I had my training day with Nancy and Vanya (blog is: http://vanyaproject.blogspot.com). Everything went well. Towards the end, I was doing some BAT with Gustav with Nancy as the decoy. She was also feeding her dog Vanya peanut butter, but Vanya was in the car in a crate so the dogs couldn't see each other. Gustav was interesting: He would look at Nancy and be pulling forward, and when he looked away or did some other acceptable alternative behavior, like sniffing, I would say "Let's go" and try to retreat. Only he didn't want to retreat. He wanted to stay there. But he also didn't want to stay there, because once he pursed his lips and I could tell he was about one second away from woofing and maybe lunging. I switched to LAT because it was clear that one of two things was happening: 1. He was ambivalent about Nancy because he wanted the peanut butter but was also scared of her, and couldn't decide what to do. I've seen this behavior with Tish and Berit, especially after they throw treats. The functional reward people are always saying how just straight counterconditioning produces dogs who are ambivalent about the stimulus because the treats distract them from the real issue and they never solve their insecurities deep down. Interesting to think about. Counterconditioning folks would say that, done correctly, counterconditioning actually changes the dog's emotional response over time. 2. He was too close and his staring too intense to be able to tear him away from the stimulus. I'm less inclined to believe this one because I moved him farther and tried again and it still didn't work. Still, sometimes this is the problem with Gustav because he's an information gatherer and hates to turn his back on things he feels truly threatened by. I figured with LAT there was no harm either way: it's counterconditioning and also teaching him to look away from a stimulus. I didn't have to mess with the functional reward at all. There were no bad lessons to learn from looking at Nancy and getting a treat.
Gustav made it 20 minutes while Dottie and I were out without crying. To be fair, this was with a brand new bone from the Farmer's Market, with tons of gooey gross meat hanging off. I got it from him with no growling, but he did seem a tad stiff. 20 minutes! Awesome!
While Dottie and I were out, a neighbor dog came bounding into the park. At first I was nervous, then I just decided to let it play out because I knew the dog was super sweet. Sure enough, it came running over to meet Dottie. Dottie snapped at the dog in the muzzle area, a correction-type bite, and the dog backed off. I warned my neighbor that Dottie was "bitchy" (a strange choice of words, I know, but that's what came out.) The neighbor didn't care and the dog was extremely receptive to Dottie's signals. It did steal her toy once, but the neighbor got it and handed it to me. The dog also jumped on me and was very exuberant, but Dottie did not go too crazy. Her hackles were up and she barked a lot, but this incident reminded me that, on-leash displays to the contrary, she's not really out to rip out throats. Just wants to be left alone. Probably this wasn't the best experience, because she certainly learned that snapping is a good way to get a dog to leave her alone, but honestly the dog was kind of rude and the corrections were not over the top. In the end, I'm oddly pleased by the experience because it reminded me that Dottie is not a really aggressive dog, she's just doing what has worked in the past to get dogs out of her space. After the dog did that, she was able to play fetch and lay down without any problems, even when the dog was still in the park romping around.