Saturday, April 28, 2012

Five Phases of Reactive Dog Ownership

Applied today to join the Seattle Walkabulls group that does regular walks with imposed space restrictions between folks on brisk walks.  This sounds great for Sagan.  Friended that group, and found another "Reactive Champion" who also has a blog I followed.

This article was posted and I related to it a great deal:

The five phases being:
1) Realization
2) Denial
3) Panic
4) Progress
5) Management

This does encapsulate my frustration, since I feel like I am always trapped between panic and progress.  I intellectually know what to do, but I struggle, often, to execute and then panic. I do see progress with Sagan in the people fear issue (on a scale of 1-10, his people fear is at a 1-2....he occasionally reacts to an odd person, but often just looks and ignores).  YAY.  Now, I am managing situations when I see a particularly odd-looking person (hat, hood, odd gait, etc.).  The reaction, at most, involves staring, rather than barking or anything worse.

With dogs, we are unpredictable.  With some dogs we are fine with a few short minutes of protocols, and I can get him within 10 feet. With others, I either have to offer much larger distances, or severely manage with treats/toys.  I cannot help but tighten up on the leash with off leash dogs.  I need to practice the abandonment idea our trainer suggested and stop worrying about the random off leash dog.  Sagan ALWAYS figures this out at daycare.  ALWAYS.  I've watched hours of his daycare time, and he either ignores, or informs the other dog he wants his space (appropriately with short snark).  I've never seen him act reactively or aggressively toward another dog there (and I've watched hours of the webcam).  His connection to me, through the leash, is the issue.

Today, we met Teddi and Cathy for another BAT protocol with 2 of their cocker spaniels that Sagan has not met.  He did fabulous.  He also did fabulous with 2 dogs that showed up to play chuckit.  We move outside the fence, but he ignored them moving in as we moved out.  He watched them running through the fence.  The worst we got was a slight forward-posing stare (since I'm working on BAT, I allowed it, waiting for the head-turn toward me).....he eventually stopped, looked toward me, and got the distance he wanted.  One dog in question was a high energy Britanny spaniel, so I consider it a huge success..

As a herding dog, I know he is inclined to react to movement, so I think our additional steps (in addition to more BAT) is to find safe situations with fast moving dogs to expose him to, to practice self control.

All things told, I am very proud of him today for his ability to deal with a variety of situations at Auburndale park.

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