When to take the next step

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MPbandmom
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Joined: Sun Jan 03, 2010 7:18 pm

When to take the next step

Post by MPbandmom » Mon Mar 22, 2010 5:26 pm

As long as there aren't any distractions (people animals) around, the dogs are really coming along with their loose leash walking. Sky is actually acting like she is aware that there is a person at the other end of the leash. She is often self correcting slight tension before I have a chance to make a correcting move and has basically become a delight to walk (for the most part :D ) Sirius is starting out a little hyper alert and jerky, but settles down fairly quickly after a few turns. Both of them become problems though in the presence of barkey yard dogs. (We have yet to encounter other dogs out walking.) Sky wants to run away for the most part although she took offense to one dog last time and almost dragged me across the street in an apparent desire to confront that dog. She was growling, where normally she whimpers and whines in response to barkey yard dogs. Sirius becomes all hyper alert again and gives me the impression that she wants to show that dog that she is no push over. Sirius only reacts to some barkey yard dogs though. Most of them she basically ingnores. Sky also still wants to go greet all people we meet and if the person also wants to meet her, I usually get drug along in her enthusiasm. I have been working with Sky on focus and am starting to introduce the Watch me command. In the past, Sky has basically been oblivious of my existance once we exited the house. Now she is much more attentive, except for certain distracting circumstances where I still get tuned out completely. I'm thinking about starting to carry the loud squeeky toy again, because when she is focused elsewhere, my voice might as well fall on deaf ears. While I had been taking the dogs to a yard free area for walking, time constraints and temperatures where I wanted to keep them close to convenient water, led me to walk them in our neighborhood this weekend. Thus the barkey yard dog problems. To my knowledge, neither dog has ever been attacked by a barkey yard dog. Dogs that have been loose and come out of yards to greet them have always been cordial and polite greetings have been exchanged. (Well except for one pit bull, but that was probably my uncertanty and the pit bull was well behaved, it was Sirius that reacted poorly.)

So from all that, I guess my question is, do I continue taking the dogs to the non yard location to walk? Do I continue working on loose leash and focus, or am I ready to introduce known calm dogs to walk with them? At what point and how would I tackle the barkey yard dog issue? Sky is due to start agility in 2 weeks and I am hoping to not be drug around when we see other dogs and people.

Thanks for your guidance.
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

emmabeth
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Re: When to take the next step

Post by emmabeth » Mon Mar 22, 2010 7:18 pm

I would continue doing as much walking as you can in the non-yard dog area... it gives you and your dogs a chance to work, focussed on you and to be calm.

Use that as your basic plan. Then add to it new things gradually.... so I would sharpen up the loose lead walking stuff (turn before there is tension!!!), chuck in more reasons for either dog to pay attention to you, more cues for various behaviours, vary the rewards too so they become hooked on seeing what you are doing and when.

If you can, set up some stooge people to meet - have a friend appear unexpectedly (obviously YOU will know but your dogs wont), perhaps wearing something odd like a hat or coat that disguises them a little. Then you can work on your watch me and your about turn.... no getting to greet the stranger (who turns out to be a friend) if either dog is pulling...

You can also do this with strangers, its just you cannot guarantee that at the end of it, they will be there and want to meet and greet the dog, but thats no bad thing, they will have to learn that not everyone they see is going to be a friend or want to greet them.

If the weather is getting hotter.... theres no reason you cant carry water with you (or even get backpacks and the dogs can carry their own!) so you can still keep using the non yard dog area. You might need to change your walking time to earlier or later in the day too.

Try the agility - but keep up the work on not pulling n the lead, wherever you are. If the agility blows your dogs mind for a bit you may need to take a step back and go back to it later on. Or persevering with it may make it less exciting and you can carry on - its your call as you know your dogs.
West Midlands based 1-2-1 Training & Behaviour Canine Consultant

MPbandmom
Posts: 1637
Joined: Sun Jan 03, 2010 7:18 pm

Re: When to take the next step

Post by MPbandmom » Wed Mar 24, 2010 8:44 pm

Okay, refocused on the basics of working on focus from the dogs. Sky had a nice walk tonight in the non dog yard area, and even sat politely for a couple of pedestrians to pass by un-acosted. :D As long as the people don't want to meet her, I can get her to sit before they walk past, and she behaves very well around strangers.

I have been walking in a new mixed use development that is still largely uninhabited. We have yet to see any dogs being walked there. I would kind of like to reintroduce the distraction of other dogs, maybe next week after more focus work this week. I'm thinking known calm dogs that she is used to walking with but not really playing with in order to work on focus around other dogs before we head to Agility class and a bunch of potentially high energy dogs that she hasn't met before. :o It may be pushing the time frame for training, but since the agility class came up, focus and not dragging me around to meet new dogs is a skill I need to work on. She has been able to do this in the past, sometimes, so she needs kind of a refresher in that with emphasis on focusing on me (which has been lacking in the past) :roll: Having never had any focus from Sky in the past, and not knowing how to get any focus from her in the past, having her attentiveness now is just phenomonal and just makes everything way so much easier.

So, thanks again for the invaluable tips here and I welcome some feedback on adding in the known calm dogs to our focus training maybe next week.
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

MPbandmom
Posts: 1637
Joined: Sun Jan 03, 2010 7:18 pm

Re: When to take the next step

Post by MPbandmom » Sun Mar 28, 2010 8:03 pm

I have continued with Sky in the low distraction area working with focus more so than loose leash walking. Today I decided to move Sirius to a different location. Sirius tends to naturally fall into heel position after a few turns and the initial excitement of checking things out. (She checks things out on high alert, I believe to make sure she feels there are no threats to her in a particular environment.) Where she has issues is with greetings and socialization. So, I took her to a historic district, where other dogs being walked would likely be few to none, and while there would likely be pedestrian's present, these also would be few and far between. She never did really settle down into heel position. There just seemed to be too many smells that she felt a need to check out. We did encounter a few people walking towards us and I had her do a sit and focus on me, and those individuals passed without incident. Where we encountered a big problem however, was a couple who came up from behind silently and started to overtake us. I was not aware they were there until Sirius dodged behind me and then lurched and snapped at the man. I had whirled around following where Sirius had taken off to just in time to see the guy jump back quite startled. I caught Sirius before her front paws hit the ground and told her to sit which she did. The incident left me quite shaken though as I hadn't considered someone passing from behind, and in the past, she has only lunged at people who were trying to touch her. Afterwards, she became so stressed that she stopped taking the treats I had been giving her. (something I have never encountered with her before) I switched from dog treats to baby food (usually too high value of a treat for her) and was able to manage our way back to the car.

I am fairly certain that the person coming from behind surprised her which led to her reaction. I have noticed in the yard that she will watch a bicycle go past with no reaction, unless it comes from behind her, in which case she will bark and jump at it. I have determined that her time in the yard will become much more regulated. I have tried to figure out some way of blocking the dogs view through the fence to the sidewalk, while still allowing our view through the fence to be able to see traffic coming as we exit the driveway. The only thing I have come up with is that it would have to be some type of moveable curtain, but have been unable to figure out how to get a curtain to go around corners.

Controlling the yard environment doesn't exactly help with the scenario of someone walking up behind us though when we are out training. I have muzzles for her, but it is very difficult to treat her with a muzzle on, so I usually reserve the muzzles for trips to the vet or groomer where someone has to get up close and personal with her in a manner that she is likely to object to. I have taken her to very busy places and walked her around almost constantly feeding treats and only had minor issues with her growling and/or barking at men when they stopped me to talk. Any suggestions on how to deal with this situation? I live in an area where avoiding people is not realistic not to mention that I would like for her to be comfortable around people. At the same time, I can't really have her lunging and snapping at passersby.
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

emmabeth
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Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2006 9:24 pm
Location: West Midlands
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Re: When to take the next step

Post by emmabeth » Sun Mar 28, 2010 8:20 pm

You can often squidge a treat through a basket muzzle, especially the wire ones if one would suit her face/head shape.

Alternatively... big hi-vis vest with 'dog in training, please give space' ... on you BOTH.... might give people a clue to stay out of range?

(I want to get Errol one that says 'IGNORE ME I AM VERY BORING' but i think cutesy little dog in a hi vis tshirt would make people come closer... gah!).

As scary as it is though I think people coming up close behind you is a pretty rare event in the locations you are working in, hence its not occurred to you it may happen, and hasnt happened before. Thats not to say you shouldnt think and take action to prevent it happening again, but dont freak out over it... you are aware now. That might be all you need.

I think you are doing realy well, just run through what you are doing in your head and double check with yourself if you are going too fast perhaps. With Sirius I think i would take a step back again, work at a greater distance for a few days before trying the new location.

When you go back to, or try a new location.. bear in mind the first few times to ask very little, lower your expectations because the new place will have new smells and sights. Maybe do some good work in a familiar location then drive to the new one and just sit and give treats in a safe place whilst the dog watches stuff go by, before attempting to work there the next time.
West Midlands based 1-2-1 Training & Behaviour Canine Consultant

MPbandmom
Posts: 1637
Joined: Sun Jan 03, 2010 7:18 pm

Re: When to take the next step

Post by MPbandmom » Sun Mar 28, 2010 8:40 pm

I hadn't thought about having her just sit and watch things. That sounds like a great idea! Thanks! For now we will return to the quieter location and then when we return to the historic district, we will sit and watch in a nice out of the way but with things to look at area I know of there.
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

MPbandmom
Posts: 1637
Joined: Sun Jan 03, 2010 7:18 pm

Re: When to take the next step

Post by MPbandmom » Mon Mar 29, 2010 8:46 pm

After reading all the informative comments on "every walk", I think I need to refocus my work with Sirius. While my quiet spot is fine for Sky, there is a lot of motor traffic which Sirius finds disturbing. She doesn't like motorcycles and trucks with low loud engines. I could move from the sidewalk to the parking lot, but then I worry about fluids that vehicles might leak onto the pavement. I don't know of any place that is vehicle, people, or dog free all at the same time. There is a battlefield park somewhat close which while it is a very popular dog walking, hiking, and horseback riding place; it covers many acres, and it is usually possible to avoid close encounters with others. I am thinking that perhaps I need to move Sirius to this location, and initially sit on an out of the way bench and click and treat her for focus on me. Then work on some loose leash walking in this same out of the way bench area. Does this sound like a better location than the so far dog free, few people, but lots of traffic location?
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

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