So we thought my last entry was a low point, then came last Wednesday. I started keeping track of Sagan's socialization, and got a comment that I needed to do more "thoughtful setup" with him. Stuff like this just sends me over the edge right now. So I was in a crappy mood, and then we headed to puppy class. Great combo. Sagan was reactive right off the bat, and showed aggression toward most of the dogs in class. Fabulous. Needed to be spritzed several times right off the bat. Tracy (our puppy class instructor), felt that his behavior showed aggression rather than fear. Awesome. Also felt that our "Look at That" game may have backfired on us a bit to where Sagan felt that aggressive display/lunging=cool game. It did make me wonder. We used the squirt bottle for a day or two after that when he was really going off to break his attention to things.
Then, we met Chris at Manners Unleashed. I really went to her on a lark. Our petsitter and his friend know her and recommended her to me, and said they loved her. I thought...well, I can always use more dog friends. Went over Saturday in the dumping rain, and really loved what she had to say and how she said it. Basically, the whole approach was:
1) modified "Look at That" (movement instead of sitting still, multiple different directions of approach and repeatedly giving him relief from the stressor). Awesome.
2) Gentle leader. We used one on Winnie, and combined with all of the other stuff we did, I get why Sagan needs one right now
3) Leash control. Short leash, short leash, short leash. To prevent the "pulling him away by the neck while he is lunging and barking" business.
4) Leadership turns. Turning into him rather than pulling him with me when I turn. (only possible with short leash).
5) No treats once object is past ("bar is closed" as she puts it)
6) A dose of "put your big boy panties on" (less chatter while walking.... just continuing on if he is turning back to look at something).
So instead of one strategy that wasn't working, I had a bunch to put together, that will work in any environment...dogs, people, noises, etc. She also talked to me about how to set up the environment so we weren't having...good experience, bad experience, so-so experience....but were consistently having good experiences under threshold.
Then we had another session today in Bradley Park in Puyallup so we could practice in a "real" environment and she could coach us on how to set Sagan up for success in the real world. He was *super* this whole time. Only having one small incident in an hour with a bit of lunging at a bulldog at the end. Otherwise, we passed tons of dogs, skateboarders, geese, screaming children...... super success.
So I feel like I have a different dog. I know some of it is my sense of confidence...so I wish I had gone to Chris earlier. And rather than getting criticized for how I was doing one thing....I got a complete package of what I can do to control situations....without judgment and "if you don't do this.....your dog will be this" kind of stuff.
So tomorrow, we take him to Positive Approach dog training to see if he would be appropriate for doggie daycare. We'd like to do one day a week of this to get him some socialization with appropriate dogs. Then tomorrow night is puppy class. Hopefully we can translate some of our work to class in a small space. Hoping tomorrow night is a better class! Also signing him up for intermediate obedience with Tracy, since I really love her as a trainer.