Wednesday, April 6, 2016

He'll Cross That Bridge When He comes to It

A while back, probably a couple months ago, Isaac and I were walking on this bike path and came to a bridge. It wasn't a real long bridge, but it was metal and kind of like a grate. There were small holes in the metal and you could see the creek below. Isaac has walked on metal surfaces before but for some reason, he balked at this bridge. Refused to cross it. I had treats in my pocket but nothing high value and he did not want them badly enough to put one foot on the bridge. We ended up turning around and walking the other way.

This bike path is not close to my home. We were just there because I had an appointment in the area and had a little extra time. But I decided I wanted to try to find a similar surface to work with him on. We do not need to cross metal grate bridges often (or ever) but I want Isaac to be able to walk on all sorts of surfaces and to trust me if I tell him a surface is Ok even if it's one he's never ever seen before.

I found a place near our home with a similar bridge, though it's just a bit shorter.

So I took a handful of pepperoni and we set out to conquer the scary bridge. My plan for the first training session at the bridge was to give him a slice of pepperoni near the bridge, then put a slice on the bridge but close to the end so he could reach it without putting a foot on the bridge, then to attempt to coax him to put one or both front feet on the bridge in order to reach more pepperoni. I was prepared to make multiple trips to the bridge and intended to gradually over time require him to move further onto the bridge in order to get a high value treat.

Isaac is incredibly food motivated. He was hesitant to put his front feet on the bridge but willing to do it. In fact, he was willing to slowly follow me all the way across the bridge, eating pepperoni out of my hand the entire way!

Once we crossed the bridge, he got to run around and take a swim in a pond before we crossed the bridge again to get back to our car. He was less hesitant that time, although still a bit concerned. I was out of pepperoni (we could have gone around a long way if he'd refused to cross the bridge without the pepperoni) but he was willing to do it for some lower value treats.

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