I take Syrah for a few kilometres walk/run every morning but the possibility of seeing other dogs and sending Ranger over threshold is too great to take him. Besides that he hides under the bed whenever I produce the lead.
I have started a bit of a routine now that seems to be working. I grab the lead (for Syrah) grab the ball thrower (for Ranger) and go out the back yard and throw it for Ranger for a while. I then take the side gate exit with Syrah for her walk, return through the side gate, snap the lead on Ranger, grab his ball and walk 100 metres to the village green.
At first I started just taking him into the front yard and letting him sniff around, the strange smells, tree’s and path just near our house. We have now graduated to the trip around the corner which has the added reinforcement of being able to play some ball. I’m constantly watching for other dogs and so far it is progressing really well, havent seen one. He is getting more confident every day. We do about a minute off lead ball play and then walk home. He is starting to get excited about it which is the best reinforcement for me to keep going. It’s a great little spot surrounded by cars and people far enough away to not bother him.
Today’s training session was inspired by Dr Sophia Yin’s post about Counter Conditioning for Toenail Trim Aggression. We took a little longer than she did and didn’t make it quite as far but I was really happy with our efforts and Ranger was very brave. Our session actually lasted 3 minutes although the video is only 2min 30sec. I’m happy for any feedback and recommendations as I know there are a lot of mistakes in there.
This is training session 3 with the birds, I can’t believe how well he did. I am rewarding before he has a chance to snap at them or get too stressed and I don’t feel like I’m really pushing him but I also don’t want too. Really aiming to set him up for success.
Here is his session:
Note: A few hours later I had to vacuum the house and even over the vacuum I could hear him trying to have a go at them. I realised that its one thing to train him near the birds when he is not in a stressed state but he uses the birds as displacement behaviour for other things that stress him out.
Interested in any suggestions on how to change displacement behaviour like this???
Ranger in action 🙂
I started nose work with Ranger about a year ago to build his confidence. He did so well at it but I called it quits with him when I saw just how hard to was for him to travel there, particularly on his own in the car, I couldn’t fit a crate in my Toyota Corolla and the only place he would go after being carried and lifted into the car was shaking down behind the seat.. for the whole trip. I now have mums car for 3 months and can fit 2 crates in so I can take both dogs. He still struggles with the drive but will voluntarily get in the car as our other dog Syrah is already in.
So last night I took both of them. Ranger is only on the first two odours, birch and aniseed while Syrah is on birch, aniseed and clove. Ranger did really well, his dedication to searching was still there and even though he wasn’t very fast his persistence in searching impressed me so much and he found the hides in the end. I was so happy with him.
Ranger in Action
Nose work is great for anxious or reactive dogs as it is a one dog at a time sport. It helps to build confidence by letting the dog figure out things for themselves and as there is no obedience or instructions they only do what they are comfortable doing. Ranger went from being nervous in class with a tucked tail and not wanting to even stick his head in a box to find some food, to now putting his head up on chairs, under tables and paws up on walls to find higher hides of only odour.
For more info on nose work check out these pages:
K9 Nosework in the US and K9 Nose Time in Australia
I take Syrah to obedience most weeks and today as I could fit two crates in my car I decided to take Ranger too. Syrah loves getting in the car, travel and going anywhere really as the drive is the fun part for her. Ranger got in the car without too much fuss, I had put Syrah in first so it might tempt him to jump in. As soon as we started driving though he was back to hiding his head in the corner and shaking. When we got to the turnoff to class he surprised me by jumping up and sniffing and getting quite excited so that was really positive!
I took Syrah to her usual class then half way through put her away and got Ranger out. We didn’t go into a class but just kept about 5-10 metres away from the class I had just been in. At first he appeared really nervous, tail tucked, ears back, eyes darting and had a small lunge and bark when a lovely Collie just looked at him, we did a quick ‘lets go’ and walked away, returning a little while later. I just kept shoving treats in his mouth, he was happy to take food when he wasn’t looking around (like how we started with the birds). After a few minutes we started a bit of a routine of him looking at the other dogs, to get him back to me I marked the behaviour with a ‘yes’ and he would turn around to get his treat… like we did with the birds. If he had looked at the dogs for a while and voluntarily looked at me I also gave him a reward, we worked on lengthening the time he was looking at the other dogs between every treat and I was really happy with his progress. If I ever thought he was starting to go from a look to a ‘stare’ or it was becoming intense I called him name and rewarded him.
We had to walk away a few times when I thought people or dogs got too close and the whole session with Ranger took about 10 minutes and he did very well, he was gaining confidence the whole time and we ended on a good note.
This is his little vest that he wears which I think is a nice level of warning without making people afraid of your dog.
Gorgeous boy, Ranger
Relaxed at home after training
‘In Training’ vest
Although I haven’t quite mapped out all the goals or even all the problems I am going to keep his blog going so I can monitor progress, fingers crossed there is some!
I have posted before on some of Rangers issues however in short he is a very fearful dog that has anxiety and lashes out re-actively or very submissively (lies on his back) as his defence.
I am doing an obedience instructor course this year and part of our assessment is a major assignment on behaviour change and a plan for how it was achieved.
There are a few behaviours I would really like to have an influence on for Ranger
1. His behaviour toward my cockatiels. See video here :
2. His behavior when presented with car keys or a lead (hides under the bed)
3. Resource guarding from my other dog (not from me thank goodness).
4. Being able to touch his back and paws without his being fearful: usually get some whale eyes and his nose nudges my hand out of the way.
There is a good change this list will expand but all in good time.
So after having almost “lost it” last week and was even thinking bad thoughts that I couldn’t deal with this dog! (told my husband to ignore me in the future and explain to me that WE CAN DO IT!) I have recovered and am motivated and confident in my dog training and I will never take him to a ‘balance’ trainer again.
It may seem silly but I am sure there are other people out there that deal with the conflicting emotions of owning an reactive dog (I hate the word aggression but when your dog is lunging at the end of a lead trying to attack another dog there is no other word for it). I would love to hear from someone that has taken on this challenge and working through it like I am. I read a lot of information from trainers etc that deal with aggressive dogs but don’t hear a lot about pet owners (non-professionals) that deal with it and their experiences.
Where I left the last post was after Rangers bad experience at Agility, we had to leave early because we couldn’t participate in the class as I was trying to keep him off the other dogs…. sigh.
The next day, he was still distressed and even gave a warning snap to my 5 year old sister. Well this took me into panic mode and I desperately looked for a dog trainer asap. I booked him into the first appointment at the closest dog trainer I could. I asked them what training method they used and “Balanced” was the reply. Being so desperate I took the first appointment.
The lesson started as planned, after a chat and explanation of the problem, we ventured into a demonstration. The trainer put a lovely well natured chocolate dog (maybe lab cross) into a play enclosure and we were on the outside. As expected Ranger went nuts and lunged at the dog, grows, hackles up etc. The trainer had put a chain around his neck and snapped the leash back as soon as he did it. It totally broke my heart hearing my little boy cry and the training didn’t seem very ‘balanced’ to me. I didn’t like the method they used although the desired result was achieved after a few attempts at him lunging. I made sure I took over and rewarded every look away and every calming display he made from the other dog. I think Ranger got just as much or more from the positive training after as from the “balance” training.
This experience motivated me to go home and read everything I could about positive training methods. I had read a lot already but because of this experience I was more determined to search for the right training method for Ranger. For the few days after I focused on gaining Ranger confidence. Instead of walks (which he is afraid of) we played fetch in the front yard. We also did – jump into the car training (which he is also afraid off).
A few days later we were ready (or I was, he is always ready) to tackle an obedience class and although I felt anxious and nervous that he was going to display his aggression I just kept “I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts” flowing through my mind and we were all set!.