Hachi has continued on his generally good trajectory. Our work with his trainer has been going super well. We start out each session with a short walk on our driveway. She walks ahead with Hachi on a leash behind her. She drops treats for Hachi as she walks. Last week, she began letting him take treats from her hand as he walked behind her. That was a big step!
After a short walk outside, we move inside our house to our living room where the trainer can toss treats to Hachi in what's called a "treat-retreat" pattern. She tosses a few treats either to him or between her and him. Then, she tosses one behind him to let him de-stress by going further away from her.
Partway through, the Runner and I do a vet exam on Hachi using the "bucket game". After a few weeks of this, Hachi is able to completely focus on the game rather than keeping an eye on the trainer. We've gradually moved the game closer to the trainer. Last week, we were only about 6' from her while we played it. Our goal is that the trainer will eventually participate in the game, either as the treat-giver or, ideally, as the person doing the exam. That will simulate a vet eventually giving Hachi an exam.
His work at the vet's office is going well. He is getting more and more relaxed while walking all around the outside of the clinic. He can let it go quickly after a person with a dog goes by him. He does all of our "vet training" with a muzzle on to prepare him for wearing one for an exam. The act of putting on the muzzle, either in the car at the clinic or in our living room with our trainer present, is getting to be very easy. He no longer seems to worry about putting it on in stressful situations.
The exam room where we would like to train with Hachi has been very busy but we have a few reservations coming up so we can work on his comfort in that room.
So, the Hachi report is good. He did have a couple of "off days" during which he could not relax. We've learned to let him decompress on days like those rather than trying to push forward with training. Fortunately, they passed. Our greatest fear is that someday he won't return to his new normal but that did not happen (and hopefully never will).
These are good days for our family. Hachi has a wonderful big sister for playing with him. That makes us all smile!