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 Reactive towards dogs & small animals

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PostSubject: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Sun Jul 21, 2013 12:35 am

How did you get your dog to behave calmly and look to you for guidance near dogs and small animals?

Caper's leash walking skills are slowly improving every day, but lunging at dogs and small animals seems to be his worst hurdle yet.

He is so zoned in when he sees them that he will dash full speed in that direction, hit the end of the leash, get flip over and hit the ground. OW! Sad

So I have had to get up before sun up and get out after sun down to walk him, just so that he doesn't get put into situations where his behavior is being reinforced.

What can I do to

1. decrease his reactivity to small animals & dogs
2. look to me for permission to go meet dogs?

What do I do if a dog is approaching us in the opposite direction so that I don't undo his training while he is being trained?

Thanks in advance...
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Sun Jul 21, 2013 12:37 am

I've been trying to teach him impulse control by making him wait until I say it's ok to go through a door or pick up food, but it seems like a different story with living creatures. What other impulse control exercises are there?
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Sun Jul 21, 2013 1:11 am

What are his intentions? Is he a "frustrated greeter" or is it more of a going after them thing? If you haven't- look up BAT. There's a book and a Fb group with a lot of helpful people as well as the author of the book and trainer- Grisha Stewart.

Have you trained eye contact? If not I would start working on it. BAT focuses on rewarding the dog with what they want. For a reactive dog that is going to bark, growl, whatever- their need is space. For a frustrated greeter- it's to get closer.

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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Sun Jul 21, 2013 1:32 am

Thanks Kristina, for the BAT recommendation - I'm exploring the site as I type this.

He is an oh-my-god-must-play-with-other-dog!!!! kind of dog, and as for small animals, he just has the impulse to chase them. I have trained eye contact when I say his name, but under those two distractions, all he'll do is rotate one of his ears in my direction for a second, then rotate it back forward -.- Am I supposed to train default eye contact or something that is not cued?
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Sun Jul 21, 2013 1:54 am

The BAT system seems like an interesting technique, and I might try it. Have you had success with it, Kristina? My first concern would be this:

For Caper, his reward would be to move closer to the dog/animal. But what if moving closer to it pushes him over his threshold? Would I need to drag him away and start over at the correct distance? I'm wondering if the dragging inadvertently teaches something or if allowing him to stand and stare is in and of itself rewarding.
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Sun Jul 21, 2013 3:08 am

I haven't heard of BAT training (definitely going to look it up though!), but I have this problem with Orion and have got round it by getting him to target on my hand. I started at home by holding a treat in my closed hand and used the command "watching" and when he focused on my hand (i.e i move my hand his head moves "watching" it) I click and give the treat. I then started moving with my hand held out until I had him following me round the house. Slowly I started doing this at random points of our walks until he got used to it happening out walking then I got a friend who has a jack russell to walk past us with his dog while we were out walking and slowly he got better. Now whenever we are walking and see another dog or small animal I will issue the "watching" command and he puts his nose to my hand and ignores everything except the impending treat Very Happy 
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Sun Jul 21, 2013 9:21 am

The technique DOES work with frustrated greeters, download the book. It's like $10 and very well spent. I have had unbelievable success with it and my Aussie. We used to never be able to wait outside our training classes near the other dogs. Even 50 feet away was teetering around our threshold. Implementing BAT has allowed us more and more freedom and Ewe can handle nearly anything these days. He has even walked on leash (a big thing for him) in a group of about 20 dogs with no outburst. It really works well. Generally (and I haven't looked more into the frustrated greeter types) but you get around the point where he *becomes aware* of the other dog and stop. Wait. They will do something (turn around, sniff, ect) mark that point and move forward.

Now with Ewe- he wants space. So we would get to the point where the other dog registered with him, I would wait. He would sniff to the side, look away, or look at me. Immediately "yes!" And start walki g away. Once we were 10ft away I would reward him again with a treat. But you want the functional reward (getting closer/ getting away) to be clear that it is the ACTUAL reward.

https://youtu.be/eMc-zyNfRO0

While mostly focused on fear based responses, this vid is done by Grisha Stewart.

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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Sun Jul 21, 2013 11:09 pm

I'll give it a try. I am just a bit skeptical about how it will work for us because for dogs that want space, the reward (moving away) is still working within their threshold, while for dogs that want to get closer, the reward (moving closer) will push them past their threshold. I'll read it before casting judgement though. Thanks for the recommendation. I really like the concept.
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Mon Jul 22, 2013 8:48 am

There's a difference between walking the threshold line and being at the point where they *just* register the dog is there. After a few movements forward its best to turn away and either reward with a toy or anything to get their brain to kind of reset. The more you work to keep them away or punish them for wanting to get closer to the dog- the more steps you actually take backwards.

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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Tue Jul 23, 2013 4:13 am

I feel like as soon as he notices the dog/animal, no matter how far away we are, even if it's just the jingle of collar tags, he'll immediately slip into this other world and seems inaccessible.

I started reading a bit and this morning on our walk he spotted a kitten about a block away. He lunged and frantically thrashed and pulled in that direction. I just stood rock solid and waited and waited and waited while he paced and pulled. Patting his butt, calling his name, tugging the leash, waving food in front of his nose, nothing got his attention.

In his craziness, though, as soon as he sniffed the ground, I said "good boy!" and we took a few steps forward. Of course he immediately began lunging and pulling again, so I planted my feet and we repeated the process. 3 steps, stop. 3 steps stop. He got it pretty quickly and would sniff furiously so that we could move forward. Luckily the kitten started moving away from us so that the distance between us was constant. All the while his craziness never stopped though.

It seems a bit hard to find the point where he would just notice the animal without staging a scenario and experimenting. I doubt anyone would let me borrow their cat to experiment with, sadly.
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Tue Jul 23, 2013 9:05 am

Do you have any cats in your neighborhood? Maybe look around. I have neighbors that leave their cats outside on harnesses and walk Loki pass them. I try to walk by them and other things he isn't as use to such as little dogs and the massive dogs. Hoping if I keep this up as he gets bigger he won't react. It is what I did with my lab and seemed to work and I trusted him more by the time he was 8-10 months. Kind of a little sad as my cat passed last year that walked on a leash (not outdoors cat - just liked going on walks). That would have probably helped a lot for cat training.

Also, do you have a walking partner? My friends dog was crazy about going after things, but when I walked Loki with her dog, he calmed down a ton. I usually walk Loki and Lexi together. Not sure if this helps or not, but he really only reacts when a flock of birds (like 5-15+) all land or fly away at same time with maybe one or two lunges.

Otherwise, could just be my puppy is young, not sure when these leash issues start for dogs.
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Tue Jul 23, 2013 3:12 pm

We started working on this in my training class last night and I'm going to practice it with Dizzy tonight. Of course, he does great in class, but in the real world, its totally different. So basically, she said you have to practice having his attention on you during the walk with very low distractions. Every time his attention wanders from you, walk backwards and reward with a treat when he pays attention, then you can slowly start to walk forward. Then build up the intensity of distractions from their. I'm guessing I'll be doing a lot of yo yo walking with Dizzy tonight while I start to work on this. There really isn't a low distraction area in my neighborhood... Also, you have to have novel treats that they love more than life. With Diz, I had beef jerky, it has a lot of salt, so I won't use it often, but he will do anything for it. Not sure what I'll try tonight treat wise
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Wed Jul 24, 2013 3:39 am

There's a house on the other side of the block with a disabled lady and her 3 dogs, 5+ cats, and 10+ birds. The cats are always hanging out in front, so maybe we could try with that. I don't have any dog walking friends around here, and I'm not sure he'd walk with another dog around. First thing on his mind is always to hump any dog he can reach! Which I'm sure is a separate problem in and of itself.

Jen, when you walk backwards does this mean you allow the leash to correct him?
And what would be an example of building up distractions? I went from inside the house -> backyard -> drive way -> down the block, but like you, it's hard to find the next level up of distraction from your backyard in an urban setting. Caper loves fish and I use it for recall training. I would have all of Caper's attention if I had a slab of fish in my hand. Hopefully I won't have to carry around food on every walk for the rest of his life...
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Wed Jul 24, 2013 10:28 am

Its more like luring him backwards with the treat and almost like a really laid back game of getting him to chase me. More like, "Hey buddy? Remember me? The lady with the really awesome treats? Let's go this way! It's really fun over here!" Sometimes I can call his name and if he turns his head toward me, I start to walk backwards. If not I touch his nose with the treat to get his attention and then start walking backwards. If he's really intensely jumping and pulling at the end of his leash, then I just start inching back and slowly back up, until his intensity level drops and then when I get a split second of his attention I give him the reward mark and treat, then continue to walk backwards. The important part is that you are facing him and encouraging him to come to you and engage with you, almost like a recall attempt mid walk. Or if the other dog is coming toward me, and I can't break his zone in, then I cross the street and try again. I don't like to do leash corrections with him because he just gets all pissy about it and turns it into a battle of the wills, which I don't like to engage, plus, they never work if its about pulling to see another dog, it just energizes the opposition reflex. Another thing I thought of, is to make sure he never gets to approach or play when he's acting like that, because then its self rewarding. Overall positive reinforcement works better than aversive does with him. Plus it means that when I do have to use an aversive method, it has more impact because I so rarely do it.

I started working it last night and it was working in some cases and others were just too intense for him, eventually I was always able to get him to disengage, but not until the dog was out of sight in some situations. This morning was a bit easier, because there were less people out and about. I was actually able to engage him before he got zoned in most times and got him to walk past a few other dogs without the stop, drop, and play attack. With this, I would have to start the second he saw the other dog and then let him nibble the treat in my hand as we approached and passed each other. It worked almost every time. Very Happy So, say the dog is going to be on my right. I move Dizzy to my left side, hold the leash with my right hand and have the treat in my left hand. I then let him nibble and lick the treat in my left hand and give him tiny bites as we get closer and pass, then once we pass he gets a good bite. If he looks back I give him a verbal correction and when he stops looking he gets a treat. You have to have great treats though, I used beef jerky again this am. I'm going to pick up some cheese tonight so I can keep things novel. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Wed Jul 24, 2013 10:43 am

Jen, the beef jerky sounds like such a good idea. I might have to try that for a not to often high value treat. I'm still trying to figure out what Siku's favorite treat is that makes him go absolutely crazy. Nikolai is easy because he loves all food and is easier to train because of the intense food motivation, but its so hard to find Siku's that he loves enough outside to pay attention no matter what!
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Wed Jul 24, 2013 10:46 am

Dizzy is intensely food motivated too, but if there is another dog around there isn't a lot that will win over that. I actually got the idea from Ceara (Mechta's mom). We went to a show together with our pups and her girl was nuts over it, so I tried it with Dizzy and he LOVES it too. Do you have any other ideas for high value treats? I want to get a rotation going so he doesn't get tired of anything.
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Wed Jul 24, 2013 10:56 am

I have these The Honest Kitchen Catfish Skins (they smell terrible) but my dogs go absolutely nuts for them inside and I have been meaning to rip one up into small pieces to see if they would work outside. But other than that I'm still trying to find super high value treats that really work in all situations. The larger Zukes treats work 95% of the time for Nikolai but if Dizzy is like Siku and the beef jerky doesn't even always work, I don't think those have a strong enough odor.

Have you tried ham or turkey? That helps a lot to, and the occasional hot dogs but I try to not use the hot dogs as much even though they are natural ones.
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Wed Jul 24, 2013 10:59 am

Beef jerky works almost all the time, but I don't want him to get sick of it. He gets excited about new things but if I use them too much he gives me this look like, 'ug, this stuff again? whatever...'
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Wed Jul 24, 2013 11:02 am

What kind of beef jerky have you been using? Anyway that you can maybe switch some flavors around to keep it interesting until you stumble on to the next high value treat?

I have a holistic vet appointment next week, and this is one of my questions. Some high value healthy creative treats! hopefully he has some good ideas!
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Wed Jul 24, 2013 11:10 am

That's a good idea, just the brand jack link's plain flavor. It has a lot of sodium, like all beef jerky so I'm sure the vet won't approve... But it works for Diz at the moment. Let me know what your vet says!
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Wed Jul 24, 2013 11:15 am

I might pick up some beef jerky tonight and give it a try when we go out for our run tonight, I can't believe I'm actually going to say this, but hopefully we will actually run into some small dogs tonight so I can test it out! I will definitely let you know what my vet says. He is going to think I'm so crazy I have a list of a million questions!
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Wed Jul 24, 2013 11:18 am

Ha ha! Good luck!
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Sun Jul 28, 2013 3:31 am

Thanks for your tips. We have made some progress and he is consistently breaking his zone-in to turn around to look at me now Smile This morning a dog passed a mere 20 feet away from us and he gave me eye contact several times! He is still flipping out and lunging though if the dog is too close. And he's added something new and annoying, which is to bark at the dog. Ugh!! Glad to be making noticeable progress though.
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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Sun Jul 28, 2013 11:00 am

What methods did you use? Have never had a frustrated greeter so i'm interested to know what works!

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PostSubject: Re: Reactive towards dogs & small animals   Tue Jul 30, 2013 2:56 am

Well we are still FAR, far away from actually solving his problem but I just followed the basic principle described in BAT (I have begun reading the BAT book but haven't gotten very far, so I'm not sure whether the methods might have varied. Just my interpretation of the functional rewards system) Smile

When we encounter a cat or dog (hopefully we are barely just close enough for him to perk up and begin to fixate), I will stop dead and wait, then make clicky noises with my tongue, call his name, scratch his rump with my fingers.

The first time, it was with a feral cat and he would not break his stare and put all his weight against the leash, making it super taught. It took a good few minutes for him to finally start sniffing the ground and immediately I'd say "good boy!!" and take a few fast steps towards the cat, which of course made him charge towards the animal all over again. We repeated this numerous times and the intervals between us moving forward and him sniffing slowly became shorter.

On the subsequent encounters, I increased the criteria. I would wait for him to give me eye contact in order to move forward (the butt scratching helps with this, 'cause he turns around and goes "jeebuz, who's scratching my butt?? I'm busy here!").

Next I would make him give me eye contact and sit. Then eye contact, follow, and sit.

Today we were walking to a park and across the street was a big yard with 3 ultra yappy chihuahuas barking their heads off at him. He lunged but I stood my ground. Once he stopped being a butthead, I called his name and walked backwards about 7 feet (loose leash), treating him for following me. Then I made him sit. As soon as he sat, I'd say "good boy!!! go sniff!" and ran a few steps towards the dogs (this is what I say when we are walking and he wants to sniff something btw). If I feel the leash get taught, which it does after about 3 steps since he's leaping towards them, I'll immediately stop.

I am SO HAPPY to say that we made it all the way right up to the fence doing this back and forth dance, and even did it along the edge of the fence with no lunging, with the dogs chasing and yapping endlessly at him. He eventually decided he would rather follow me than go talk to the dogs when I released him to go to them. Not sure if this is because we made a breakthrough or if he was just bored of them after so many repetitions.

I'm not sure if I'm doing this right, but he has definitely developed some attentiveness towards me and has shown he is capable of focusing up close to distractions! I am hoping that as we practice this more, he will eventually start off looking to me for guidance the moment he sees something he'd like to run after instead of lunging as his first response.

Sorry for the long-windedness. If you have any suggestions on how I can tweak the current method, please let it be known! Smile
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