Saturday, October 2, 2010

Inspiring post by Sarah Owings

On the functional rewards yahoo group (where people discuss BAT), Sarah Owings wrote this post:

"Today was my last session with Fitz, the bull terrier, (which I'm really sad
about because I love this dog:( ). After two months of solid foundational work,
for today's session I decided to try for some vast-distance parallel walking a
la Turid Rugaas with a little P- thrown in for any barking and lunging. Irith
was kind enough to come help with her dog Franklin.

Fitzy has no fear or any real aggression issues it turns out. He is just Mr.
PUMPED, is an adrenaline addict, and clearly wants to get to the other dog!!! At
one point when Franklin was politely sniffing and ignoring him, Fitz started
barking and it was like "HEY! HEY! HEY! Look at me! Look at me!" Fitz's greeting
and play style are just too over the top for on leash ... and besides I don't
encourage on leash greetings very often anyway--and definitely no play. The
metaphor I came up with today about "proper leash etiquette" was this:

On leash it's like going to a fancy dinner party. You don't get to throw food
and have pillow fights.

Off leash--if the dogs are compatible, listening to each other's cut of signals
and equally willing--then you can have more of a party time... And at some point
we may try and hook Fitzy up with a more compatible play partner. (He needs a
fellow line backer-body slamming-tackling type and Franklin is more of a chase
me--intellectual-chess-player type).

Fitz's owners have been working a lot with the on-off switch game, auto orient,
relax on a mat and doggie zen. In other words LOTS and LOTS of foundation stuff
before attempting even going near a dog.

He wasn't perfect today, but all that hard work has clearly paid off. Even when
he barked, it was short lived and he "turned off" quickly, and 90% of the time
defaulted to an auto-check in.

We started the session with a full street width plus about 50' distance. Calm
behavior meant Fitz got to move towards the other dog. Lunging meant a U-turn,
walk away from the dog and mom gets boring for a minute until Fitz calms himself
down. (Which he did within 5 seconds every time).

Very quickly, the lunging and barking reduced dramatically. And then as we
walked the two dogs up and down on opposite sides of the street, Fitz started
making very conscious good choices. Looking away, checking with mom, sniffing,

Things were going so well, we tried a new idea. With Fitz calmly sitting, we had
Franklin approach on an arc and with low intensity. Fitz could do this! Any good
signaling on Fitz's part like head turns brought Franklin a little closer. Any
tension or intensity and Franklin left.

Fitz threw many lovely signals at this point: head turns, sitting, even laying
down!! Irith brought Franklin to about 20' with this approach and the two dogs
even sent each other what looked like some "I'm interested but not too
interested" signals.

Then we reversed it and let Fitz follow after Franklin. Any intensity on his
part and it was an immediate U-turn and boring mommy again. Calm, he got to move

Long story short, the dogs were soon able to have a polite sniff--disengage and
were even then able to sit side by side for a minute and ignore each other while
both dogs got treats.

During a couple of the initial advance--retreats Fitz tried a couple times to
initiate play by jumping up on Franklin and once got a tiny bit
mouthy/snarky--which may have been play as well--but he got a U-turn for that...
Because we want to teach him that on-leash does not mean play time. But we also
saw some nice sniffing-arcing and soft body postures between the two dogs as

In the end both dogs were laying down about 10' from each other calmly and then
parallel walked about 10-15" from each other back to the car.

My clients were super happy to know that their dog is not aggressive and that it
is possible for him to be civilized around other dogs. When they first hired me
a couple months ago, his explosive outbursts at almost any distance just made
them too scared to try him with another dog until now.

I was delighted because I was not expecting this much success in one day. Whoo

Sorry this is long. I just wanted to share. It wasn't BAT but a good combination
of foundation work, self control, and Premack. I find Fitzy a really interesting
case because I had to bend the formula for reactivity quite a bit. And he taught
me a lot. But it worked!



Sarah Owings
KPA Certified Training Partner
(818) 415-0436

Bridges Dog Training, Los Angeles

For the foundation behaviors, see:

Leslie McDevitt's On-off Switch Game

And Doggie Zen a la Canis Clicker Training


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