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melundie

Curbing obsessive behavior

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When my parents' Border Collie, Cooper, was younger we taught him not to bolt out open doors by asking him to wait when the door opened. We would then say "Okay" or "Okay, go!" and he would then go out. As a BC, he made this into a really fun game for himself (and honestly we all used to think it was funny). He'd come in and stand at the door we'd say, "Readyyyyy---GO!" and he'd bolt out. Rinse and repeat.

He is now completely obsessed with barking and scratching at the sliding doors pretty much constantly to play this game. Only even if you say, "Okay, go" he doesn't always go. He'll just stand there tensed and ready, but he's frozen. My parents have taken to leaving the door cracked so he can lay half in and half out of the house. This works for them when the weather is nice, but when it's 95 degrees out, it's not exactly economical for them to leave the doors open. Unfortunately he's had a couple years to "practice" this behavior, so I know it will not be a quick or easy fix, but I'm stumped. I've told them that they need to stop using the sliding doors (which are the only doors he plays this "game") for the time being, but that's not entirely practical.

Obviously it's completely fine for him to bark at the door if he needs to go out, but they need to find a balance. Any tips on curbing this OCD behavior?

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I would consider blocking the door with an expen, and giving her a new and unusual command that means stop that now or you will be crated for when she starts messing with the door..

 

Follow through 100% of the time. Eventually just the command will end the behaviors.

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Tansy started scrathing at the door to go out (on her own; no one taught her) and it became obsessive. I didn't want to extinguish the behavior altogether -- I'd like her to let me know when she has to go out to potty -- but if she'd do it just 5 minutes after being let back in, I'd quickly say "Time out!", put a slip lead over her neck and walk to her crate, where she waited for a few minutes (or however long it took me to remember she was there and let her out).

 

The behavior actually initially escalated (very normal and predictable, actually), but after a while it worked. Now if she scratches to go out, she's allowed to go out because she's giving me areasonable signal.

 

You're right that with Cooper it'll probably take longer, since it's a well established practice, but with persistence -- and consistency! -- it should work. They will have to be diligent about doing the time out every time he does it. Otherwise he'll get an intermittent reward for practicing the behavior, and that's the most powerful kind of reward.

 

As far as Cooper's only responding sometimes when they give the release cue, it may have as much to do with the way they say it as anything. Bodhi's trained to balance a biscuit on his nose and hold it until given permission to eat it. The kids love this trick (he's a reading therapy dog) and all want to see if they can get him to do it. I discovered early on that most of them didn't say "OK!" with the same inflection that I do, so I had tell them to say it in an excited voice. It worked. I experimented with my own voice, and unless I said "OK" in a certain way, Bodhi didn't believe I was releasing him ot eat the biscuit. So it's not the word itself he understands, but the word with a particular inflection.

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