Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Beyond Basics for Bug, #1

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.


Dawn Small said...

Sounds like a stressful first class, but it's a great training opportunity with adding so many new distractions. I'm glad it ended up going okay and that Bug was able to work despite the stress of the situation.

I always wonder when I hear about "reactive" dogs just how much of it is that the dog is seriously reactive and how much is simply the owner being inexperienced/ill-informed. It seems to be more of a problem now than in "the old days." I know it's not politically correct in this day and age of all-positive, all-the-time clicker training, and I'm all for positive reinforcement, but I do believe that there are times when a good, firm correction is in order, and going after another dog is one of those times.

Jules said...

Very good point. I think both these dogs are "reactive" because their owners didn't have the tools to deal with their behavior and it has escalated. They didn't seem aggressive, but they couldn't keep it together in the class situation with other dogs. It's super their owners have them in class. I'll admit the CLR makes me a bit uncomfortable - he's really out of control.

I was so happy with Bug dealing with all the excitement!

101mutts said...

Where are you taking the class?
Ten sounds really big for a class! Glad it worked out okay.

Jules said...

Canine Mastery. 10 is huge, but I think 2 of us were instructor "adds." I know I had signed up for Basic Manners and she told me beyond Basics would be a better fit.

Sara said...

You are busy! Two classes in two nights. Sounds like both dogs did well.