Monday, October 03, 2005

Heat, glorious heat!

We have successfully turned on the furnace! We have been gradually easing Nelly into furnace season, based on the advice given to us by the vet shrink last year for dealing with Nelly's debilitating furnace fear. It seems to have worked. The furnace runs, and she shows little sign of anxiety. Of course, we have not yet turned on the electrostatic filter which is the true source of her terror. That will be much harder. The furnace only became scary by association with the filter. Without the air filter on, the blowing air makes me sneeze and wheeze a bit, so I'm anxious to move on to the filter. But - one step at a time. And boy howdy, is it ever nice to have heat in the mornings. I can actually get myself out of bed before 8 am.

How does one desensitize one's dog to a furnace, you might ask? You train her to relax on command, and then slowly expose her to the sound of the furnace. Literally, over a period of months we have rewarded her with yummy treats for "relaxing." More specifically, she is rewarded for adopting the physical characteristics of being relaxed. Kind of the "fake it till you make it" approach: if you act relaxed, you will become relaxed in spite of yourself. In the case of a dog, that means she gets a little snack when we ask her to sit with her ears forward and her mouth closed, looking me calmly in the eye.

"She's really going to figure out that I'm rewarding her for having her ears forward and her mouth closed?" I asked Dr. Lynn, dubiously. "That seems awfully subtle."

"She will absolutely figure out that's what you want," Dr. Lynn replied. "Dogs are extremely good at picking up on that kind of thing. And Nelly is a very smart dog." So now, I can actually coax my dog to relax on command. In theory, according to Dr. Lynn, this is also how we'd train her to stop wanting to beat the crap out of every dog she sees. But like I said - one step at a time.


Laziest Girl said...

Excellent news for you and Nelly. We've had little success with Lucy and the smoke alarm. If anything, it's gotten worse. Now she starts cowering when you get the toaster out of the cupboard or turn the oven on. Our best dog-management tool at this stage to put her out in the garden when we cook because the noise of the smoke alarm doesn't seem to upset her if she is outside. This does not say good things about my cooking skills either.

Cousin Flora said...

Hey, I'm telling you. Train her to sit calmly with her mouth closed and her ears forward. Then have Handsomest take out the toaster or open the oven from across the room while you do that. Then work your way up to actually toasting something, working with her outdoors while somebody inside sets off the get the idea. It just might work.