Teaching Fun Tricks can Desensitize & Heal the Emotional Wounds
Our 8 year old hound-spaniel mix (rescued at age 1) is afraid of new shoes/boots. She runs away from us and hides. She shakes, emits a horrible smell, and now checks out what’s on our feet. She won’t accept treats when we are wearing the shoes. We have never abused her.
Your dog gets so terrified that her anus puckers, causing her anal sacks (similar to a skunk’s scent glands) to release a vile-smelling fluid. Her fear-based association with footwear may date back to an accidental startle. It’s also possible that as a puppy in her first home she was hit with a new shoe that she chewed.
Set your hound-spaniel (houniel? spound?) up for success by reinforcing her with petting and food as she learns new tricks near old shoes. Repeat 3-4 minute training sessions, no more than twice a day, until she ignores the shoes. Reinforce yourself with a pet on the head.
Next, saunter around in old shoes as your highly engaged pupil earns reinforcers, followed by the appearance of new shoes parked in a corner. If your footwear phobic dog reacts badly, use only one shoe, covered with a towel. Completely ignore it as you two enjoy your work across the room, gradually moving closer. The next step will be exposing a small portion of a shoe. Progressing to a fully visible brand new pair will prepare your girl for boots walking.
You’ll need an assistant to sit quietly, in full footwear, as your dog earns hors d’oeuvres at a distance. Gradually raise the bar, always petting and feeding quietly. To avoid the emotional letdown of reaching nirvana you can apply the same technique to teaching other skills like associating a positive emotional state with nail trimmers or even a visit with her veterinarian, who really is a charmer.