Saturday, April 14, 2012

Dolce and I played outside at the park today!

I got Dolce a tug rope that had a skin-on bone on it.  As predicted, he had some food guarding issues with it (he guards around Kibeth and JoJo, but not with me) so I figured he had a high enough drive to play with it outside.

We took a bike ride over to the local park, where I successfully got him to chase the rope/bone!  I even trusted him enough (there were no other dogs present, the park was practically deserted, and he was FOCUSED) to drop the leash, still attached to his harness, and really give him some good throws to chase.  He ran after it as fast as his little legs could go, which is pretty darn fast!  We worked on basic obedience using the tosses as a reward interspersed with treats:  come, front, sit, down, settle, heel, with me L&R, spin L&R, high-five, shake both hands, boing, and roll over.  He even switched happily from treats to toy!

I even got him to "bring it" at the end, by putting it on the ground, and slowly pulling him away.  I would let him get his mouth around it, then gently pull; if he dropped it, he got to go back for it and try again.  He did successfully figure out eventually that if he just put his mouth around the bone and carried the darn thing, everyone was happy!  I was delighted. :)

There was a moment when someone a good distance away (maybe 50 feet?) was jogging by with their dog.  I was able to redirect Dolce with the tug rope/bone!  He didn't really do anything, but he was VERY focused on the intruding canine. He happily re-engaged with the me and the toy with no effort.  I just presented it in froth of his face, and he turned right around for a good toss in the opposite direction.  I am THRILLED.  I would much rather use a toy to redirect his reactivity if I can, and I think I have found the ticket!

Now, if I could just get him to bring it back and not have to walk over to him every time... Alas, that's for another day. =P

Here's a pic of the park from the city's website:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

IDOGS - A non-profit organization?

So I run this Meetup group called IDOGS (Irvine Dog Owners' Group for Socialization).  I figured we'd get 10, maybe 20 people.  Membership/participation is free, and the goal is to use principles of Control Unleashed, Behavior Adjustment Training, and Progressive-Reinforcement training to help dogs overcome their social ineptitudes.  No one is judged for having a misbehaving dogs, and everyone gets 15 minutes with a partner to "bounce off of."  It's a supplement to a Growl Class, or Rescue Rehab -- not a replacement by any means, but we see real progress in those 15-20 minutes and week to week.  We meet once a week on Sundays, and also offer a socialized pack walk for the well-adjusted K9 members.

Well, my initial plans have been totally blown out of the water by the level of interest and member involvement.  We got our 58th member today (!!) and I barely ever even get to work with Dolce there's so many people.  Last week I tried having Dolce "marinate" on the sidelines in his travel crate.  That actually worked very well, and I intend to continue doing that in the future.

So, my brain got to thinking about what all this could mean.  I think I'm really on to something.  I want to do good by the dogs in this world, and I think turning IDOGS into a legitimate non-profit organization is a really good idea.  I have absolutely NO experience with this sort of thing, though.  I'm already busy enough running my own violin/viola studio(s) and dog walking/training businesses.  I don't need to take on another project, especially one that won't pay any bills.  But this idea just won't go away, and I don't think I can ignore it.

Does anyone have any thoughts about or experience with something like this?

Here's Dolce at last week's session.  He was SOCIAL with this little shih tzu, Lily!  Lily is only reactive to strange dogs.  She's completely fine with dogs she's met before.  I had Dolce in a sit-stay, acclimating to Lily's  presence before he up and decided he HAD to go and investigate this cute little girl.  I was grinning with pride from ear to ear.  So was Lily's owner, who is a dog trainer herself.  We were both very proud of our pooches that day.

Creativity in Reactivity Training

So, my newest scheme to help Dolce overcome his issues with meeting strange dogs goes something like this:

Dolce sees another dog.
I toss a treat in front of his face (he generally walks nicely on a loose leash slightly ahead of me).
Dolce happily sniffs out and eats the treat.
Repeat until the strange dog is ancient history.
Reward with mini jackpot if there are no outbursts at all.

It's funny.  Sometimes, at the end of a session like that, Dolce will have held it in until the dog is out of sight, and then he has to let one little half-hearted bark out for good measure.

This has been in place off & on for maybe a week.  I say off & on because we sometimes don't encounter other dogs on our routes anymore.  I already see improvement in that he's not looking at me for treats, but focusing more calmly on the other dog.  His threshold is getting smaller (meaning his distance required for comfort is shrinking), and he's less vocal in general.  He's not cured by any means, he'll still fly off his handle given a catastrophic circumstance.  I think this is really helping to bridge the gap, though.

I hardly ever have to use a Butt Blaster anymore.  Can't remember the last time I did.  Dolce almost never goes bonkers these days.  I started using the bean bag instead, and I don't need that, either.  Sue has her students use a small bean bag as a "force of God."  The dog can't see you throw it to the ground, it just has to be an interruption from the environment.  We have to take care to step on it, though, or else the dog will think, "Yay, SNACK!" and go right for it. :)

I took Dolce to Pet Supply and PetsMart with me the other day.  He was brilliant at Pet Supply.  Hammed up all the ladies working there, and even took a treat from a big burly guy.  He shied away from a customer who was a man and just up and reached down to pat Dolce on the top of the head.  It happened so fast, I didn't have a chance to ask the man to please let Dolce approach him.  Dolce slinked and backed up only a couple steps, gave a couple good, "Woof, WOOF!" barks, and then decided the guy wasn't so bad.  He took some treats and off we went to PetsMart.  That was much more of a challenge, and I have decided such stores are just too much for a dog who isn't already a ROCK.  Even JoJo didn't really like to be in all that mayhem when I took her a while back.  I need to remind myself of this when I'm socializing my future border collie puppy.  (Mental note to self.)