We had a bit of a set back yesterday; I left Kenzie outside with Riley for a few hours, and she actually reverted back to her previous way of living: disconnected to her owners, not a part of their lives, and living outdoors.

Here’s the story:
It was a beautiful Monday, and when I went home for lunch to let the dogs out to play, I decide to let them stay outside for the rest of the afternoon while I finished up work for the day. I went back to check on them a few times, as this had been the first time Kenzie had been left outside unattended while we were not home. When I came home a couple hrs later, they were still there, happy as larks. But when I went inside, Kenzie did not want to come along, she wanted to stay outside. I thought that it just had to do with it being a beautiful day, so I did not make a big deal out of it, I just her stay outside. Well, we all ended up spending the rest of the afternoon outside, enjoying the pretty weather. When it was starting to get dark, I called all of the dogs in. Kenzie came, because I used her actual recall (I made sure to reward her well for this), but then she lay down right in front of the door with her back to the rest of us (and the house). It was very clear from her body language that she did not want to be in here; she wanted to be outside. I knew that she did not need to go to the bathroom, so we pulled a toy out and played with her to get her out of the mud room and with the rest of us, but once we stopped playing, she again lay down with her back to us. At this point I just thought that she wanted to be outside, and that was all. Once it was time to train/hand feed her, I realized that something was wrong. When we went into the quiet room for feeding, instead of her being ready to work for her evening meal as always, she lay down with her back to me and would NOT give me eye contact. So I just hand fed her, making sure I turned by body away from her (passive body language) to try to help her relax and not feel threatened. Once she was done eating, I started petting her, then moved to massaging her ears/face (which she loves). I then paused and invited her to cuddle up to me, which she did (still not giving eye contact). I continued to massage her head/ears, then moved to the back, and finally the chest/neck area. During this time I would pause, wait for her to nudge me, then start up again, telling her she is a good girl. Once I thought that she was relaxed, I got up and moved back into the living room with everyone else. I then invited her to come up onto my lap for more massage, which she accepted (still no eye contact). Here I massaged her for a few minutes and then stopped, she nudged me as before, but I did not resume until she actually looked into my eyes to say her usual “hey, why did you stop?”. Then I resumed massaging her. From this point on, she gave me steady, soft, “loving” eye contact for the rest of the massage. She stayed connected for the rest of the evening, and even this morning she stayed connected all the way up until I left for work.

                    

What did I learn through this? Even though she wanted to be outside, it was not good for her, because it caused her to go back into the mindset of her former life: I live outside, not connected to my people. Even though she had been living inside with us for four months, it only took a few hours for her to revert to the mindset she had viewed for the majority of her life.

It also demonstrated to me how important it is to get voluntary soft eye contact from your dog. Hard eye contact does not count (i.e. if you have a toy or treat and you wait for eye contact). Also, often if you say their name, because it is related to doing something exciting (going outside, getting dinner, getting a treat, etc), that will also result in hard eye contact. In my experience, soft eye contact is only offered when the dog trusts you. And the more the dog trusts you, and the stronger the bond, the more frequent the soft eye contact will be.