This is now 2 weeks that Skye has snubbed the house, that's exactly 15 nights and we are starting to be exhausted! It's amazing how our brain is getting sluggish and easily irritable with little sleep :(
We still don't really know why, but we have compiled a list of potential stressful events that may have been piling up and pushed her over her limit. So we removed lots of the stressors (visitors, leash training, closing the door...) and so far, she is making a slow come back in the house during the day. It's a good sign! She is also coming a couple times in the evening, but she isn't staying for very long...
We talked to our VB this week and brainstormed about the different options. They vary from managing the wildlife to adding more meds and making the backyard not as fun. Some are not really feasible like managing the critters running around at night as oftentimes they are on top of the fence or just the other side (Skye is actually the best deterrent!). Some may backfire like making the yard less fun (smaller with temporary fencing, visitors coming directly in the yard...) - what would happen if she doesn't like the house AND the yard?! - or herding her in the house at night and closing the door behind her - that may well be the end of the relationship we've put so much effort in building!. We don't want to go further with drugs as the next ones are heavy sedatives (alprazolam and acepromazine) that are usually used in clinic where the patients can be monitored. We also talked about working on the threshold to enter the house, but I don't think this is the issue. She comes in just fine for her dinner and during the day now.
I am not sure if the issue is that she is affraid of coming inside at night, or if she simply prefers to stay outside at night because there are so many interesting things happening there. The result is that she stays outside where she gets lots of stimuli that prevents her (+ us + neighbors) to sleep. It doesn't look like she is having fun, it's more like she is stressed and have to keep the yard safe from intruders.
Anyway, our plan right now is to:
1) make the house better than the yard. We are doing that by putting treats, lick mats inside so she can forage and eat (= double reward).
2) decrease her sleeping time during the day (because she is now catching up on her sleep then). We talked about turning on the sprinklers when she naps, but we found that a bit outside the positive reinforcement training boundary we are trying to adhere to. So we are going to do fun stuff (like playing with her toys) so hopefully she joins us. The goal is having her tired instead of rested by the evening!
3) respond when she engages. With the lack of sleep, we have been less responsive to Skye when she comes to us to play/interact with us. So we need to change that.
4) leave the light on in the living room. We didn't discuss this with our VB, but maybe she will be drawn to the house this way. Who knows? This is an easy thing to try :)
We'll see what works and report.