Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Remembering the Victories

Sunday evening I started a new training class at Sublime Canine, Advanced Life Skills with Jane. This class extends on the basic obedience learned in their Basic Life Skills class to teach you the steps involved with the Canine Good Neighbour test. I will be honest that I have very little interest in actually doing the canine good neighbour test, however, the test has some similar components to the Therapy Dog evaluation and simply provides that next step up in training. Sunday was the first class that I've had with Kobi since breaking my collar bone so there had been about a month since I finished basic life skills. I knew that getting back into the training environment was going to be tough so I was allowed to go in early to try and get Kobi settled down. Good effort, didn't work so much. As I expected Kobi was overwhelmed by everything and just barked and barked and was distracted by everything! I managed to calm Kobi in another area of the room and work with him separated from the other dogs. I will admit I sometimes it very frustrating to see everyone elses dogs paying attention to them and staying calm and quiet while I am struggling to keep focus with Kobi and to keep him quiet. Once the class was done I had a quick chat with Jane to get her opinion of the work I have been doing and her biggest suggestion was to work on his threshold level. This is a concept I learned from reading Control Unleashed, that dogs, just like people have a threshold where if crossed, everything just becomes too overwhelming. Many of the exercises in control unleashed deal with keeping your dog sub threshold to maintain focus and for them to maintain the ability to learn. So I am familiar with the concept, but it is sometimes hard to apply what you have learned to real life situations. So what was suggested was to step back my expectations in training with Kobi. Stop trying to get him to meet new people and dogs, don't take him to the grocery store and get him to watch people walk by, to simply take it back to square one. Choose the times I take him out for walks so that there are fewer people around, if I notice Kobi's ear's perking up and him focusing in on something, move him away from what ever it is and increase the reward rate. The goal is to never have him bark, ever. By doing this if he is never presented with the opportunity to get above his threshold and start barking, barking becomes a less familiar behaviour. Essentially, the fewer opportunity he has to bark, the less he will choose to bark. It will be tough going into the summer months since I've been looking forward to taking him to crowded places to work with him, but her point is valid. Make sure he succeeds in  his training, that going three steps back will allow me to take more solid steps forward. Kobi has made leaps and bounds lately and I need to remind myself of his victories and try not to get bogged down by his bad days. I need to remind myself that he is not Scout and he may never be like Scout, but that does not stop him from being an amazing dog. He is his own dog with his own personality and I will do my best to help him cope with his stressors, but I need to celebrate all that he is.

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