Thursday, March 15, 2012

Low Points and Moving Forward

So, last Wednesday, Sagan left a run in agility class and "found" a kenneled dog that he tried to attack from 3 different directions.

The world stopped for me, and I cried for 2 days.  NEVER had Sagan gone after a kenneled, "safe" dog. His issues had always been on leash.  Compound this with 3 weeks of unfocused work in class.  Compound this with 3 weeks of hating the same innocuous dog in rally class.

I was really ready to throw in the towel.

I have three dogs I can take nowhere.  I have three dogs I cannot trust.  The frustration is intense and very real.  The sense of failure is overwhelming.  The sense of humiliation that my dog is capable of dropping focus to try to attack another dog....priceless.

We saw our behaviorist on Saturday.  We did a lot of talking and a lot of playing.  No protocols.  She just tried to figure out where we were and where we could go from here.  She suggested:

1) lowering expectations (no expectation to compete in rally or agility).  Lower expecations, work with him, and forget about lofty thoughts.
2) stopping attending to the behavior. Try ignoring insofar as he is not practicing insane reactions.  When running, I shorten the leash, let him whimper, try to lunge.  Don't say anything, don't look at him, don't give treats, etc.  Tried this Tuesday.  Moderate success.  I didn't even carry treats with me on our Tuesday run.
3) Continue BAT.  This wasn't specifically a recommendation, but I just started this and want to play it out.
4) Get a bike attachment and get him moving FAST past other dogs without a chance to escalate his emotions.

Our agility instructor is trying to help. Class this week went fine, though Sagan is not as exceptional as a border collie should be, and not to the level he was 3 weeks ago.  I am strongly thinking private lessons will be the norm here and we will phase out group classes.  Strongly thinking agility trials will not be a thing we shoot for.   Adjusting thinking: we take him to agility classes to exercise his brain.  We will not be competing him.

Our rally instructor is trying to help. Dogs are kenneled for walk-throughs.  For whatever dumb reason, Sagan cannot STAND another dog in class.  I managed the situation (with help) on Sunday, but I am prepared to REMOVE HIM the F*)*@#()*$ from class if he continues the ridiculousness.  The dog is not staring at him, not looking at him, not running spastically across the room.  In the right circumstance/distance, I will let him react and have his tantrum.  Otherwise, same place with rally.  We are not going to pursue titles with him.

Depressing, but being realistic.  This dog is too reactive to continue in group classes with excitement.

I really enjoy training Sagan, and experience success in that.  I will continue BAT with him (it is still young), and am sure we will acclimate to the experience.

I do not enjoy acclimating Sagan to the real world.

It is a challenge to continue pushing.  The temptation is there to stop the fight and just let him be a "home dog."  If he were any but a border collie, I would have resigned to this a long time ago.

Next steps/decisions:

1) Determine if I can keep him in rally class.  Probability:  80% as far as I'm concerned.
2) Determine if I can keep him in group agility class.  Probability:  30%.  With good kenneling, disaster averted.  Focus is abysmal.
3) Determine if I want to do private agility lessons.  Probability:  70%.  I think he is capable of amazing things, but only with no other dogs present.
4) Determine if I can trust him as a running partner.  Probability: 60%.  Fine/manageable on leash. Off leash dog...sunk in the water.
5) Determine if nosework is an appropriate class for him.  Probability: 90%.  I am told this class is perfect for reactive dogs.
6) Determine if bike attachment is feasilble/logistically possible/helpful.  Probability:  90%.  Need to buy bike and bike attachment.

This has not been a fabulous week.  I swear if I were anyone else, Sagan would have ended up in the humane society by now.  I love that guy, and am committed to his progress, BUT.....

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