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Fear of the Elevator

From Liz Hayward:

I took four dogs to dog shows this weekend, one of them was a young Labrador that I own with a family about an hour away from my home. I had seen the dog off and on for the past year but she has had no real training other than coming to puppy class. This pup is clicker wise. I stayed in a hotel and had to bring each dog up to the fourth floor of the hotel! Pearl had never been in an elevator and decided to put the breaks on—there was no way she was taking a step into that scary looking place with the shiny floor.

Luckily I did have the clicker and treats in my pocket from the dog show. Pearl pulled away from me, her back feet digging into the carpet and she almost pulled out of her collar—a major reaction. I got out the clicker and waited—as soon as she stopped pulling and slightly shifted her weight forward I clicked—she came forward to get her treat—her favorite—liver. I clicked again, she ate again. I stepped toward the elevator (we were about 8 steps away at this point), she followed. Three clicks later she stepped into the elevator and the three folks waiting for us—holding the elevator door all clapped!

Start to finish this took less than 30 seconds. I saw a shift in Pearl at the very first click—the fear and panic disappeared. It was as if she could not concentrate on earning her click and staying fearful at the same time. I took her out again that night and C/T as we approached the elevator—she walked right in.

I am now even more convinced that once a dog is clicker wise they remain so and are easily shaped in any environment.

It was pretty dramatic in that I had no real relationship with this dog. It was neat to see how fast she responded and that I could ask for more immediately and I got it. No cajoling just movement = click/treat. She also did not really care about the food. Although it helped I'm sure that I had liver, the click really calmed her and allowed her to think rather than react. It was like the mule, Ringo, on the Clicker Magic video, only faster—very fun for me to experience.