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Escalator Vs. Cracked-Out Dog. Guess Who Wins?

Escalator Vs. Cracked-Out Dog. Guess Who Wins?

January 29, 2010
Posted in: Dogs | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Thursday night we joined our training group for training in a closed-down retail store. There are lots of obstacles such as elevators and escalators, and retail equipment to tunnel through. It's good training for dogs in service such as Therapy Dogs (like Juno) and cracked-up dogs (like Loki).

"Princess I don't know about you, but I don't like the look of that monster next to you."
"Hey mom, can you believe this girly-man? Why don't you give him one of those blue pills in your purse that you take when I chew up your shoes?"

Loki had a complete melt down on the escalator. He went up the first time no problem. On the second floor we did some basic obedience. In hind sight I should have just went up and down the escalators instead of giving him time to think because when it was time to go down, Loki cracked out. He bucked. He reared up. He barked.

So I went down with Juno and left him up there on his own. Either Juno is quite sane and does anything I tell her to do, or she smoked a doobie before class and just went with the flow. The escalator was no big thing to Juno. She went willingly and enjoyed the ride. She even recalled down an escalator to me on her own while a trainer held her from the top (we took her leash off for safety) .

"I'm so not even going to look at that monster!"
"Dude, this is THE invention of the CENTURY! The Dog Gods must have made these for chicks like me who like to exert minimal efforts in getting places."

While I was down with Juno, I hoped Loki's cracked-out pack drive would escalate him over his fear. Usually, if I want to get Loki to get over an obstacle, I put myself on the other side of it and recall him and he gets over his fear. He once climbed down a ladder (with no prior teaching) when he saw Mr. Wild Dingo drive into the parking lot of the training field.  This time, instead, he ran around the second floor and barked and refused to use the escalator. Sigh. So up I went. I tried to heel him on easily. He bucked. I lured him with food. He reared, terrified. So we went down in the elevator with both dogs. Neither seemed to mind the elevator. Then I tried to go UP the escalator which he had done in the first place, again. Still no go. At some point, my ego got in the way and I actually tried to force him by dragging him by the leash. For the record, I don't recommend this method for cracked-out dogs.

"Listen Daddy-O, don't be such a pansy. These stairs ain't no big thing!"

"I'm sooooo not loooooooking!"
"Oh Cheeses! You're such a sissy!"

"Look, you just put one foot in front of the other."

"Why is it that I always where the jodhpurs in this family?"

I'm lucky that my classmates and trainers know Loki by now and can read his behavior as fear and not aggression. It was similar to what he used to do on the first day of class and most people read his behavior as aggression. I wish I had known then. I would have managed his fears much differently than I did. Everyone likes him and pets him and plays with him. But when they saw him break down, they were so sad and knew he was terrified. I wasn't proud of myself for how I let my ego get in the way of his real fears for trying to force him. In the end, I got him onto the metal platform and eating. But he never did ride the escalator again. Maybe another day.


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17 comments on “Escalator Vs. Cracked-Out Dog. Guess Who Wins?”

  1. Poor Guy. Whatever part of it scared him it must be big and bad. Maybe he pinched his toenail or something. PeeS My mom HATES the DOWN one.

  2. Oh sweetie, no worries. It will happen one day. I still have freak-out moments in crowds-- but crazy lady lures me with string cheese, and life improves. Oh, and YOUR crazy lady's reaction? Just roll your eyes and keep telling yourself that she's "only human." Yes, HUMAN. Not a gorgeous creature like you and I.
    What more can I say?

  3. I find it so hard to remember that my one fearful dog doesn't get over her fears using the same methods as I'd use on myself. In myself, I don't tolerate them... I just make myself do it. I keep trying until I finally do. K is my first dog with any fears, and my first reaction to one of her irrational fears (a metal plate on the sidewalk) was that we'd stay there all night if needed to get her to stand on the darn thing. Needless to say, it didn't work, and that kind of method has NEVER worked with her.

    My best example for K is the teeter totter. I have an agility course that we built on our land but K decided that the teeter was the scariest thing on earth. I'd cajole her, try to lure her with treats, try to heel her straight over it: basically I tried everything but she just looked so scared. Finally, I gave up. She'd run free on our land, and for a long time, she didn't even go near the teeter. Well, believe it or not, over time, she started checking it out. Then, she put one paw on. Then, all four.

    About that time, I read about a purely positive way to teach the teeter, and K was ready to try because she'd decided *on her own* that she wanted to do the teeter. It's now her fave obstacle in the yard.

    One thing that I learned through the process was never to sound disappointed in her. But, just as important, never sound too overjoyed when she's still working through the fear. The joy seemed to put pressure on her to do it again that she couldn't handle. She'd freeze up and we'd have to take a break (like days of break). Now, with the teeter, it's ok for me to be as overjoyed as I want. But, I know that with new fears I need to keep the same tone and demeanor regardless of whether she's shrinking away or trying to overcome the fear. I need to act like we're doing something as boring as watching paint dry.

    Sorry to be so long-winded, but I thought that my experiences might in some tiny way help you. In the big picture, escalators themselves aren't important... but learning to bounce back from fear is more important.

  4. Since there are no escalators in dog-land, I don't see what all the fuss is about. You're just a back-to-the-land kinda cracker dog. I mean, woo cross the NitWit bridge no problemo, right? Maybe they can find woo a NitWit escalator out in the woods to practice on.

    jack a-roo & now moo too

  5. Poor Loki, I clearly saw him praying for mercy, with is beautiful long legs crossed. I think you're brilliant, my furiend. If you do it once, they'll ask you to do it again. Let Juno think she's the "good" one, as long as you know what you're doing.
    As for the momma, sorry I haven't addressed your Shopaholicism. Well, I just did, but I think that you shouldn't change a thing. You should go right out and go nuts at some pet store. My IT was purchased at a Petco 😉 Go on, buy your babies all they need, because they need everything! Who needs gas, when you have two happy furry teddy bears cuddling with you at night? Huh?

  6. Heck our Mom is not crazy about going down escalators either. Maybe it would have worked better if he had to go down first. Could he also "hear" something high-pitched that bothers him?

    Kudos to the princess - she never ceases to surprise us.

    Woos, Phantom and Thunder

  7. Poor Loki. I'm not sure what Steve and Kat would do with escalators. They were okay with the elevator when we've stayed in hotels with them, but the escalators are different. Luckily they don't have fear issues, so maybe the would follow in Juno's paw prints.

    For the record, it's hard not to try to force your dog. Guilty. Don't feel too bad, you've done lots for Loki.

  8. WOW! That is fantastic that Juno went up and down with no problems! Dexie was a guide dog puppy that the peeps raised, and that was the #1 rule- NO escalators! That was for the professional trainers at the school only. It's a big deal that Juno was able to do that!
    Sounds like so much fun to be able to train indoors at a shopping center! You must have a really fun training group. Wish I could join. I follow LL everywhere- but that would be the ultimate test, up those stairs that disappear? Hum... I wonder. The treats would have to be REALLY good!

    Keep up the good work, Juno!
    Better luck next time, Loki!

    Loads of Licks,


  9. I wish they had that kind of training around here. That would have helped Sagira out a lot. But instead she is now fear barking. Not sure where we went wrong....

  10. Aww...I think you did a great job with Loki! I can just imagine from your descriptions what it was like! It can be so frustrating at times. Honey can be a big chicken about silly little things (like plastic bags caught on fences, flapping in the wind...duh, really scary) and sometimes, I really lose patience with her too, so I know where you're coming from. We've never been on an escalator (don't know if the step would be wide enough for her!) but we have walked close to the bottom of one which led out onto the street (we're not allowed to take dogs into shopping malls) and Honey freaked out just at the motion of the moving steps going up next to her - and she wasn't even on it! I just ignored her behaviour and kept walking her back & forth in front of it and making her sit and do other obedience exercises and focus on me (so I could reward her for those things, rather than inadvertently reward her fear) - eventually, she did calm down but I don't know if I could ever try getting her ON the escalator!! 🙄

    I think it's fantastic that your training group takes you to all these different places to practise training - wish we had a group like that near us!


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