Last night was Bug's first Beyond Basics class. The class is very full with two reactive dogs. I suspect the instructor didn't know they were reactive or they would be in the Fiesty Fido class (which she also teaches).
Joyce immediately put one of the reactive dogs behind a barrier (a young Bulldog). The other reactive dog is a 14 month old intact Chocolate Lab who was pulling, being sharky with his mum, and doing a lot of intense staring at the other dogs. D'oh. My blood pressure definitely rose when I realized he is intact and in our class. Not solely because he is intact (although two intact dogs can certainly lead to posturing) but because he seems a bit out of control.
First we went around and introduced ourselves and our dogs. Most of the dogs are rescues (probably 75%) and young (Bug is one of the older dogs at not even 3.5). Given it is a large class (10 people and their dogs) it took a while to make it around. I rewarded Bug for staying in a down and being quiet, as well as asking him to "hit it" (nose touch). He was remarkably controlled given the proximity of other dogs, the barking, etc. I was very pleased.
Then we worked on sit and down, sans treats while Joyce and her assistant Beth walked around and checked in on us to see where our respective skill levels fell.
Bug was pretty stressed out about the dogs and new location. He was VERY slow to down, listening to me with one ear while he looked around. Joyce commented that he was stressed and over-stimulated and suggested I mix up his treats. I had brought cheese, Plato Salmon strips, and Stella & Chewy's dehydrated bison. This helped a bit, but I think exposure to new and stimulating environments is going to be necessary to really get past this.
Next we worked on restrained recall. I was nervous about this because the dogs were being held right near the chocolate lab and Bug does like to visit and there are lots of friendly cute dogs in class. I warned Beth that he isn't crazy about being held by his collar (even with all the counter conditioning I have done!) and she just held his leash. He FLEW to me. I think he was too nervous I was going to leave him with a pack of strange humans and their dogs to even think about going to visit anyone. To be fair we have been practicing this because he previously didn't know what it meant. We can now call Bug off the hunt for a critter about 50% of the time, which is WAY higher than 0%.
I am looking forward to next week's class. I think we are going to get exactly what I hoped for - practice of the basics in a new and stimulating environment.
6 days ago