Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Scary Windshield Wipers

Every good puppy owners knows just how important it is to expose your young puppy to as many things possible; umbrellas, different people, hats, car rides, vets, etc. But every once in a while something will sneak up on you that you forgot to introduce to your dog when they were young. In my case...the rear windshield wiper.

I turned it on the other day and Jersey had a bit of a fit. She was obviously nervous, moving as far away from it as she could. Her body language screamed fear. So much so that she even jumped into the back seat (a big no-no.) So I got out of the car (I was at a drive through) and put her back in the rear of the durango. But did I turn off the

I kept the wiper on. Why? Because me as the human knew that Jersey was in a safe situation. I knew that the scary wiper was not going to hurt her. I also knew that if I turned it off that this fear would only intensify as she got older. Yes she was afraid, but became less so as time went by.

Fast forward to next day. A nice sunny day as I drove. I turned on the wiper. It squeaked and she was scared. I'm sure people that I was crazy having my wiper turned on while the sun was out. Did it for about 4 minutes then stopped. This morning I did the same and guess fear.

This method of training is actually called flooding. It is when you purposefully expose the human or animal to their fear and make them face it. The idea being that if they are exposed long enough and see that nothing bad happens then they overcome it. Scared of spiders? Flooding would be sitting in a room full of spiders (or just holding a couple.) Now flooding is only one technique and is NOT appropriate in all situations. However, many times in normal daily activities, like scary wipers, it works great. She faced her fear and now does just fine with the wipers. I'll continue to turn them on for a few minutes each day over the next couple of weeks and she'll be just fine for life.

One mistake most owners do: Turn on wipers, dog is afraid, "Oh my gosh, poor baby, scared of the wipers. I'll turn them off." Then they make sure never to turn the rear wipers on again and make a big deal when telling people, "Mitzi is scared of the wipers, poor thing." And now you have a dog that will be scared for the rest of her life.

So the next time you notice something that your dog is afraid of (that you as the human know is safe) make a point to address it. You can try flooding (in severe situations ask a professional trainer first), you can try sitting calming and giving a treat when the dog shows calm appropriate behavior. You can do lots of things but definitely don't avoid the situation or reward the dog for fear behavior.

And if you're raising a puppy....don't forget the wipers.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.