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Hugs and kisses

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

Chickie is a Spaniel mix, sweet-faced and sweet-natured. Her human companions had driven 3 hours in the pouring rain to pick her up. Yes, Chickie is one of those "pandemic pups" you've heard about.

Some people staying home during the Covid-19 lockdowns decided there was no better time to adopt a dog. After all, they would be able to walk, feed, play with, housebreak and train a dog now, something they never had time for before when they commuted to a full time job.

In fact, Chickie was the 3rd dog that her adoptive family had applied for - the first 2 had been bestowed on other lucky owners. They were determined that Chickie was going to be their dog, hence the long wet drive to get her and bring her home.

When they first met Chickie, they fell in love with her cheery personality, adorable face and portable size. The final deciding factor that convinced them the Chickie belonged to them was the dog's ability to give hugs.

When they squatted down to pet her, she put her paws on them and gave a gentle squeeze - to an arm, a leg, or a torso. If a human face as in proximity to her face, she would gaze lovingly into the human's eyes and give the nearest flesh a soft lick.

These humans melted. Completely smitten, Chickie became part of the little family. Of course, her owners thought Chickie's hugs were the bomb, and they encouraged her to hug at every opportunity.

You see where this is going....

What Chickie's humans hadn't considered was that there might be a circumstance or two when her hugs might NOT be appropriate. For example, when:

  1. her paws were dirty or wet

  2. her owners were dressed up to go out

  3. a very young person, or a non-dog-loving person came for a visit

  4. if anyone was carrying something heavy or awkward or tippable

The problem was that Chickie gave volunteer hugs all the time now. Since she her hugs were invited often right from the start, Chickie naturally assumed everyone loved her trick. She offered hugs at every opportunity, without being asked.

Chickie's owners believed that their dog could do no wrong. They took full responsibility for the hugs and were determined to teach Chickie to only hug if invited.

As always, we began with the 3 C's of dog training: Calm, Control, and Consistency.

We taught Chickie an alternative behavior, which is SIT. But she needed to learn to sit by default when her actual default behavior was to hug.

Here's what we did to accomplish this:

We used some really tasty treats called Bil-Jacs (bits of cheese or cooked chicken work, too, or any other tidbit that your dog will do just about anything for). We walked up to Chickie, said Sit and used the hand signal for Sit, and then praised her and gave her a treat.

We repeated this a few times, then we tried walking up to her, not saying anything, and waiting. We were testing to see if she would sit without getting instructions. If she sat, we praised like crazy including a generous application of treats.

We repeated this in different rooms of the house. We enlisted the help of a friend to come over and walk up to Chickie. We were ready with praise and treats when she sat without being told.

Her owners promised to reinforce the Default Sit every time they came home and whenever guests arrived. The more repetition the better.

Happily, Chickie is now a polite greeter of people.

If asked, she will give a most delightful hug ❤

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