"Relax class"

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Postby pitbullmamaliz » January 9th, 2010, 2:37 pm

So Inara and I signed up for a class called "Relax Class." It's for dogs that, obviously, need to learn to relax a bit, mostly those who are reactive to other dogs, though she did say her next session will include a human aggressive dog. Only 4 dogs are permitted to take the class at a time, so it was tough to get into!

I'm really excited about it. Today was our first session, no dogs allowed, so we could tell Ginger (the instructor) about our dogs and she could tell us what to expect from the class. I had taken a private session with Ginger last October or November so she knows Inara. Two of the other dogs are also pit bulls and the third is a yellow lab/Shar Pei mix.

Ginger spoke today about how some dogs are just "hyper-motivated" to meet other dogs, which can look like aggressive behavior, while others truly do want to injure the other dog. She said the methods we will be using will work on both types of dogs.

It's all positive reinforcement. The other three dogs in class already use Halti's, but she said it was okay for me to try it on a flat collar, but to bring my Halti just in case we need it. She will bring the dogs in one by one and set us all up behind barriers so the dogs can't really see each other at first, which is kinda nice. She said the first class is often very boring because we're just working to get our dogs relaxed and lying on their mats, not really moving a lot.

I already have homework for next week (which I practiced a bit as soon as I got home!). I think this is going to be a really great class!
"Remember - every time your dog gets somewhere on a tight leash *a fairy dies and it's all your fault.* Think of the fairies." http://www.positivepetzine.com"

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Postby madremissy » January 9th, 2010, 2:39 pm

That sounds like a great class.
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Postby amazincc » January 9th, 2010, 4:56 pm

pitbullmamaliz wrote:

Ginger spoke today about how some dogs are just "hyper-motivated" to meet other dogs, which can look like aggressive behavior, while others truly do want to injure the other dog. She said the methods we will be using will work on both types of dogs.


I think I have one of those at times. :P
You have to let us know what you learn, and how it works for Inara!!! :)
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Postby Hundilein » January 9th, 2010, 10:07 pm

What an awesome idea for a class! Please keep us posted on the progress I am sure you and Inara will make.
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Postby furever_pit » January 11th, 2010, 5:08 pm

Sounds interesting. I can't wait to hear how it goes for you and Inara.
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Postby TinaMartin » January 12th, 2010, 3:29 pm

I would love to read about the progress of the class.
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » January 17th, 2010, 2:21 pm

Had class today. It sucked. I'm discouraged. It started with a hardware failure (clasp on leash broke) which fortunately I noticed before Inara did. And that happened about 5 minutes into class and I think it just rattled me. Ginger, the instructor, loaned me a leash but it was one of those super-thin leather show leads so I was terrified it was going to break the entire class. Inara was either star pupil or psycho dog, no in between. I'm just frustrated. I'll detail more what we did in class a little later. I'm whipped and my hand hurts from the leash burn I got.
"Remember - every time your dog gets somewhere on a tight leash *a fairy dies and it's all your fault.* Think of the fairies." http://www.positivepetzine.com"

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Postby pitbullmamaliz » January 17th, 2010, 5:31 pm

Alright, I have napped and gotten myself re-composed.

So we got there about 11:15 and I spent maybe 5-10 minutes walking Inara around outside before Ginger asked if we were ready to come in. There was already a dog named Luna there. Luna's a rescued pit who we've taken another class with. She is extremely fearful and barks nonstop. So of course as soon as we walked in Luna started barking and Inara returned the favor. I began shoving treats into her mouth any time she stopped to take a breath. Then the next dog came in and she lost it again. Ginger brought over a spoonful of peanut butter to help quiet her a bit, which worked. Then as the lost dog was coming in, Inara whirled around to face him and that's when the leash popped. I grabbed her collar (very calmly, I might add!) and just hung on until Ginger could bring me another leash. But I think that rattled me for the rest of class.

All the dogs spent about the first 10 minutes just barking and talking crap to each other, while all the owners shoveled treats into their mouths. Finally there was silence in the room, oh blessed silence! And for a while Inara was fantastic - eyes only for me, or just a quick glance sideways; doing voluntary sits and downs on her mat for treats; and even sprawling flat on her side (her newest "trick") or flipping onto her back to convince me to give her more treats.

Once all the dogs had had a chance to settle, Ginger started us doing "look at that" (click for a quick glance around the room). Went well. Then she started having us do a little puppy massage, but I stopped pretty quickly because Inara doesn't enjoy being touched when she's worked up and she was pulling away from me. I'll practice that at home. Then Ginger went around the room a couple times and each time she came to a dog the owner waited until the dog was calm, and then said "go say hi!" The dog could then sniff Ginger and get some lovings for a few seconds before we called them back to us for a bunch of treats. Inara didn't jump at all, which shocked me, and the second time Ginger came around Inara only went to her for a hot second and then came right back to me for treats. I was pretty pleased with that.

Then Ginger set up a little cone for each of us in our sequestered corners (there were barriers up so the dogs couldn't see each other) and we practiced walking towards the cone and then as soon as we passed it we'd do a quick happy turn and feed lots of treats. Kind of like an emergency u-turn if you need to quickly but calmly get out of a situation. Inara did so-so. She pulled like a mack truck as we were walking towards the cone (also toward the other dogs) but she did turn quickly as soon as I did.

Then we got everybody calmed down on mats again because the dogs had all gotten worked up at the movement. Ginger then tried to remove bits and pieces of the barriers so the dogs could start to see each other a little bit. Chaos. From everybody. So barriers were left in place. After that Inara just couldn't calm herself. I think she was just tired and had passed way over her threshold. Ginger finally brought over an empty jar of peanut butter that occupied Inara a little while 2 of the other dogs left one at a time. Then it was our turn to leave and god what a relief it was to get outside. Ginger walked us out and we were talking for a minute while Inara peed and pooped (she's a stress pooper!). Ginger was asking if Inara ever gets to play with other dogs because while she was barking and acting like an ass she was throwing play bows into her lunging. She also said that there's an amino acid (that I can't remember the name of - she's going to email me that info) that has worked extremely well on one of her own reactive dogs as well as other clients' reactive dogs. She said it's kind of expensive, about $30 for a month's worth, but she thinks it would be really helpful for Inara. So I'll order that once she gets me the info.

So our homework for next week is to continue working on a watch command; target training with our hands; u-turns; keep getting the dogs used to having their collars grabbed; and clicking/treating for looking at another dog.

Ginger didn't seem at all annoyed or impatient throughout the class, which was really good. She seems confident that progress will be made. I really really like her and am so happy I found her. I will try not to get discouraged or frustrated and will approach next week with an open mind (and an extra leash!).
"Remember - every time your dog gets somewhere on a tight leash *a fairy dies and it's all your fault.* Think of the fairies." http://www.positivepetzine.com"

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Postby amazincc » January 17th, 2010, 6:02 pm

You are putting SO much pressure on yourself, Liz... why? :hug3:
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » January 17th, 2010, 6:46 pm

I don't think I am, though. I just want Inara to be able to relax around other dogs. I don't care if she never plays with another dog again. But I do care that she be well-mannered when in the same vicinity as them. You know?
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Postby amazincc » January 17th, 2010, 7:06 pm

I guess I don't understand it... if you don't care about her playing w/other dogs, don't frequent a dog park, and don't plan on adding another one to your family... why put both of you in such a stressful situation?

I also think "being relaxed" and "being well-mannered" are two completely different things... you can't force or teach a state of mind, but you can teach obedience. For instance... Mick was never, ever relaxed at the vet - but he managed to stop lunging and trying to bite everyone in sight towards the end of his chemo treatments. His obedience overrode his impulse to react to his fear, to an extent, but he was never relaxed or calm. Does that make sense???


I'm not criticizing you at all, so please don't take it that way... it just sounds like a very frustrating thing to do, and Inara may never be able to accomplish relaxation around other dogs.
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » January 17th, 2010, 7:11 pm

I know you're not criticizing! :)

I want to be able to take her for a peaceful walk around the neighborhood, or into a pet store. I LOVE doing group classes but they're tough to do because she over-reacts so often. And I know what you're saying about the difference between relaxing and being obedient, but I think that for her, a lot of her behavior comes from anxiety about the other dogs. So she needs (yes, needs) to learn that I am going to keep her safe and not let her be harmed. If that requires a lot of work on my behalf I am willing to do that. I did a ton of research before getting into this breed and knew what problems I might face. I don't give up easily. I may get discouraged here and there, like today, but in the long run I'm not giving up. For both of our sakes.
"Remember - every time your dog gets somewhere on a tight leash *a fairy dies and it's all your fault.* Think of the fairies." http://www.positivepetzine.com"

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Postby amazincc » January 17th, 2010, 7:33 pm

I do know where you're coming from, and I applaud your determination. :)

On the other hand... Mick trusted me w/his life. I could do anything to him and he didn't object. I also think that he had his limitations in certain situations (like the vet), and it had nothing to do w/him not trusting me to keep him safe. Fear and anxiety is not a rational thought process, for the most part.
Otherwise I wouldn't be scared to look under my bed in the dark... lol
I also don't really believe that Inaras behavior is a "breed thing"... she may just be "wired" that way, for lack of a better word.
Daisy HATES crowds, and "busy" situations, so I accepted long ago that she's not a dog who enjoys a pet store or group classes. We actually got kicked out of puppy class when she was young... :rolleyes2:

I just want you to take it easy on the both of you... I happen to really like you guys, and Inara couldn't ask for a better Mom. :wink: :hug3:
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » January 17th, 2010, 8:01 pm

Thanks! :)

I don't know if it's a breed thing or not. Regardless, it's something we are going to work through. :)
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Postby amazincc » January 17th, 2010, 8:57 pm

The one final thought I've had about this class (and then I promise to leave you alone lol)... I don't quite get how it benefits an already anxious dog to be in a class w/three equally anxious other dogs. Even if they can't see each other I'm sure they're aware of each others presence and feed off each others exitment/fear/anxiety... and it probably multiplies and gets magnified on top of that.

Why not try and teach Inara to "relax" around a very calm and composed dog first?

I have my own "training challenges", for sure... just thinking out loud on this one. :wink:
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Postby TheRedQueen » January 17th, 2010, 9:03 pm

Sounds like a good class for you and Inara...glad you got in. :) Just remember the name of the class, and relax yourself too...hard to do when you're stressed, I know. I have the same problem with MY Inara...lol

And Christine, I do see what you're saying...but I do think that self-control and obedience can be obtained separately. My Inara doesn't have much "formal" obedience...she can't heel on cue (but she can loose-leash walk), she can sit and down, and can wait...but doesn't know "stay" real well.

But...she can control herself in "scary" situations now...she doesn't go beserk when meeting new people (though she doesn't like most people still)...and I don't worry that she's going to bite them. :dance: But doing this doesn't mean that I'm having her heel or stare at me in attention, or even having her in down stay next to me. She's learned to trust me by learning to relax and not feel like she has to take matters into her own hands (paws) all of the time.
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » January 17th, 2010, 9:25 pm

amazincc wrote:Why not try and teach Inara to "relax" around a very calm and composed dog first?


I understand what you're saying and it really does make sense. Unfortunately, I only have a couple local friends with dogs. Only one of those is friendly with Inara, but she is not a calm and composed dog either. I've spoken to several trainers about whether I can take Inara and just work outside their class. Ginger is the only trainer who has been okay with me doing that. Unfortunately, the one day I tried it she had a reactive GSD who kept setting off Inara! Can't win sometimes. lol

TheRedQueen wrote:Just remember the name of the class, and relax yourself too...hard to do when you're stressed


Erin, I was doing so well until near the end when she slipped over the edge and just couldn't get it back together. Then I got frustrated. Even though I kept my happy voice going I'm sure she could tell.
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Postby TheRedQueen » January 17th, 2010, 9:29 pm

Can you get up and leave if you're both past your threshold? :? Just thinking that maybe an escape route would be good...maybe if you're both by the doors to leave?

I've got a reactive Canaan dog in puppy class right now...with a completely deaf owner. She has to watch the interpreter in class, and has trouble being able to watch her dog at the same time...ai-yi-yi! (just think it can always be worse than you have it! lol ) We always give her an out if need be...and let her be by the door if we can...
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Postby amazincc » January 17th, 2010, 9:30 pm

pitbullmamaliz wrote: Chaos. From everybody. So barriers were left in place. After that Inara just couldn't calm herself. I think she was just tired and had passed way over her threshold.



Hey, Erin!!! :wave2:

See... I think w/a non-reactive other dog there chaos and over-stimulation could've been avoided. Inara wouldn't have gotten any feedback, and we all know that it's no fun to be hysterical when no-one pays attention to you... lol
I agree w/your statement about self-control and obedience, but I think it's a lot to expect that from a reactive dog in a chaotic setting.
If I remember correctly you started your own Inara off very slowly... you didn't throw her into a crowd of people and expected her to cope well... right? And look how FAR she has come since then... :clap:

Sepp and I are working on self-control/better obedience also... one itty-bitty tiny baby step at the time. He can watch one strange dog walking by without losing his mind right now, but I'm thinking several together will take quite some time. :)
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » January 17th, 2010, 9:35 pm

The problem with that is Ginger is going to switch our positions every week so we're not always in the same corner/by the same dogs. And as we found when we started working on our u-turns, movement sets all the dogs off. And honestly, because I've got Inara on her flat collar in there I feel more in control if we stay in one place. :oops:

Next week I'll take our own jar of peanut butter, or maybe squeeze cheese, along with the gigantic container of Natural Balance roll treats AND the Charlee Bear treats. I figured variety would help, and it did a little.

I'm really hopeful that next week will be better because we'll both be familiar with the routine, and I'll have my own leash. I really think that leash failure was a big part of my nerves. Hard to recover from that when you can't stop thinking about what could have happened if it had broken mid-lunge. :sad2:
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