it around the floor in about a week! Below is the video of the very first time she played with the toy on her own. My boyfriend filmed it as I was at work.
She's been great on her walks. Slowly, her confidence is building. She used to be scared of everything. Now that she has more moments of being able to think and not being too scared, we have finally started working on loose leash walking. Most of the walk is still all about helping her manage stress and coping with her fears. However, more and more, I see my happy, playful, silly girl while we're out and about, as you can see in the video below.
Notice how much emphasis I'm putting on giving her the time and distance she needs to process the stressors in the environment. If she chooses to move forward, it's only when she's ready. In my other blog entry, I briefly mentioned how choice builds value for whatever the dog has chosen. Choice can also be empowering.
I've used these same methods when training my guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are notoriously skittish, but mine are quite brave. I've written an entire taming and training guide that uses the same concepts of choice. The methods I used with the piggies I've actually adapted from my work with shy and fearful dogs during my internship at a dog training facility.