If you have been following this blog, you will have been reading that I am teaching (or doing my best to teach) Logan the necessary skills for his life with me. So often with these types of dogs, people awake their natural arousal without teaching the dog how to control it and when to use it.
Loads has happened in the last week. One of the things he we have found difficult is being able to get him back into the car at the end of a play session with toys if he doesn’t have the toy in his mouth. The reason why I want this from him is that he then fixates on the toy and cannot calm himself down or relax after the play session. Think of it with ourselves or with our young kids. If we have been doing a physically activity which is highly charged, we need to come down at the end and relax. This gets our bodies back into a physiologally normal condition and allows us to get the benefits of the cortisol produced during that activity. We are teaching our bodies and minds how to respond in a positve way to stress so that we are able to more readily handle stressful situations when they occur.
In order to work on this, we have been doing some high energy work such as tug, or chasing the ball or kong and then working on settling after this. We throw the kong a few times, then take a little bit of time to calm down. This is a real balancing act as not enough of the tug or chase doesn’t satisfy him, which means he then gets frustrated and wound up during the cool down period. The alternative to that is we play more tug and chase which satisfies him, then it takes longer to cool down. When we first started working on this he was so wound up that he actually couldn’t switch off afterwards. This has taking a lot of observation from me, loads of getting to know him learning his body language and infinite patience from Logan of my mistakes. 7 months in the making with practice 3 or 4 times a week.
Like anything in training, we required a plan. We went to the rugby fields where he has only been a few times ( no string association with play at that location) and I threw out his 6 kongs into the grass. I decided to do some searching activity the first time rather than tug or chase as this causes less arousal. We did three round of 6 and I put the kongs back in the car. I then gave him a few treats (there was a time where he have refused food under these conditions) and I did a little engagement work with his using food as the reinforcer. After 10 minutes of this, I lead him back to the car, tossed a treat in the crate and he jumped in behind it. Much success.
At the weekend, we took part in Craig Ogilvie’s interactive play workshop which is all about excited play with you and your dog. Loads of tug games and running around so very high arousal from Logan. Under Craig’s tuition, Logan was able to bring himself back down to earth afterwards, take food and then jump back into the car. Result!
Notes for progress
- How long will it take him to switch off from the toy at the end of the game?
- How long will it take him to accept food after the activity has ended?
- How long will I be able to work him in a calmer state where he is able to listen to me?
- How quickly will he be able to go on to do another activity, such as heel work or accepting petting?
- How long do we need to do the second calmer activity before he will readily go back into the car?
- Working towards jumping back into the car without a food lure.
Loads to work on over the next few months.
The video clip show is Watson showing the skill set which Logan lacks at the moment. She is able to easily go from one activity to the next and seems to be doing so happily.
Until next time.
Peace and love.