Friday, January 4, 2013

Dolce Bootcamp & The CCH Criteria for Obtaining His CGC

Now that Dolce has recovered (mostly) from his stressful encounter with the 2 off-leash dog-aggressive dachshunds, adjusted to life in the new apartment complex, and is showing signs of boredom -- we're getting back to work on his reactivity/insecurity.


  • Build his confidence so he feels comfortable with me in new situations and environments.
  • Be able to pass by a dog in close-quarters without stress or aggressive display.
  • Be able to look into a strange dog's eyes without freaking out.
  • Be able to ignore a reactive dog.
  • Be accepting of even the most suspicious stranger in close quarters (no contact).
  • Be comfortable enough to play with toys in public.
  • CGC by the end of the year.
How We're Going to Get There
  • I want to build his confidence through lots of obedience (Chris Bach's Third Way, Sue Ailsby's Training Levels), tricks, and agility training using positive reinforcement.  By working on attention to me, eye contact, cues, and handling, he'll be heavily rewarded with someone he knows and loves for interactions he'll experience with others.  I also think that because of previous training methods, he doesn't trust me as much as he would/could/should.  I want to build that bond more.
  • I have three main criteria for him to feel that we've successfully mastered something.  He needs to be able to do it calmly, comfortably, and happily (CCH).  In order to address passing another dog in close quarters, looking into a dog's eyes, ignoring a reactive dog, and accepting a suspicious stranger, we are going to address all three elements separately.
  • To help him be calm in his trigger situations, I'm going to do a lot of Relaxation Protocol (RP) work at a safe enough distance.  I will mark and treat for eye blinks, looking away, sitting, lying down, head down, etc.
  • To help him be comfortable, we're going to do a lot of handling work at home, and do our training in new environments.  Jen over at Never Say Never Greyhounds pointed out the treasure trove of training locations with the dozens of parks at our disposal in a 5-mile radius when she gave me a lesson a couple Februaries ago.  Time to take advantage of these parks and really get Dolce socialized, but on his terms.  Distance makes a big difference, and just being out in the world and having a good training session should do wonders.
  • To help him be happy, we'll be sure to begin and end training sessions doing things he enjoys most -- exploring the wildlife and new scents, as well as getting extra yummy treats for interacting with me.  The exploration portion is obvious -- we'll do a perimeter session at each new location.  As for the interactions... This means lots of name game, touch, and auto-sit practice.  He adores these games and glows with pride every time we warm up with them.  We've got the meat roll in the fridge, ready to go. :)
  • To work on play drive in public, I'm going to really reinforce it at home.  When we go to places, part of our session will be to at least nose or paw touch, and chase a favorite toy.  This will likely be very slow-going, but if we can include just a little in every new environment, I'm hopeful that the connection will be made within the year.
Tools of the Trade
  • We're going to walk with his SENSE-ation harness attached to his collar by the leash (or the Halti harness).  I believe this is the best way to be humane and have control.  I need to do a lot more work desensitizing and counter-conditioning having the harness (and his winter coat) put on.  Ever since the lady at the shelter put that noose-type leash over his head, he has been super paranoid about things going over his head.  Poor little man.
  • We'll reserve use of the Halti halter for occasions when we will be working on proximity to strange dogs and control of Dolce's head will be essential.  He has that long, fragile Italian greyhound neck, and detests wearing it despite my utmost attempts to condition otherwise.
  • I need to remember to play the calming dog music CD when I leave the house.
  • I'm going to remember to take Natural Balance meat roll treats on all our walks, which will be solo save for the first walk of the early morning.  I have been using high grade kibble, but I don't think it's enough to really make the counter-conditioning process effective.
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise.  We're going to get back into biking and jogging together on a regular basis throughout the week.  Good days to run are Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.  Good days to bike are Wednesdays and Thursdays.  We'll take the weekends off, I think.
  • Marker word.  I feel very strongly that when teaching a new behavior, a clicker is invaluable as a marker for its consistency.  However, for behavior work, I think San Diego Pam has a point in that clickers turn a dog's brain into training mode.  I don't necessarily want training mode, because of the emotional aspect to this type of training.  So I'm going to use a marker of "Good boy!" to express my enthusiasm for his behavior.  "Good boy" doesn't always have to be followed by a treat like the clicker does, and his tail wags a little bit when I say it -- it's a reinforcer in and of itself to some degree.
  • I'm going to use my realistically fake dogs, Rick, and Irvine Pam with her dogs, Lily and Bella, for setups before trying him out at IDOGS on Sundays.
  • He's going to need to feel as though the car and/or his crate is awesome so he can wait there while I work with Zenzi (and vice versa).  We've been laying the groundwork at meal times for this, so hopefully this will not be a difficult transition when he has his crate in the car for our outings.
Plan of Action
  • I learned a lot from Chris Bach's DVDs.  I want to build a chain, so I have to keep reminding Dolce how the chain works if he breaks it.  It's my job to set up the environment so he can be successful.  Dolce, I promise to give you more distance from now on, and to stop trying to force positive interactions on you. 
  • I want Dolce to come to me and look at me for praise when he sees a strange dog while we're out on a walk -- no matter what the other dog is doing.  Cues:  Name, Watch, Attention, Heel.  After that, it's just a matter of duration and proofing.
  • I want Dolce to enjoy being greeted by friendly people, and not to react strongly to unfriendly people.  He is to sit at my side to be greeted, and wait patiently to do so.  Cues:  Name, Heel (finish) + Handling.
  • If we are caught off-guard and there is no way to get enough distance in time, I am going to jackpot Look-At-That and/or Watch, whichever he is more comfortable with, until the trigger is gone, with Dolce facing me, sitting (or if he's too worried, standing) away from the trigger.  Cues:  Name, LAT, Sit, Watch.
  • I contacted Laurie Zurborg of Wags & Wiggles this morning inquiring about the upcoming Control Unleashed Workshop (4 hours, $120) and/or a Private Lesson (1.5 hours, $180).  I am going to take their CGC class with him when he's ready.  At the end of the class, we get to take the test.
  • I emailed Chris Bach yesterday about her DVDs and Books on her method, The Third Way and which would most likely apply to us.  No response yet, but I am getting the DVDs via my subscription to Tawzer. :)
Thanks for following along in our saga.  This year may be the year it all comes together.  I surely hope so.  If not, we've got time... <3 div="div">

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