Frustrated Rant

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Postby Tubular Toby » March 7th, 2010, 9:00 pm

Took Toby for another one of our "socializing" walks that we've been taking. He has never had a problem with people, just other dogs. But I figure walking him around the block, since I live right by campus and there are always people walking, would be very good for him to continue getting exposure and since we he is always so well behaved, to shine some light on a happy bully.

The beginning of tonight was no exception. We walked our usual route and it was so nice outside I decided to double back the way we came to get him a little bit extra walk time and exposure. It was starting to get a little bit darker out. Sun was setting and it wasn't quite as bright. Toby had been smiling and butt wagging at everyone that went past up to this point. We were walking by a cafe and there was a girl with black hair wearing a black trench coat, facing away from us. She wasn't really moving and standing in the middle of the sidewalk. I didn't want to walk too close to her, for fear of scaring her (not to sound racist at all, but she was Asian (as in, foreign student) and all the Asian people I have talked to aren't real big on large dogs. I used to live with a foreign student and he tolerated Toby, but was obviously not entirely comfortable). So I didn't want to walk up right behind her with a large dog and scare her. So I guess that's where the problem started. I was uncomfortable and of course Toby probably picked up on that. He started his hopping thing like he wanted to run and I said no and started to pull him up a little bit. At this point, a group of people left the cafe and Toby just couldn't keep to himself anymore. He started "yelling" at them. I guess it's just the anxiety of "OMGSOMANYPEOPLE" and the fact that I am not letting him run up to them. Plus I think the dark/strange figure didn't do much for his comfort.

I absolutely hate it when this happens. Like I said, it's usually just with other dogs. When he did it to a group of people, I wanted to crawl into a hole. It's not only embarrassing but obviously I feel as if it is a huge disservice to the breed. I have absolutely no tolerance for Toby acting like an idiot.

He has gotten SO much better around dogs. He is to the point now that I can say "Toby, look" and hold my fingers up by my face and he stares at them the whole time a dog is walking by us (we get off the sidewalk about 5-10 feet, how far depends on the other dog). After the other dog is gone, I treat him and we continue our walk. I have used this several instances when I had no treats but found myself in a pickle and it worked like a charm. I am beginning to phase it into "Toby, look" while we continue walking. But so far he does much better seated.

Overall he is doing extraordinarily better. But every time we have a small setback like this, it's really discouraging. I guess I just have to keep my head up and remember that he IS a dog and isn't going to be perfect. I wasn't really sure how to handle this episode thought. It caught me by surprise. I pulled back, said "NO" and put myself in front of him and made him look at my fingers/face. Beyond that, I was at a loss.
-Kristen
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Postby Tubular Toby » March 7th, 2010, 9:41 pm

I guess we are going to start playing the look at that game even more. I KNOW he is not human aggressive. Anyone can come up and pet him. He is just... reactive I guess. So I suppose the look at that game will help?
-Kristen
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Postby HappyChick » March 7th, 2010, 9:47 pm

I am not a dog trainer.

I've had many dogs as a part of my family for many years now. What I do feel from your post is that you do not give your dog a confident presence when you walk him. You didn't want to invade her personal space, but you were more concerned with that girl than with your dog. You flinched and your feelings traveled all the way down the leash to him. I talk from experience and learning from the awesome folks on this forum. Teach by example, in my opinion.
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Postby Tubular Toby » March 7th, 2010, 10:48 pm

I know what you're saying and I agree. However regardless of how i walk him he is still going to be reactive at times. Other than just being more confident, I really need some specific things for us to do. I don't feel that simply moving forward past the girl would have prevented him from being reactive. Whichis why I think the look at that game combined with more confidence on my behalf will help a lot. I know I'm not around very often anymore, so it's hard to explain just how far tobys training has come. But he is a thousand times better. Very good. If he gets ahead of me, a simple ease up command brings him back to my side. A lot of our success over the last year did have to do with me being a more confident handler. I just don't think the solution is entirely that easy with this latest develpment. This isn't an everyday thing for him, but I like to try to make sure that it's somethng we can work on our next walk.
I hope this doesn't sound rude. It's certainly not meant to be. I absolutely believe your comment is true in this situation. :)
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Postby HappyChick » March 7th, 2010, 11:00 pm

I dont think you are rude at all. I should have clarified....confidence is just the initial concentration. There are many folks here who are excellent trainers. They will give you the best advice from there on. :D
Angie & crew

http://www.epitome-dog-rescue.org

My beloved Vincenzo 07/22/05 - 11/16/09 forever in my heart. Cancer sucks.
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Postby Tubular Toby » March 7th, 2010, 11:04 pm

Ah I gotcha. :) I totally agree too. Thanks for your insight
-Kristen
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Postby TheRedQueen » March 8th, 2010, 9:58 am

I completely think that some LAT can help with this...I use it for whatever is distracting my dogs. :)

Inara and I use it for her HA...so she's very used to hearing "Look at that person!" in our daily activities... :D I like the LAT game because you're not trying to prevent them from looking at the distraction, but you are able to make it a nice little training exercise...so they're less likely to react the next time. If it's been successful for you and Toby with dogs...by all means, use it for anything else (people, cars, birds, etc)! :dance:
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby tiva » March 8th, 2010, 11:56 am

These things just happen sometimes, and don't let them get you down. Maybe your confidence was or was not radiating down the leash. But I find it much more useful to focus on things I can train in myself as well as in the dog. For example: my Vanya has a much lower threshold for his triggers when it's getting dark out. He also starts shrieking, at dusk, when he sees people that I won't let him go greet (every human on earth is his long-lost best friend, and if he feels he can't say hi to them, he looses his brains out his toenails. During the day, he has learned to play LAT for a treat when I won't let him greet people, but at dusk, he just can't do it.)

So what I'm trying to train MYSELF to do is to recognize that moment BEFORE he's about to go over threshold, so I can say, in a merry voice, "let's go!" and do a quick about-face, shoving treats in his mouth, while we go in the opposite direction. Sometimes you just have to know when to go.

And it's also a wonderful idea to train a positive conditioned emotional response to a tightened leash, so your dog starts associating a tight leash with wonderful treats and other good things, not the approach of a monster or some frustration.
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Postby tiva » March 8th, 2010, 12:05 pm

Here's our specific game plan for when we're walking down a street or trail and I see a trigger approaching:
1. When the trigger is still far, far away, I cue a sit in a happy voice, and then play "look at that" (from Control Unleashed), so that I'm calmly asking Vanya to glance at the trigger, I click the instant he glances at it, and then he whips his head back toward me and I give him a yummy treat.
2. If he's staying calm, I then walk towards the trigger slowly, playing the LAT game often.
3. If it's a person coming toward us and Vanya is staying calm, I walk by them, rewarding Vanya for his glances at them and at me.
4. If Vanya is starting to get a bit too excited (or if it's a dog off in the distance), well before he's about to go over threshold and start reacting, I say "let's go!" and we do an about-face, walking happily off in the opposite direction.
5. When I walk, scooter, or ski-jor, I'm always keeping my eyes out for "escape routes", in case unleashed dogs come romping up to us, so that I can get Vanya easily and quickly out of there, before he reacts.
6. I always try to do my best to make sure he doesn't go over threshold and start reacting, but if he does, I just put on a big smile and march on by. If people are staring, I just call out (in a happy voice) "he's just really, really happy to see people, and he wants to go say hi to you, but we're training now so he can learn how to be polite" (or something similar). Sometimes I'll slip the nose-piece of his canny collar or gentle leader over his nose, to give me a little more control. But usually I just avoid getting too close to his triggers, so that he can stay in learning mode, rather than zipping over into reacting mode. And if I screw up, and he starts to shriek at something, I just figure it was my mistake, and I get him out of there.
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Postby Tubular Toby » March 8th, 2010, 7:31 pm

Thanks for your encouragement, everyone! (I just looked over and Toby is in a daze staring at my fish tank from his spot on the couch.... haha, I dunno, that just made me laugh. He's as bad as me. ;) )

The comment on keeping in mind how far we can go before reaching Toby's threshold and not allowing him to escalate is nice to hear again. I really have been doing a decent job of doing this with dogs. And when he is about to get out of hand I usually get his attention, and make him do a command (depending on how close he is to going nutso). Either lay or heel (and walk off) or something of that sort. Usually redirects his brain.

So from now on we will play LAT even more often and I will remember to keep a closer eye on his body language at ALL times, not just when other dogs are around. I really didn't expect him to be reactive to a human, so I wasn't really paying attention to him as much as I was trying to navigate around this girl. My mistake.
-Kristen
Owned by Totally Tubular Toby

Buy the ticket, take the ride

http://tubular-toby.blogspot.com/
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Postby TheRedQueen » March 9th, 2010, 9:50 am

Sounds like you have a good handle on things...so keep up the good work. Things happen... :| and it's hard to be 100% on top of these reactivity things.

Fig (the Wiener) had a blow-out barking fest at the flyball tournament this past weekend...and he's not like that with people or dogs. We went walking past a guy that was hitching his trailer to his truck, and Fig started bouncing around and barking hysterically. Luckily because he's a 10# Wiener, no one was terribly frightened... :wink: ...but I was all "WTF?!?!?!"

Things happen...and sometimes are seemingly so random...just keep working on things, and keep that good relationship going...
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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