Saturday, October 2, 2010

Weekly BAT practice

 Cynthia and I have been meeting with our dogs for weekly BAT practice each Tuesday. I think it's incredibly helpful--much to my surprise, because distance doesn't seem to be his functional reward. Getting closer and greeting is what he wants, but not what he can have with Cynthia's dogs (who are also reactive). Yet  BAT seems to be reducing his meltdowns and his threshold distance to other dogs. Now, after several practice sessions, if I do miscalculate and let him go over threshold a little bit, he's much more likely to tip over into his "oh boy, I see someone, please please please let's go say hi" stress whining (which is the same reaction he gives to new people, if I take too long to set him up to go say hi), rather than his "I'm freaking out, so let's scream and lunge." He had one momentary meltdown on Tuesday when an unleashed dog ran by, but that was really because of me, not him (I don't think he even saw the dog; I think he was reacting to my haste to get back to the crate, and to our training partner as well).

So that's progress.

Perhaps it's the motion that rewards him, perhaps it's the bones that I toss on his bed for him when we retreat after a successful advance, perhaps it's just the weekly practice. And perhaps distance really is rewarding. Whatever it is,
I'm happy with his progress (and pleased with my ability to stay calmer and read his signals better, so I can keep him under threshold more consistently).

Hunters are walking by our fences on the farm, something with their dogs. Frank mentioned that Vanya was running along the fence barking at them. Not good!  So yesterday I asked Remy, one of our farm volunteers, to pretend to be a hunter with a dog, so I could offer Vanya lavish rewards for staying calm. Remy put on some blaze orange, carried a pretend-gun over his shoulder, and walked Miss PLushy on a leash up and down the fence line. Vanya was thoroughly fooled and got very excited--lots of peeing and marking and woo-wooing. I didn't do BAT; instead I played LAT with cheese as the reward. He got the idea quickly, although a couple times he did run up to the fence (but his recall worked and he came bounding back for his cheese).

Good dog! He's got the zoomies today, because I've been mostly sick in bed with the flu, and that's very boring for a dog. For a little while, he curled up in bed with me, snoring with his muzzle on my face and his paws flung over my shoulder. Then he decided a roaring attack on the slippers would be entertaining. He has a little fungus/staph infection under his arms, poor thing, so 2 baths in two days with the malaseb. It looks better already. 

I loathe being sick. Especially when I have 6 talks to write for the Van Evera lectures at Northland College, taxes to do, classes to prepare for next week, blah blah blah. 

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