Saturday, June 19, 2010

Amazing BAT session outside the dog park!

Dottie and I had a great time outside the dog park. We stood sort of near the entrance, and when a dog got leashed up and came out, I waited for Dottie to turn her head to me. Then I clicked, and we RAN away from the dog, then got a treat. I misjudged her distance once or twice and she barked, but I just stood there and pretty soon she looked up at me and we got to run away.

I was totally amazed at the quick progress she made. Pretty soon we were an across-the-street distance from other dogs, and Dottie was wagging her tail and anticipating her click and our super fun retreat. I guess this is more of a BAT thing, as far as I've read about it, but of course it's really just the same old principles: communicate with your dog, figure out what they want, and find a way to negotiate how to get what you both want out of a situation. It also made me think about what an "operant" dog Dottie is. She just wants to do what works, and is so whip smart that she doesn't let her fears overcome her when she's deciding what course of action to take. Of course, a key in all that is keeping her at a distance she can deal with. If the dogs had been off-leash and mobbed her, all bets would be off and she would do what works: snap and lunge.

I'm lucky that leash laws are observed, by and large, around here in the city. I think people are mostly worried about their dogs getting hit by cars, not the consideration of other people.

Anyway, I was really encouraged by it and I'll try to get a session or two a week in at the dog park or in dog-heavy neighborhoods with room to retreat. Dottie will never love strange dogs, and I honestly don't care if she can meet them or not. Just walking the neighborhood in peace is enough for me.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

CAT advice

I got some good feedback from my CAT list. They told me not to sweat getting to interaction, but to do lots and lots more reps using distance as a reinforcer. I think it's a good idea. Today I'm hoping to work a bit on Gustav's adorable but sad separation-from-Dottie anxiety. I taped him again recently and he can go about six minutes before started to howl and whine. therefore, Dottie and I will be taking weird four minute walks a few times in a row while Gustav chews on something wonderful. I'd love to be taking Dottie to the outskirts of the dog park more often, but it would help a lot if Gustav wasn't crying and crying at home. Of course, I can take just her if Justin is home but he frequently doesn't get done with work until eight or later.

Also, I found a blog of someone who lives quite near me in real life who has a hyper-aroused dog. The blog is I'm going to run over there and say hi. It's especially interesting since a lot of the trainers she's used I have as well. Small world!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

CAT with Berit

I did a CAT session with my friend Berit today. It was really interesting. Gustav seemed totally relaxed and indifferent to her--or is it avoidance? Who knows. So she quickly got to a small distance, about seven feet or so, and I was shaping for yawns, turn-aways, laying down, sniffing, and relaxed movement. I was curious if he would take treats from her, so I had her throw a few. He ate them up and actually had a teeny tiny tail wag-the low and slow kind!! Exciting! The next rep, though, she was one step closer and he stared at her, then woofed and lunged. She jumped, but I had her stay there and after only a few barks, Gustav turned away. Then I had her retreat. I was curious what brought on this change in emotions. Berit thinks it's because she was closer than ever, I wonder if he was a little frightened by their treat interaction as well. Gustav's triggers all involve the concept that the person might actually come up and touch him: people getting out of cars, people walking straight at him, people talking to me, etc. Maybe throwing treats is one of those things as well, even though he likes treats. Hmmm. Unfortunately, she's going on vacation so I'll have to wait to try out another session with her.

Very interesting! I'm not sure where to go with it from here. He's still not showing lots of signs of actual friendliness, maybe I should increase distance a little. I'm very happy he's choosing avoidance rather than aggression, but of course I'd love to see some friendliness to shape for. Maybe I'm pushing him too far too fast. I think I'll ask the CAT forum what they think.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Back from up north

Up north Wisconsin, that is. We took the dogs camping for a week. It wasn't a resounding success, but it wasn't a disaster either. Dottie had some pretty sad moments: she's officially scared of fishing poles, and wouldn't get in the van for a long time the first night, due to her carsickness on the way up (she didn't actually throw up, but that's because we know not to feed her before car trips. She's been carsick her whole life, the very first thing she did as a puppy after I drove her home from the rescue place was throw up all over my lap). We just sat in the van (our new camping vehicle, very nice considering how much it rained) and waited for her to change her mind. She did eventually, but I couldn't believe how teenager-like she was being. She barked at every little thing at first, and Gustav got very tense very quickly.

But after a few days the dogs got MUCH better at calming down and having a good time. A few things helped: lots of CCing the various noises of the other campers, getting used to thing over time, some awesome bones to chew on that I brought along, and the fact that they were exhausted from some pretty major off-leash hikes. Finally, the last night, the dogs were laying contentedly on their beds, strategically placed under the picnic table, while we sat around the fire. Well, for about twenty minutes anyway. Which was a big deal, and I was very proud of them. I've never known Dottie to be comfortable laying around outdoors, she's just not that kind of dog.

We let Gustav and Dottie romp around off leash on some obscure fire access roads we found to hike. I was a little nervous, but he did well. He doesn't have a great recall, but he is very good at staying with the group. Whenever they seemed like they were going to chase something through the woods, I would call Dottie first (bless her wonderful recall!) and Gustav wouldn't be too far behind. He did get a little too far a few times and Justin had to use his serious voice to get him back. On our way out of one of these roads, a guy in a jeep was driving down it and stopped to chat. He asked if we had seen the bear and her three little cubs. Well, no, we hadn't, and thank God. Pretty scary thought, given Gustav's poor recall. Who knows what he would do when faced with a bear? I am sooo grateful we didn't have any incidents, and I feel a little sheepish for risking it. Gustav had such a wonderful time, though, and it was both a good bonding time and good to practice his off-leash work, which I so rarely get to do. I haven't seen both dogs so tired in a long long time.

I'll update a little more later, but I am so dirty and the dogs have more ticks than I've ever seen in my life.