Positively Success Story: Chevy

2014-11-24_08-01-32Chevy is pretty good most days. She's not perfect—no dog is—but we haven't had many complaints. In spite of her traumatic past, she's only had three behavioral issues we've needed to address:

  • Separation anxiety
  • Stranger/dog reactivity
  • Leash pulling

All are works in progress, but she's made major leaps and bounds, especially on the leash.

Until Wednesday, walking Chev was like walking a plow horse. There's no indication she's had much, if any loose-leash training, and she hasn't taken to front-clip or head harnesses. This left us two options: slip collar (easy-fix, but punitive) or flat collar (positive, and lasting, but time-consuming). We decided to take the time to do it right. Here's why:

  • Slip collars can do serious damage to our dogs' throats.
  • Impulse control is a really important skill for pits to master.

It's taken at least four weeks of really hard work on her part and ours, but we've successfully gone on four flat-collar, minimal-to-no pulling walks. Here's how we did it:

  1. Clicker training: we started using a clicker to reinforce select behaviors in early November. Chev was wary at first, but seems to understand now. We treated her 25–50 times for accepting the clicker, then for looking at us, before introducing cues. Once she had these skills, we repeated with cues, then added…
  2. Indoor leash walking: before each meal, I put Chev's collar and leash on her and walked in circles around the house. Keeping Chev on my left and close to the wall, I clicked and treated every 18–24" she stuck by my side, then increased to 3–5' and 8–10,' adding the cue "close" as we went. Once she could consistently do 10' before a treat, we moved it outside.2014-09-20_04-51-27
  3. Up-and-down-the-block walking: twice a day I took Chev out on her leash and, using a very high-value treat (organic beef—she eats like a queen), repeated the indoor leash walking steps. When she ran to the end of her leash, I stopped; when she turned back and gave me slack, I clicked/treated/kept walking. We did this up and down the block, some days just from our house to the next, until she could make it 10' without pulling.
  4. On Wednesday we circled the block—twice—with Chev wearing a flat collar and keeping serious slack in the leash. No racing to the end of the lead. No starting and stopping every few feet. Then we did it again. And again. It might not be much, but for us, it's huge.

Positive training takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. It is frustrating and gratifying and painstaking and empowering. It might not be for the faint of heart, but it's exactly what this rescue dog needs.

Via my blog, pearlsontheprairie.com

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