Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fourth day in a row of pass-bys: two steps forward, ? steps back

Today was the fourth day in a row that we worked on passbys, polite behavior around other dogs, etc. Most of the time today, Vanya behaved nicely. He completely lost it, however, when I wasn't expecting it: on a long walk in the woods at the state park, when we passed a campsite that happened to have a dog hiding out. The dog barked, and even though we were walking briskly by (on the opposite site of the road, of course), Vanya completely lost it. He couldn't see the dog (which sounded pretty small and squeaky to me). When he loses it, he doesn't actually lunge or bark. Instead, he screams and begins thrashing like a fish on a line. It's very odd. He can wiggle out of his harness very quickly, so I always have a backup system (this time, the canny collar). While he was thrashing about shrieking to high heavens, I tried (unsuccessfully) to drag him out of there, since he sure wasn't paying attention to my cues. Finally, I put his nose-piece of the canny collar on and hauled him away (guess I won't have to clip his nails for a while!). Then, as he finally got his brain back together and started walking with me, the woman came out of the campsite and Vanya once again lost it--this time with his desire to go say hi to her. Same exact screaming, same exact thrashing, but in this situation I know it's all about social desire, not some desire to rip someone's throat out. The woman walked by, and instead of telling me off, she smiled and called out, "he's having a bad day, huh?" We chatted a bit about dogs and their bad days, all the while Vanya was thrashing about on the leash. I did tell her that he was being such a brat because he wanted to say hi, but he wasn't allowed to say hi when he was being a brat. Whatever. I'm long past feeling embarrassed by Vanya's behavior, even though I really do want to avoid sending him over threshold, both because it's not good for him to practice this craziness, and also because pitties have a bad enough reputation as it is.

I was ready to go home, but I decided to take him back up to the Prairie Moraine dog park and practice outside the park. We did that for over an hour, and he actually did very well. He's best in the church lot across the street, where he can walk fairly close to the park and the romping dogs without going over threshold. He was able to do all his obedience cues, and we alternated a bit between BAT and good old LAT. He's really becoming a champ at LAT. A couple of times he started warbling, even as he played LAT with me, so I would take him back to the car and let him settle down. We also did a bit of relaxation protocol in the car in between walks. At one point we were actually parallel walking with other dogs. Of course, they were dozens of yards away, but hey, Vanya was still able to do his cues (heel, sit, down, target, jump, watch, sniff) with other dogs in the vicinity. I'm not sure if he's getting used to other dogs, or just wiped out.

Now he's snoozing. I get to write my talks, do laundry, do powerpoints, and get ready to go to Western Michigan U tomorrow am for the book promotion events.

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