This article was also published in Speaking of Dogs December 2014 Newsletter:
When we send out questionnaires to clients who sign up for behaviour modification training because their dog is reactive toward dogs or people, we always ask the question: “What are your expectations from the training sessions?” The title of this article is the most common answer that I have seen, and every time I see it confuses me: what does “getting along” mean?
The foundation of training a reactive dog is management to keep the dog’s stress level down and to prevent them from practicing the unwanted behaviors. We talk about this constantly in our Cranky Canine classes. I have always understood that management is difficult in a city of over 5 million people and certainly have experienced it myself, too. Nevertheless, I always wondered, why on earth do people find it so difficult. Well, this summer I certainly discovered that for me it was impossible.
Here is a movie of Fenton, a Labrador who became a Youtube sensation after he decided to chase some deer at Richmond Park in UK. I’m sure most of us find this movie kind of funny but have also been in a similar situation with our own dogs when it becomes somewhat less funny.
Most dogs quickly develop an emotional response to the leash being clipped on. At home it is usually a happy emotion as it predicts a walk, but outside it can turn into a different story.
Your dog has just had a nice off-leash time running around in the park, and it is time to go home. You are approaching the spot where you usually leash up your dog or you are trying to catch him from play. Continue reading
This article was also published in Speaking of Dogs November 2013 Newsletter:
I guess I’m not the average dog owner: I got a dog over 10 years ago because I wanted to explore what their noses can do. I purposefully got a working dog breed and started training tracking as well as search and rescue with her. I’m still on the same track (excuse the pun!) with my current dog. It always amazes me how much dogs love using their noses and how it tires them out. Continue reading
My dog Forbes and I are going to a tracking trial on Sunday. We had two attempts towards getting a Tracking Dog title last year, both failed. It would be nice to get that ribbon this time, no doubt about it. I have been trying to train systematically, in different places etc. but as it so often happens right before a trial, things start to go poorly: Forbes hasn’t been terribly motivated lately. This week I put him on a boot-camp program where he he has been fed only in the mornings when we track in an attempt to increase his drive towards working. Until last night, when I decided to screw it! Continue reading
I have been re-re-reading Leslie McDevitt’s CONTROL UNLEASHED: The Puppy Program. And every time I do it, I find new things to digest. I manage to put a lot of pressure on my dog wanting to trial him in obedience and tracking, and he is very sensitive to any kind of pressure. Two points from the book are like written for us:
“Whatever emotion any animal (including you) is feeling at the time he is learning something, will affect the learning process.” When I got my dog, I got frustrated in teaching him a down, and that baggage travels with us even today. Whenever I feel frustrated or tense, my dog just freezes when I ask him to do a down. I always need to take a deep breath and disengage, play with him a little to relax both of us, and then try again while being really happy.
“The trial environment is a big energy suck for them; they are constantly taking it all in at once with no filter and no break. There is just not much energy left to give the performance for which their handler was hoping for.” Isn’t this ever just like us!!! I have all these expectations for my dog to perform in the midst of overwhelming stimuli, how could he? We have a Rally trial coming up in a about a week, I do realize we haven’t done enough training for him to be able to cope with that environment. We will take the trial as an opportunity to play CU games. My goal will be to have a comfortable dog, not to get qualified scores.