A typical morning walk

November 19, 2009 at 9:33 am Leave a comment

I walk Boogie for 20-30 minutes every morning. Today we went for an extra long walk  around our neighborhood (45 minutes). I brought along the clicker and a pocketful of treats. In Ali Brown’s book “Scaredy Dog!”, she suggests making a list of all the things that your dog reacts to and keeping some sort of training log. So this morning I paid extra careful attention to Boogie’s body language and reactions more than I normally would and prepared myself to call him, and click-and-treat when I got his attention.

As far as I know are the common and perfectly normal reactions of a fearful animal (or person, for that matter):

  1. FIGHT – bark, growl, lunge, attack.
  2. FLIGHT – move backwards, run away
  3. FREEZE – become very still, stiff and tense.
  4. ASK FOR HELP – look to someone else to know what to do

Ideally, we want to train Boogie to choose Reaction #4 over the others. We want him to LOOK TO ME when he is scared or unsure. And my responsibility as his “benevolent pack leader” is to either get him away from the scary situation or do something to make him feel better. According to the book, a leash correction could effectively STOP the reaction (yes, it works) but would do nothing to alleviate the fear.

I didn’t want to rely on the sprenger collar so I didn’t put it on Boogie this morning.

On our walk I made a mental list of all the people/things that Boogie reacted to, which were moments that prompted me to call him  “Boogie!” (putting on my best HAPPY tone of voice), and to click and treat him when he came to me and looked at me.

1. Old homeless woman walking past us (FIGHT) This is the old homeless woman who hangs out in Los Feliz.  One evening 2 years ago when I opened my front door, this woman was camped out on my porch right outside my front door. This was the very first time we saw Boogie try to bite someone. He lunged at her, snapped, and she ran off. Now whenever he sees this woman on the street, he goes ballistic. He pulls towards her and barks and growls. *This is the same behavior he has towards the mailman. Actually, I don’t think it’s fear in this case. It’s territorial aggression. He HATES that homeless woman.

2. Tall old man on sidewalk (FIGHT).  I have no idea what it was about this person that set him off pulling on the leash, ears up, hackles up. Maybe because he was tall? Big? I don’t know. I read that reactive dogs are affected by “silhouttes” of people, so if they carry objects, wear masks or hats,  or look really big, this can freak them out. I called Boogie to me (there was some resistance) and when he sat, I clicked and treated.

3. Big bus turning around the corner (FLIGHT). Boogie and I were waiting at the traffic light when a big bus turned around the corner which sent Boogie leaping back 5 feet! I called him but he wouldn’t come. Ears back, crouched low. When the bus drove away, I called him again, he came and sat. Click-and-treat. I felt a bit bad about this. I guess I should have seen the bus coming and led him away, knowing that he is scared of buses.

4. Friendly man approaching us with camera. A guy approached us and wanted to take a photo of Boogie because he has a boston pup himself. I told him not to come close (“my dog is nervous and may bite”) and he was really cool and stayed where he was. He said his pup bites all the time. (haha, mister. If only you knew) I asked Boogie to sit and gave him lots of praise and treats while the guy took photos. I could tell that Boogie  wanted to go sniff the guy but I didn’t let him, just kept praising him for sitting and staying. Boogie is never really comfortable getting his picture taken (he turns his head a lot) but what can ya do when you are so cute.

5. Squirrel! No hope for this one. Boogie would NOT come away from the tree when called, no matter what. I had to stick the treat right in front of his nose to get him to move on.

6. Big truck passing us on the street. (FREEZE)  I was walking in between him and the street, and when two big trucks drove by, Boogie just stopped and froze. I called his name and said “Sit”. It took him a few moments before he sat and looked up at me. Click-and-treat. Lots of praise.

    7. Barking dog behind a fenced yard (FIGHT) We pass this house almost every morning. Sometimes the dog is there in the yard running around and barking. I immediately crossed the street, calling “Boogie!” in a happy voice but Boogie’s head was still turned towards the dog, teeth bared. When we finally crossed the street and he looked at me, “Click!” and treat. Then suddenly, WHOA! There was another dog and owner right there in front of us! (oh shit)

    8. Calm dog with owner. (FIGHT) Boogie’s hackles were still up and he pulled towards this dog that looked like a labradoodle. OH SHIT. I was running out of  treats. Thankfully this dog-owner was really cool and he restrained his dog. “Are you training your dog? I heard the clicker”. We started a conversation and he made his dog sit, and I made Boogie sit, and Boogie was fine just sitting there while this guy and I chatted. During this time I gave Boogie the final 2-3 treats and patted him a lot.  Boogie’s hackles were no longer raised though he continued to stare at the other dog. When the guy and his dog walked off, I called Boogie back to heel and we headed home.

      There you go. A typical morning walk with Boogie. So much drama!

      Entry filed under: Outdoors, Social stuff, Training.

      Tips for working with a reactive dog. (Part 1) Boogie and FEET.

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