Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Project Briscoe: The Door of Hope

My dog Briscoe, the anxious escape artist. If I were a wee bit less confident in myself, I might take it personally. Poor buddy. Clueless of his puppyhood and formative years, all I can do it take what I’ve got and move forward. I can’t let the separation anxiety win (that was very Lifetime Movie-esque). I work to build his confidence and reward him for the behaviors I want. And you know what? It is working.

Briscoe’s trainer had suggested a doggie door be installed to give him the “escape” option from my home. I had a handyman install the door and it took Briscoe less than 15 minutes to figure it out (thank goodness he is food motivated). I padlock my outer gate for additional security should someone, like a delivery person or the meter reader, happen to open it and allow him to escape. Fortunately, Toby hasn’t tried to exit the door. Cute as he is, it would break my heart to see him stuck, half-in half-out my house. Toby’s legs just aren’t as agile as Briscoe’s.

I first started leaving Briscoe home alone in short spurts. Then I expanded to 2 hours with me gone. Then 3 hours. Success! Unfortunately, as it goes with life’s challenges, I had a one-step-up-and-two-steps-back experience. I came home one night from a movie with a friend and was saddened to discover that he had chewed the bottom of the wooden gate, trying to escape the yard. Zoikes. He panicked to get out of the house, then to get out of the yard, what would be his next escape challenge? California? The United States? Bouncing to and then nervously pawing at the border patrol station trying to get into Mexico?

A suggestion was made to cover the gate’s wood panels with plexi-glass and this may eventually be done by someone much handier than I, but for now several sprays of a “bitter” tasting agent seems to deter him from gnawing on the gate. Also, I have improved at implementing busy items to keep his brain working and focusing Briscoe on the rewards of staying home – and not the mistaken gloriousness of escaping. He's got the sound of the television. The red kong filled with treats. The buster cube also filled with treats. Hidden beef broth infused rawhide chews. And last but not least, these fabulous raw meat bone marrow thingies. So much to discover and enjoy right at home!!

Yesterday was day one of Project Briscoe: Home Alone and it was success! I am lucky to have a neighbor home part of the day and she kindly reported no whining, no chewing, no bad behaviors. He snoozed by the door of the gate in the sunshine. Woo Hoo! He was very excited and spazzy when I finally got home, but I calmly walked in, put my bags down and did not reward his attention-seeking behavior. He finally sat, then laid down and then he was given a ‘good boy’ and a treat. Perseverance pays off!

Yesterday’s progress is just one step, but hopefully the first of many in the right direction. The direction of Briscoe being a confident, content dog, happy to stay home all day – and catch up on his PBS programming while he’s at it.