A Dog’s Breakfast in Space

This morning Miller had his breakfast in a tunnel. It’s all part of our plan to help him feel better about space and touch, two of his sensitivities. He is a dog who needs space even with us, which we respect. Given how sensitive he is, we’re not surprised he lost whatever home he had in his first year- people generally expect to be near and able to touch their dogs. His comfort with us has changed a lot for the better with training and time, which takes patience.

We do different things to build his confidence and comfort, and this morning it was a game of Find Your Breakfast. All of Miller’s meals start on the mat in the kitchen. We’ve trained him to wait there while we get things ready. This morning I put his food into a bunch of little dishes, and he knows what’s coming when he sees that: a snuffle around the house for reward.

I added the tunnel this morning, which I do from time to time. It’s a kids’ toy that works beautifully for him. It’s just the right diameter to give him a sense of compression, but not so tight that he’s squeezed. I’m working on what I’ve learned about dog training* and see that moving into the tunnel for food (glorious food!) builds confidence.

The dishes were set. The dog was set.

“Miller?” He leapt off his mat, and I directed him back.

“Miller?” He looked at me. “Find it!”

And off he went.

I love the sound of his nose when he’s sniffing things out; Alexandra Horowitz explains it beautifully in How Do Dogs See With Their Noses? Winding through the furniture, snout down, he saw the tunnel, sniffed inside, and realized food was there. In he went, but only for one of the two dishes I’d placed.

He backed out to make the rounds of the usual spots where I hide things, then returned to the tunnel for the second helping (photo opp on “Stay”). He settled for just the photo, then I released him to search for more reward. Good boy.

If you have a dog that needs space from people or other dogs, check out Debbie Jacobs’ Fearful Dogs and Jessica Dolce’s Dogs In Need of Space. Both provide excellent information and support.


*Note: I’m not a certified dog trainer, just passionate about the best outcomes for dogs. If your dog needs support beyond your own skill level, please choose a certified trainer.


Image: Buddy in blue

One thought on “A Dog’s Breakfast in Space

  • January 30, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Oh boy, do I ever understand having a dog who needs her space. My girl, Zoe, has been with me for 14 years and she’s happy and curious and sweet, and she’s got no time for snuggling. She’ll sit near me but never up against me and she’s not too fond of prolonged attention. At first this concerned me and then it saddened me because I wanted to cuddle with her. And if I’m being completely honest, sometimes it angered me because I took her preference for space as a personal snub. Finally, I realized this is just her nature and I’ve come to respect her space. We’ve worked it out. Dogs. Each one is a furry Buddha.


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