One step forward...

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Postby amalie79 » December 5th, 2010, 10:15 pm

And two steps back.

The good news is Robin is making tremendous progress outside the house with her Stranger Danger. LAT games have been a raging success-- she even initiates the game now when she sees people. We can take a walk at the park and step off the path to let people pass with no incident; she's not growling and barking at kids. Today a little boy, maybe 5 or 6 years old, got about 2 feet away from her wanting to pet her. I told him no, and it turned out I knew his father, but Robin was able to sit and take treats with the kid that close without getting nervous. That's HUGE. :dance: :dance: I'm still not letting kids pet her out in public, no way, but it's noticeable progress.

Unfortunately, we've concentrated too heavily on OUTSIDE the house, and not enough INSIDE. We don't really have a lot of people over. My step-daughter is 13 and goes to school in another town, so her friends don't come over here. One of the few people I know with kids has so many that it's easier to go to her house all the time.

Anyway, today my step-daughter let her mother, step-father and 2 little sisters (11 and 7) in without us right at the door. :rolleyes2: Trust me-- I will be talking to her about that and it won't happen again. So Robin flipped out-- barking and running circles in the living room. The step-father is a friend of ours, who's come over before and makes her nervous (he's tall and stares), and the littlest girl is scared of dogs. Robin took a couple of treats from various members of the group, but she couldn't calm down. It was just a bad situation, so we let Robin out into the yard.

Robin's met the mom and the middle sister before without incident, and that sister wanted to see Robin again. So she and I let Robin into the mudroom for pets. The little girl got on her knees, Robin sniffed her, ears back, but calm, and everything was ok until the girl stood up to go. I think the sudden movement freaked her out-- she growls when I move under the covers at night, growls in play, growls in happy excitement and in nervousness, she's a very vocal dog-- so she growled for a split second and then everyone (thankfully) left.

So. I see now that we've let in-home socialization lapse. Big Time. My current plan is a combination of management and counter-conditioning/desensitization and I wanted to see if I'm missing something or if anyone has any suggestions.

When people she knows come over, I've been asking her to go to her room and sit until folks can get in the door, and then I release her to greet. That's been going well. When people she doesn't know come over, I think I'll keep her on a 4ft leash or drag line and she and I can play LAT games with the guest safely across the room until it's 100% clear that everyone's comfortable; this is basically what I've been doing, but with the addition of a leash.

As for kids, a friend of mine has 7 ranging in age from 15 to 1. She's offered to start introducing the kids one at a time and working with them so that our dogs can be introduced and play together. I'm thinking I'll ask her if she'll come by with one kid at a time, starting with the oldest, and let me do some LAT games with the kids. I'll keep Robin on a leash and probably not let the kids pet her the first time or two, again until it's 100% clear that it's all good. Maybe have the kids start tossing treats to Robin. The kids are a handful all together, but individually, they're well-behaved and I think would be excited to help if I tell them what we're doing. We'll get comfy with each kid before moving to the next one.

Suggestions? I want to keep everyone safe and still introduce Robin to kids and strangers in the home. LAT has been so successful outside the home, that I have pretty high hopes for this working inside. But, I've dealt with a fear biter before, and I know that a nervous dog is management forever. I'm just seeing such progress with Robin's issues; hopefully, she'll get more confident.

(We're hopefully starting basic obedience in January or February-- one of the only clicker-trainers in the area is opening a facility and we've been waiting for that. She specializes in fearful and "aggressive" dogs, so I think she'll be perfect for Robin and will be offering reactive dogs classes if we need that.)
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Where you invest your love, you invest your life." --Marcus Mumford

--Amalie
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Postby amalie79 » December 5th, 2010, 10:26 pm

Forgot to mention I'll reserve some especially fabulous treat for this training. Like hot dogs.
"In these bodies, we will live; in these bodies we will die.
Where you invest your love, you invest your life." --Marcus Mumford

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Postby mnp13 » December 5th, 2010, 10:52 pm

Honestly? I would do it so that she's not growling, but I wouldn't plan to ever let them "play together." Kids are unpredictable, and just when you think they are listening they aren't.

Riggs is not a big fan of kids, and I thought we had made a ton of progress, until last summer when he decided that he had had enough of the kids being around and did something very unexpected.

I understand the need to be able to have people over, and for her to have manners. However, to interact? Not really necessary in my book. Don't get me wrong, I understand what you're trying to do and I'm not trying to be nasty. I also do not play the "just think of the children" card... but on this one, unless you're planning to have kids, it's not worth it.
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Postby amalie79 » December 5th, 2010, 11:06 pm

I don't think you're being nasty at all. I do want to have kids of my own at some point, but presently, what I'm seeing is her getting worse about people in general in the house without the exposure, and kids in particular. I don't want her to get worse.

She's never going to be the bomb-proof (as much as there is such a thing) dog that River is. Like I said, I know a nervy dog is a management case forever, and when I have my own children, there will be no leaving of the baby with the dog to go take a shower, fix a sandwich, go to the bathroom, whatever, with any of my dogs.

But I've seen such progress outside the house that I hope she can be better inside. Not perfect, but better. She adores my step-daughter and has since day one. I've seen her be scared of our guests and end the night asleep in their laps. Helping her relax more quickly is the goal, I guess. It's important to me that we work on it, if for no other reason than for any unexpected situations that may arise.
"In these bodies, we will live; in these bodies we will die.
Where you invest your love, you invest your life." --Marcus Mumford

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Postby amalie79 » December 6th, 2010, 12:25 am

Should also add my friend and I were just going to introduce the kids so that the 2 dogs could play together without Robin freaking out over the presence of the children. I wasn't planning to let the kids play with Robin...
"In these bodies, we will live; in these bodies we will die.
Where you invest your love, you invest your life." --Marcus Mumford

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Postby tiva » December 7th, 2010, 1:44 am

Baby gates! When you're working on the LAT game with kids in the house, keep a baby gate between her and the kids. It will help reassure her that some bratty kid isn't going to suddenly zip over and pull her ears, and it will help reassure you that something bad won't happen. She can get socialized perfectly well from the other side of a baby gate.
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Postby amalie79 » December 7th, 2010, 10:39 am

tiva wrote:Baby gates! When you're working on the LAT game with kids in the house, keep a baby gate between her and the kids. It will help reassure her that some bratty kid isn't going to suddenly zip over and pull her ears, and it will help reassure you that something bad won't happen. She can get socialized perfectly well from the other side of a baby gate.


Thanks, Nancy! That's a great idea. I think my friend and her 15 year old boy are going to start coming over later this week for quick sessions. Men seem to make her a little more nervous than women, so a young man is a twofer. Hopefully it's not too much. My college age cousin came over at Thanksgiving, and Robin barked and did her growly-talk thing and was upset by him being there (he's a starer, which my other cousin, who also owns a pittie, smartly pointed out), but once he stopped staring, she and I played some LAT, and she checked him out, after a while she couldn't get enough of him and fell asleep in his lap. I just need to get her over the initial greeting and to start relaxing.

We actually started training behind a baby gate last night; River barks incessantly if I take Robin into another room and no one else is around to distract her, and even then, she's a handful. Cannot STAND to be left out. :crazy2: So last night I started training behind only a baby gate-- I can work with one and treat the other for watching calmly. And we're working on mat work, both so that I can eventually work with both of them in the room, and so that we can work on manners while guests are over and to aid in settling. I want a comfy, calm home-base for them to go to when someone comes to the door or when new people come around. So far so good. They're both picking it up quickly and River was much much much better behaved when she could see. :dance:

Robin can also see the living room couch from the kitchen baby gate (2 rooms away), so I think that's definitely a good place to start the LAT, where she can be safe and off-leash. From there I'll decide whether we'll move closer, or ask our guests to move closer, or alternate both. I'm starting with the oldest kid, who I trust, both so she eases into kids and so I can ease into the routine and get some kind of system.

Another thought... River's going to want to see everyone and play and get pets, and she will be a holy terror if I try to put her outside, or in a bedroom, etc. I can if I have to, but... Any thoughts on whether it would be ok for her to be visiting with my visitors while I'm doing LAT with Robin, so long as it doesn't seem to frustrate Robin more? I'm wondering if seeing River interact happily would be a good thing... I'm pretty sure River's nonchalance with storms was helpful to Simon's storm anxiety. Maybe the same could work here?
"In these bodies, we will live; in these bodies we will die.
Where you invest your love, you invest your life." --Marcus Mumford

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Postby mnp13 » December 7th, 2010, 12:01 pm

tiva wrote:Baby gates! When you're working on the LAT game with kids in the house, keep a baby gate between her and the kids. It will help reassure her that some bratty kid isn't going to suddenly zip over and pull her ears, and it will help reassure you that something bad won't happen. She can get socialized perfectly well from the other side of a baby gate.


Hi... wet blanket here...

Sorry, as an owner of a dog that hates kids I've been through a lot of this, some successfully, some not-so-much.

A gate can be a great thing, yes. However, it can also add barrier frustration to the mix. I don't know the dog, so I can't say which will happen.

amalie79 wrote:I think my friend and her 15 year old boy are going to start coming over later this week for quick sessions. Men seem to make her a little more nervous than women, so a young man is a twofer.

Might be... but it also may be overload because of the "kid" and the "boy" part. go extra slow.
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Postby amalie79 » December 7th, 2010, 12:12 pm

Thanks Michelle. Definitely. Barriers have been a mixed bag-- she sniffs the Yorkie/Chihuahua X politely through the ex-pen at the pet store with absolutely zero problems (I'm just thrilled she knows it's a dog :rolleyes2: ). On the other hand, she has been on the other side of the baby gate when my mother came over and she was so excited to see my mother that she "talked" and barked a lot. But all the humans were on the other side of the gate and she loves my mom. :| With this training, I'll be on the same side as her with treats and other people 2 rooms away. We'll go easy. This kind of thing, plus the boy/kid stuff, is actually why I'm starting with the oldest and with some good distance; will probably also get them into the house without her seeing them come in so she doesn't have a chance to get worked up when they come onto the porch or sees them enter the house. We can work out what's going to work best-- I can try out a few things and gauge her frustrations before she starts seeing anyone younger and REALLY kid-like.

I guess, thankfully, her response to people and things that scare her up to this point has been to be very vocal about it, from a distance. Simon seems silently pleased to see you until he's pet on the head. :( I'd rather have vocal and "arm's length" than silent and pissed.
"In these bodies, we will live; in these bodies we will die.
Where you invest your love, you invest your life." --Marcus Mumford

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Postby mnp13 » December 7th, 2010, 4:28 pm

amalie79 wrote:I guess, thankfully, her response to people and things that scare her up to this point has been to be very vocal about it, from a distance. Simon seems silently pleased to see you until he's pet on the head. :( I'd rather have vocal and "arm's length" than silent and pissed.


I agree 100%

Don't get me wrong, it's great that you're working on this. It's even better that you have a friend who is willing to help!!

But like you said, fear can be so unpredictable. Please keep us updated!
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