Tuesday, February 9, 2010
summer 2008: CU and leash reactivity
After that Feb 2008 class, Vanya became super- leash reactive. We immediately took him to a Dog's Best Friend for a two hour private LR consult, and he got so wound up--lunging, screaming, super-aroused--that the trainer didn't offer much hope, or at least I wasn't able to hear any hope in what she said. I started trying to find dogs I could practice Look at That on from a long distance--100s of yards away--but I couldn't find any nearby. We went into the village on a few snowy, icy days, and Vanya's proper loose leash walk (on the farm) turned into skidding, screeching, sliding over-arousal, just at the sight of new cars, people, houses. The city--actually, even the tiny little village of Monticello--seemed to push him into such arousal I couldn't reach him. He never redirected at me, and never showed an ounce of aggression toward me, but I worried.
When May came, I headed up north to Lake Superior, where I spend summers doing my forestry research, living in a tiny cabin on an acre, surrounded by public forestlands and a lot of neighbors with unleashed dogs nearby. At first, our two elderly female dogs came up with me and Vanya stayed on the farm, since we figured that farm life was a lot better for him than life on a leash.
But after a month, Frank told me that Vanya was scaring some of the farmworkers when he tried to roughhouse with them, and he was pestering some of our farm guests, so essentially he was having to stay inside all the time, and his behavior was getting worse. And then he got under our neighbor's fence and chased their cattle (didn't hurt them, but did scare them: completely not acceptable).
I realized that I needed to keep training Vanya every day, so on the next trip up north, he came with me and the elderly girls stayed home on the farm.
Then we started endless CU games. I really, really wanted to work on having him learn to calm him down around other dogs when he was leashed, so we tried to persuade some of our neighbors to let us practice CU games with their dogs, leashed, off at a very far distance.
It was slow work, complicated by the fact that I couldn't control what other dogs did, and I didn't have many dogs to set up at a distance. We got very good at taking off into the forest when I saw a dog in the distance. We went through a lot of liver treats. I got lots and lots of encouragement from my kind neighbors, all of whom probably thought I was insane for adopting a pittie, but all of whom were sweet about his nuttiness. Luckily, he was still the most social, loving dog on earth with new people, so he won them over with his wiggles and clowning around. Then they would see him doing his tasmanian devil imitation at the sight of a distant dog and think: woah!