A different tactic

"She'll get it."  I've been saying this for months, and she is "getting it."  Finally!!!!

I have been trying to get Elsa to use our dog door since we moved back to CA.  Before we left to go to Connecticut I did not want her using the door.  I didn't want her outside without me so I had held off teaching her.  She would watch the adult dogs go through; in and out, in and out.  She never tried to follow and the act of them going in out often sent her into a zoom around the yard.  She seemed mystified by their magical appearance and disappearance.

Once back home in CA I was ready for her to use the door, but she was far from ready.  We got the door several years ago and at the time I thought, "I don't know if Luke will use this."  He is such a nervous type and the idea of the door flapping on him as he went through might be too much.  The girls learned in a flash and within minutes of installing it, Tilley was in and out, in and out.  Even little Jessie figured it out.  She had one little glitch and that was that she pushed on a lot of spots before finding the right one.  So to rectify that problem I put a sticker on the spot where she was to push which was the bottom middle for the easiest exit.  This solved the problem.

I wrote about my dog door at the beginning of last year and in November.  

I really thought Luke might never use it, but we worked diligently on it.  Whoever happened to be inside or out when Luke thought about using the door was his cheering support team.  When he did finally work up the courage he was cheered for like the winning Superbowl team.  Luke took a while but to our delight and surprise he did it and conquered all of his would be dog door demons; and became a dog door user.

Then came Elsa; without question our most intelligent dog so far.  She learns crazy fast and has a scary intense brain BUT, she could not thwart the door.  I worked very, very hard at getting her through the dog door.  We worked on just the pushing part, with a clicker and lots of treats.  I tempted her with delicious morsels of food on the other side.  I tied the door up so that she would get use to using this spot to come in and go out.  I held the door open and worked on a smaller and smaller opening.  Believe me when I say, I have patience and I was more than willing to wait for another couple of months.  I would sit there for an hour at a time and wait as she pushed the door with her nose.

Pushing the door with her nose was as far as she was willing to go.  Last week I thought "this is ridiculous."  Such a smart girl.  You see Elsa's "issue" with the door was the 'it touches you when you go through,' thing.  If the door opened up for clear access once she pushed, she'd have been through long ago.  When she did go through as we held it open she would arch her back to avoid it touching her.  She would dart through as if it was going to attack her.  So this was a different problem than any of the other dogs.  I needed a different tactic.  I decided on the "I'm just doing it," ploy.   "I'm just pushing her through," I thought, and that is exactly what I did.

She had to learn that the sensation of the door on her as she went through was not going to kill her.  So when she was dying to go out and chase crickets in the evening I used that momentum as the perfect "push" time.  She had already got use to me holding the door open to go out so when she was amped  up with the crickets I said "go out" which is the word we've been using while shoving her butt.  To my shock I barely had to push, just a touch.  I knew that she had to get over her "the door might swallow me up," issue.  So I pushed her out many times the next day.  No more holding it open, she had to feel it.  I used treats inside and out and a lot of cheering.

Saturday she went on her own.  I was standing there behind her and motioned to go out but I did not touch her.  Yesterday she did it several times again without a touch.  Then we had a road block and I had to push again. Today she will only be coming in and out by the dog door.  Yep, its' a ton more work for me but we've come this far, I don't want to go backwards.

Even though Elsa is amazingly intelligent, she had issues with the door.  Intelligence and door usage are not the same in the situation.  Sure some dogs might have a difficult time figuring it out, not Elsa.  She knew how, she just had concerns with it.  This is a great example of how each dog is so different and how you must customize training per each dog.  She is a very confident dog but has a few concerns in life.  One is the dog door grabbing her as she goes through.  But hopefully by the end of the week she will just be showing that door who's the boss.  :)