SMALL SCAREDY DOGS

20160617_123706Little ones have been a bit of a feature this week! Maudie the cocker spaniel made great pawsteps with some careful work from her mum throughout the week. Her owner has a lovely calm, smiley approach with her and has managed to change her fear towards the lane at the end of the garden from somewhere very scary to somewhere that she felt ok. She isn’t yet ‘Feeling Good’ about being out there – but in the small area where we were working, she was very happily playing Ping Pong Puppy between us.

After a while, she was so confident that she did a sneaky skitter after the cat, who had been trying to weave his way into the action with purrs and a quivering tail. It has to be said that he’d definitely done a ‘Catch-me-if-you-can!’ face at her. We were happy to let them both burn off a bit of steam – it gave Maudie a bit of a brain-break from training.

Pablo rocking the eye contact thing!

Pablo rocking the eye contact thing!

Rosie's first session, learning to be comfortable with eye contactWe also met Pablo and Rosie, two little Chihuahuas who we assessed last week to see if they were ready to join our Life Skills classes. Rosie is a little bit uncertain of the world around her and Pablo is uneasy about other dogs getting too close, but we were very pleased to see that they both came into class calmly. Rosie feels she needs her big brother around and wasn’t so sure when Pablo was taken outside to do some work with Big Jack, the Great Dane who comes to class regularly. She was a wee bit scared of a red plastic brick, but her mum was so skilled with Clicking and Treating that she had her putting her nose on it within seconds. Then the next minute I turned round to see Rosie’s head in a ring in a treat tray. Her owner’s skilled work had changed her mood from scared to curious in a very short time.

Rosie’s first session, learning to be comfortable with eye contact

And finally, we were delighted to meet Bella and her owners yesterday. She is a very sweet-natured Shitzu who is devoted to her owners. It was lovely to see the special bond that she has with her mum and dad, who have created a very calm, secure home for her.

Bella has lived in a rural area and used to go to work with her dad in a secluded spot where there were flowers and grasses, where she could run freely without meeting other dogs. Moving to the city and adjusting to a busy place where she meets dogs and noisy vehicles has been a bit difficult for her.

During her session, we were all a bit dismayed to stumble across a rubbish truck bang outside the front door when we went outside to practise Ping Pong Puppy. Undaunted, we kind of shrugged our shoulders and used it as a training opportunity – you never know when another Dust Cart might amble past …

You can see from the pics how quickly her uneasiness about the truck changed, by doing some simple refocus work with Ping Pong Puppy. Eventually she simply lay down and watched the truck trundle away down the road.

It was lovely to work with two owners who picked-up the Clicker so quickly. And especially lovely to work with such a delightful little dog.20160616_212012

A MEDLEY FROM THIS WEEK

ALL ABOUT RECALL

20160531_105334We’ve had a couple of weeks where most of the emphasis has been on teaching dogs recall and walking politely on a loose lead. The dogs in Life Skills classes have been learning how important loose lead walking is, so there has been a lot of walking backwards and forwards, in between doing fun bits of Bodywork.

In fact we’re finding that Loose Lead walking can be the solution to a lot of behaviour problems when you’re out and about with your dog. A pulling dog is either over-excited or stressed, and unable to focus on anything other than the ‘I wanna get there!’ feeling. A lot of owners come to us with a sense that their dog really doesn’t care if there is anyone on the other end of the lead or not. And they’re probably right! The smell20160527_191819 of the Great Outdoors matters a lot more to many dogs than the person on the end of the lead …

We spend a lot of time creating the Feel Good space around each owner, which is about a diameter of 3 metres. Making this area feel really good means that your dog focuses on you when you want her to, and is also able to happily sniff about on walks and investigate within this Safe Circle as much as she wants. As long as it’s all on a loose lead. Our dogs spend a lot of time in their early walks with us doing Ping Pong Puppy – they don’t actually get very far on a walk, because it’s all about creating a Feel Good space and learning to refer back to their owner.

Once this is really firmly programmed into the dog’s brain, owners find that their dogs tend to react a lot less to things that may have bothered them in the past. Every time the dog feels any pressure on her harness from her lead, she knows that she needs to turn back into her owner and change direction – which means that she’s thinking more about the Feel Good of walking with her owner than the Feel Bad of whatever may have worried her.

Having established this sense of enjoying being together, both owner and dog tend to be a lot calmer and happier on walks (which is a big plus if you’ve been used to having your shoulder wrenched out of its socket by a tugging hound …) Once we’ve reached this state, we can start working on Recall.

As you can see from the pics, the dogs here love running between, and being around owners and trainers. We don’t use any words at first – we just Click and Treat the dogs wildly when they get to us. We soon have them pinging between us – even if they get distracted by a smell, they’re very quick to fly towards the nearest owner or trainer. It’s all about the Feel Good – it means that our dogs no longer get the urge to wander off and get that sudden big of deafness they used to when they were called. We still use a long-line, these boys aren’t ready for complete freedom yet, but they’re getting there.