Saturday, June 19, 2010

Good boy, Vanya!

Today, on our early morning walk (when I expect NOT to see unleashed dogs), we had 3 unleashed dogs and a cat come running up to us (in 2 separate incidents). And Vanya handled himself very well indeed--only one brief shrieking episode, and several reasonably polite, very short meet-and-greets (muzzled).
Good boy, Vanya!

Most of the shrieking being done on the walk was by me, imitating a fish-wife when I tried to get my neighbor David to come outside and collect his two ENORMOUS malamute mixes who were circling me and Vanya, barking at us at the top of their lungs. Vanya was remarkably collected, I must say (pulling on the leash, but not barking or shrieking back at them). Once the neighbor came and got his huge dogs, I slipped the muzzle on Vanya and we did a very brief, 2 second, meet-and-greet with each Malamute, which went well until David let the big dogs go and they started circling and barking once more. Well, life isn't perfect.

David then collected his dogs once again and as they went back to their house, Vanya was able to follow them politely (at perhaps 40 ft distance), loose leash, offering me glances when requested. If a dog isn't looking at him, he's now often able to be quite calm about it.

A hundred yards later, another neighbor let his little poodle Buddy out to play with Vanya. Buddy actually LIKES Vanya, at least when Vanya is leashed and muzzled. We practiced many two second meet-and-greets, and Buddy did his best to get Vanya to interact--play-bowing and dancing around. Vanya made an effort to act like a regular old dog (hard to do when that annoying Treat Lady keeps saying ENOUGH! and turning away with you every two seconds. Jeez, lady.) Then the curious cat then came bounding right up to us (well, 2 ft away), to see what was happening. Vanya just whined and at that point, I decided enough was enough and we headed home. He didn't shriek or scream when we left, although he sure wasn't ready to leave and go back to the boring life at home.

I should add that on weekends, I rarely walk Vanya around here because there are too many people and dogs (I'll drive instead to a quiet forest service dirt road nearby). I miscalculated and figured that, early on a cloudy, windy, drizzly Saturday, we could walk a half mile on the dirt road without encountering too much excitement. Wrong! But he handled it all like a champ.

Perhaps what's helping are: prozac, l-theanine, window film, and lots of clicker practice sessions working on two things: clicker-training his turning politely away from distractions

and rewarding calmer responses on a mat near stuffed dogs:

(this clip followed his shrieking by about 20 seconds: )

And here he is, being forlorn when I "play" with the stuffed dog--but then he can calm down again.

A few minutes later, he was quite calm with the stuffed dog 15 ft away. 

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