My Dog Won't Come Inside

Dear WOOF:

We have a 7-month old golden retriever that prefers being outside rather than inside - even in the harsh cold weather. When she wants to remain outside, she simply lies down with all four paw up in the
air, and turns into "Jell-O dog" to defeat any attempt at picking her up (besides, she's almost 70 pounds!). We do not want to leave her unattended in the yard, and we want to go in! Treats, toys, games,
etc. have not been able to compete with the joy of the great outdoors - any advice on getting our dog to join us inside?

Thanks.

Hello:

It may not necessarily be a "preference" to being outside that is driving your golden retriever's "Jell-O dog" behavior. She is acting this way either to avoid something, or to gain something and it works
very well for her!

She may be behaving this way because she's being reinforced by the loads of attention (and perhaps a few laughs) that she gets! But on the other side of the coin, she may be trying to avoid going in at
certain times because she recognizes a pattern or routine that indicates that she is going to be put into her crate because you're leaving!

Since you mention that she only does this at certain times I suspect that she may be doing this to avoid going in because of the consequence (crate and alone time when you leave).

Re-training will involve preventing the offending behavior from happening and teaching her the correct one. Avoid situations where you're in a pinch to get her in the door cause you've gotta go! Your behavior is somehow "cueing" her to act this way. You must give yourself the time to work with this actively, so that you're not forced into continuing to reinforce her out of necessity.

Practice recalls to the door with her starting as close as 5 feet from the door, after she's only been out for as little as 15 seconds. Have a helper restrain her a bit as you call her in. This restraint will increase her motivation to get to you, and in the door!

Practice at varying times during the day. DO NOT bribe her by showing her that you have something! She'll get the yummy surprise once she's inside the house! As she gets happier and more enthused about getting inside when you call her, you can begin to practice with her further from the door and after more time has passed.

It is also a good idea to practice departures after she's been in the house for several minutes. Avoid calling her in, giving her the yummy then leaving right away. I'd suggest calling her in 10 - 15 minutes prior to a departure. Giving yourself even more time may be necessary, just see what's working and adjust your plan accordingly.

When she responds to the request to come in, she gets a Kong stuffed with peanut butter or canned dog food, or some other EXTRA SPECIAL "I only get this great stuff when I come in from the yard" yummy
treat. Do not attempt to use Milkbones as an adequate reinforcement...the payoff for coming in must be huge and extra special!

As mentioned earlier, the way you act (tense tone of voice perhaps - because your expecting her to behave like "Jell-O dog") cues her to behave this way. Once you've changed the behavior and she comes in when you ask, you can begin to randomly reduce the yummies for coming in. This will create a stronger and more reliable behavior, because she'll never really know when the yummies await! Only switch to
intermittent reinforcement once she's reliably coming in when you ask.

One final note: If during the re-training process you do need to get her out and back into the house quickly, I would suggest taking her on leash to potty and in a very upbeat, happy voice walk her back
into the house for a delicious treat! Do not set her or yourself up to fail by allowing her to predictably rehearse "Jell-O dog"! Move slowly and keep us posted!

Hope this helps - good luck!

Lisa Patrona, Dip. CBST, CPDT-KA, ACDBC, AABP-CDT