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.
*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