Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Being with Cats, an Ellie update

To fully grasp what is happening in this picture, take a look at this older update of once-chased-cats, a.k.a, Ellie.

A quick summary of what worked for us:

  • Manage encounters. 
  • Desensitize the dog to the presence of the cats through positive reinforcement behavioral adjustment methods. 
We, (not the royal we, but Ellie and myself) used Clicker Training, because Ellie liked the Clicker game.  She's not a very highly food-motivated dog, but she does love a good game with consistent rules and the click with reward fills that bill nicely.

It helps if the cats understand the game and will get in on it. I had trained a few little tricks for both of our cats just to see if I could do it. They enjoyed the game enough to come out for the clicker whenever I trained Ellie with the clicker, so that provided many opportunities for reinforcing the behavior that I wanted.

The initial behavior I wanted from Ellie when a cat was around was 'look away'.  Better yet, 'look at me'. But Ellie was so new to us, that I took the 'look away' first, and then it became 'look at me'.

As Ellie and I continued our practices together, and she went to dog school and other social outlets, it became clear that 'look' or 'watch' is really what she likes to do. It's as if the world is an infinite screen TV with all Ellie fun, all the time. She loves to watch, and she especially loves to watch movement. The dog behavior model that describes this is the 'drive' model, and this training model is often used with German Shepherd Dogs.

Funny Miss Ellie, though, isn't so interested in following through with a finish to the chase. Watching can sometimes be good enough. So part of my job is to help her have plenty of 'watch time'.

And so we come to Today. Socks passed on a few years ago, and today Kafka peacefully continues her transition journey from this life, with Ellie gently watching over her.