I don’t want to jinx anything, but…

July 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm 6 comments

Yesterday, two people on separate occasions stopped us on our walk and asked if they could say Hi to my dog. I said “OK, but don’t lean over him, he is nervous around new people”. To my surprise, on both occasions, Boogie walked right up to these people, totally relaxed with soft ears, nuzzled their hands and invited the petting.  Six months ago, this Boogie used to stiffen or lunge when approached by strangers on the street. Two weeks ago, this Boogie would  stop and turn his head to look at me (“Treat?”) if strangers got too close… or move to one side and sniff or pee on something. Now he is wanting to meet the strangers?

Last week, we passed a very barky dog behind a fence. Boogie barked back as we walked past. Then I stopped some distance away so that the dogs could still see each other. Boogie blinked at the dog.  The other dog blinked back. Good sign. Perhaps this could be a kiss-and-makeup session.

What followed was amazing.  Boogie turned his head away from the dog.  The other dog continued staring at Boogie; calming signal not returned. His eyes were like lasers. “Watch out, little punk. I’m badass.”

Boogie turned his head to look at me. I called him away but he did not want to retreat. He stood there and continued offering a whole bunch of calming signals – he licked his lip, he yawned, he softened his ears…  (“Hey dude, chill out. I want no trouble. I am friendly”) The other dog was back in sitting position, still staring intensely at Boogie, not returning any of Boogie’s calming signals so I led Boogie away. Can I just say how proud I am of Boogie for his calmness and social politeness in the face of danger?

This morning, two giant Weimeraners walked past us (like 5 feet away). Boogie stood there, watched them walk on by. I noted that his body language was still relaxed, then he turned his head to look at me and licked his lip and turned back to watch the dogs moving away. I called Boogie and we continued along in the opposite direction. Two unfamiliar big dogs.  Boogie completely untriggered. No reactivity. I can’t believe it.

I want to say that my scaredy-reactive dog is becoming more confident, he is conquering his fears, he is using more polite signals in his interactions, he is learning to self-soothe, or perhaps I am noticing things that I didn’t notice before and as a result of frequent and consistent reinforcements, he is becoming more social and communicative?  You know, he even barks at me now when he wants to play Tug. At ME! He never used to bark at me before.

If you are the owner of a scaredy-reactive dog you know what a big deal it is when your dog doesn’t react, and when he actively wants to be friendly. I am almost kinda scared to jinx anything by being too happy about it.

Entry filed under: Training.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Helix Fairweather  |  July 20, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    I am happy for you too! Your hard work is paying off. I think talking about our successes and progress helps us stay on track, doing the good things we have been doing, observing with a fine eye, keeping the reinforcements flowing.

  • 2. Pamela Webster (@S_Wagging)  |  July 20, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    I’m so happy for you. This is amazing progress.

    You’ve been working so hard with Boogie. But he also has to learn at this own pace. It looks like all your work is paying off in a more comfortable pup.

  • 3. lili  |  July 21, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    Thank you, Helix and Pamela! It hasn’t really felt like “hard work” … the counterconditioning/BAT exercises have became part of my normal daily routine. But yes, this is probably way more work than what an average dog owner goes through. 🙂

  • 4. Elisabeth Weiss  |  July 28, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    Great news!
    I am so happy for you

  • 5. Grisha Stewart  |  July 31, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Woohoo! You’ll get more and more of these moments, I think. Progress isn’t linear, so there may be bumps in the road, but the tide is turning. 🙂

  • 6. lili  |  July 31, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    “Progress isn’t linear” <– I love this! Must remember! 🙂


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