Friday, 27 April 2012

Rainy Day

Today I had a private lesson scheduled with our trainer to come on a walk with us to help me try to figure out a plan of action for those surprise reactions. The ones that no matter how vigilant and careful you are happen out of no where leaving both you and your dog off guard and then you trying to do damage control. BUT from the moment I opened my eyes this morning I could hear the rain pounding on the window. And not to my surprise I looked out the window and its a downpour. So we've had to reschedule. It was so bad Scout had to be forced outside to pee!

On rainy days like today I like to try and do some extra training with Kobi to get him brain going and help tire him out. I've got lots of great stuff to work on where I am starting agility next week. We got the homework sheet early and I am determined to have a solid start on most of the exercises since I know all the dogs getting excited around him will be more then enough. Right now we're working on building his drive, where I hold him by the collar, toss a toy out and get him to run to the toy as fast as he can. We're also working on having him look down a line of sight, we're still working on his "Give" but he's doing awesome and getting him to drive toys into my hands for me to tug with him. I'll be painting all day each time I get up to take a break I'll do a 30second training session and work on one of those items.

Kobi on the other hand would be content to just go for a jog like usual. He loves the rain. There are days when I seriously regret encouraging him into the water so early, we can't get him out of it now! Scout avoids puddles, Kobi lunges for them. Just 3 minutes in our backyard this morning and he came in just was dirty as he would be from a swampy day at the park!
Enjoy watching him make a mess!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Tips for Jogging with a reactive dog

About a month and half ago I started jogging with Kobi. I suck at running, I could barely make it a block with dying. I also hate running to be honest. I wanted to start running for two reasons, I needed an exercise that wouldn't aggravate my shoulder, and I wanted Kobi to run. I've been meaning to write this but Rescued Insanity beat me to it!

I waited for Kobi to be almost a year before finally running with him. A few years ago a neighbor got the sweetest golden retriever puppy, the poor thing never made it to a year old because the daughter would take him on three hour jogs with her almost daily. Because he was growing his hips got destroyed, completely locking up to point where he could no longer move. So that was the image that came to my mind when I wanted to run with him and I made sure I waited for him to finish growing and start things slowly.

When I go out with Kobi he now wears his Freedom harness and I attach both ends of the leash to the shoulder point. I started putting on the front attachment in case he lunged at someone, which happens and the front clip is much better at preventing it but when Kobi gets overwhelmed he bites the leash. So I switched to the back clip to try to minimize that.

Be patient! If you have a reactive dog, running is exciting and new, give them time to get into a groove. Don't ignore them, follow their body language.

Give them breaks. This is good for me to catch my breath since I'm still not great at running, but if  Kobi has just passed something he would normally react at I'll let him "go sniff" once we've passed it. This gives him a second to reset his brain.

Be observant. It' actually easy to just zone out while your running and concentrate on your breathing, great if there are no people out when you're running, no so good if you run at a busy time of day like when kids are heading to school. I have to be vigilant when running, constantly assessing, "can we just run right by this person?" or "do I need to walk and treat as we pass this person?". Don't force them into situations that may cause a reaction.

Bring Treats! I run with a fanny pack, I know, lame. But now with the warmer weather I don't have a jacket with lots of pockets and I still need to bring my phone, keys, treats and poop bags. I bring high value treats like liver when we run because his brain is already on high alert. I haven't tried it yet but I plan on bringing his Lick Stik with me next time so he doesn't have to try to chew and run.

Let them do their business first. The first couple blocks are the slowest because Kobi needs to stop and pee and couple of times before proceeding with his run.

Keep Running. If you see a reactor coming up but you can stay a decent distance from it, just keep running. Kobi has managed to pass by several reactors with minimal to no reaction because we keep moving, meaning his brain keeps moving and he never gets the chance to focus in.

Tie the leash around your waist. This allows you to keep both your hands free to run, grab the leash if you need to or get treats. This allows provides a better anchor, if your dog starts pulling towards something, slow down and lean back slightly until you pass it. Do be careful though because if they pull suddenly you can thrown all off balance.

Make the leash yucky. When Kobi gets over stimulated he starts biting at the leash. He absolutely hates apple cider vinegar so I've gone back to pouring some on the leash before heading out, that way if he tries to grab it he gets a nasty mouth full. If your dog goes grab the leash, stay calm, come to a stop, tell them to "give" or "drop it" or "leave it" and praise them when they do by giving a treat or letting them sniff for a few minutes. Once they've settled say "let's go" and keep moving. If they keep trying to get the leash once you start running again try either walking quickly for a few steps before running or lure them nose forward with a treat as you start to run, awkward but effective.

Run alone first. Jogging is exciting enough. Wait for them to get into the rhythm of it before trying to add a jogging partner or another dog. I have just started jogging with a friend and it's tough for the first few blocks since Kobi just wants to chase them and tackle them. Make sure your jogging partner is understanding and willing to jog with you and your dog, meaning they need to be willing to take breaks when you do, walk or stop when you need to and go at your pace.

Take advantage of their calmed state. Leave about a block or so of walking at the end of your run for both of you to cool down. This block is also a perfect time to throw in some training. If you've been struggling with loose leash walking, they often tend to fall into the perfect spot after a good run, reward them heavily while they are in that position building value for being there. Kobi and I have been working on "whiplash turns". I either throw a treat out or wait for him to be distracted, yell his name and immediately move in the opposite direction, marking the instant he turns his head and treating him when he catches up to me. By teaching this at the end of a run he learned it in a calm state but in a distracting environment so now I am able to use them command when he is in a more aroused state and he is able to listen.

Hopefully these tips help you have a peacefull jog with your dog! I'll get there soon I hope!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Training the Hard to Train Dog: Book Review

I finished the book "Training the Hard to Train Dog" by Peggy Swagger a couple of weeks ago and am just now getting around to putting my thoughts down about it after mentioning a couple of times that I would.
I purchased this book hoping to get some insightful tips about how to deal with some of Kobi's barking at home and just in general how I could ramp up our training to make him more focused on me. I liked the book and it had some great tips, it wasn't very long and I did like the way it was laid out with bright pages and pictures. I did find the pictures weren't at all helpful in most cases it was just an image of something easily understood rather than using the images to show more complicated things.

A lot of the advice in this book are things I already do on a daily basis now, so, I wish I had had this book when I first got Kobi or even prior to getting him. This book is a fantastic resource if you want a stubborn pig headed dog to become more focused and connected with you, but I think most practiced and experienced dog owners know much of the material covered in the book. Therefore, I think this book should be renamed, How to prevent your new dog from becoming a hard to train dog. Great tips to use before a dog becomes stubborn and set in their ways. The book does do a fantastic job of explaining how to make stubborn dogs more compliant but again this information is probably more useful to inexperienced trainers.

One of the other reasons I was interested in this book was it did cover some breed specific traits, why some breeds are more stubborn, reactive, hyper, etc. than others. This book does a great job of breaking itself into types of behaviors that a dog may have and going through each behaviour in detail and how to train with those traits, ie. stubborn dogs, shy dogs, etc. What I did find with this is a lot of the training came back to gaining a dogs compliance, meaning there tended to be a decent amount of repetition.

I did also enjoy that this book uses positive methods of training and in certain cases even went so far as to explain why the positive method was better than more traditional methods, the author gave some great case studies about why not to train with choke chains for example. With that being said she does mentioned how to train using positive reinforcement, but stays away from the nitty gritty details of it making this book  great resource for someone who already knows about positive reinforcement training but is having some difficulty with some more challenging behaviors from dogs. Some of the behaviors she covers are "treat blackmail" where a dog refuses to preform a task without first seeing the reward, leash dragging where a dog refuses to move forward, bolting out doors, etc. Reactivity is covered slightly but not as in depth as it should be as reactivity is a very complex issue and she doesn't mention any other resources for learning about the topic.

I enjoyed reading this book but felt I knew most of the material in it at this point in my training or felt some of it didn't apply to what I'm going through with Kobi. I truly wish I had known about this book this time last year and could have started off on the right foot with Kobi and I think others would agree it is better to prevent than to correct. That being said it is a great book if you have little experience with training but want to change some of the more stubborn behaviors in your dog making them a better pet.