It’s been a while since I’ve written about the lad and we have made a lot of headway in the last few months. I’ll do my best to write about what we’ve been doing when I can.
Last week I was out for a walk with him in the field at the edge of town where I take him for his run. There are very rarely dogs or people around so it gives us a chance to be outside in the fresh air with relatively little stress. As I’ve written previously, the barking was a problem for the first year when we were in open spaces and we occasionally get resurgence of it but those incidences are becoming rarer and rarer.
We had been out for about 30 minutes or so and were heading back to the car when he found an old welly (rubber) boot which someone had discarded. Rubber toys are his addiction and he finds them very difficult to give up and this was no exception. I let him have it for a few minutes and then he started to tear the leg part of the boot from the foot part which took him about 30 seconds. Once he had two pieces, I was able to pick up one of them and then ask him to drop the other one in exchange for the one I had, play a short game of tug with it and them let him have it. I then picked up the “shoe” of the boot and threw it for him after he dropped the piece he had. We continued this for several rounds and then I took him by the harness (he is on a long line), threw the other part away and asked him to come with me. Which he did, after only a few seconds of thought. So, no pulling towards the two pieces of boot, no barking and he was able to come with me. I gave him a few treats, again this is progress as historically when he got into that state he wouldn’t be able to eat, and walked him back to the car.
When we got back to the car, he happily jumped in, a couple more treats and then we went home. The behaviour at the back of the car was interesting as this would have been considerably different in the past, with him barking and refusing to get in the car (at best).
It is easy to lose perspective on his behaviour, which is one of the reasons I write this blog; it’s some kind of record of where we have been. Seeing him change from the stress bucket he was a couple of years ago, into showing more and more “normal” dog behaviours is kind of like watching your kids grow, very often we don’t see the changes as they are incremental, constant and over time.
The exchange game we played that day was as a result of all the play I do with him on a weekly basis, taking turns, moderating arousal (both of us!) learning cues, being generous with reinforcement. We are training behaviours all the time, I choose to train those ones which are both fun from him to do and necessary for times when we need it, like when we find wellies in the field.
It’s been a while since I’ve written about our journey together but we have been steadily making progress over the last few months.
I was out with him this afternoon and wanted to write down some of the process I have been using with him. The amount of time Logan is with me mentally, emotionally and phusically based on his observable body language vaires depending on what else is going on in the environment. Observable criteria are how much time he spends looking at me, how much he is interested in the food I have, how easily or readily he moves with me when I move off. There are 4 broad categories to this. These are my definitions, you may have your own
- He is not with me at all
- He is not with me but searching/scenting/trailing the ground
- He is scenting on the ground around me and will generally move in the direction I am travelling
- He is fully engaged with me, seeking food reinforcement.
There is also variations within each of these as number 1 can vary between him holding himself in position watching (usually another dog) and running around barking (usually when he is really struggling and doesn’t know what else to do)
There are differences in his body language between the image above and below. If you were to look at them on there own, in which one would you say he is more likely to move with me? Noticing the subtle changes in his body gives me information about what I am going to do next. He is not really with me, or connected to me in either of these photos.
In the image below he is moving with me and scenting on the ground. Scenting at the park is good. If he is sniffing in the presence of other dogs, then I know he is more relaxed than if he is watching them. If I was to move away in the picture below, he is very likely to follow me or to migrate in that direction. We would be moving together, which is cool and desired.
Image below, he’s “with me, with me”. Looking at me, engaged and I am able to ask him to do simple, well practiced behaviours.
Today we were out at the park for around 40 minutes. It was relatively busy but we were able to work at decent distances from other dogs. At this stage, and for a while to come yet, I am really relaxed about what I expect of him. The goal is to have him either scenting the ground for long periods when we are out, or both scenting the ground and enagaging with me when I ask him to. I try to be aware as much as I can that this is his walk and his journey. The objective is calm, relaxed behaviour for the whole (or as much as possible) time we are outside. With this in mind, I do everything I know how and am able to do to help him reach that objective. It helps keep me patient.
In the clip above, you can see him searching the ground for food and looking at the dogs. Look at the quality of how he is looking at the dogs. Relaxed or alert? How easily does he go from one to the other. Is the searching frantic or relaxed?
Lastly, I am also aware of the reasons for him being able or unable to behave at a certain level. Is he eyeballing the dogs because he has just arrived and needs to settle in to his session or can he not concentrate on what I am asking him to do because we are reaching his limit. I have to be mindful of all of these things all the time.
Please think about how you can apply some of these concepts to your own dog.
More to come, thanks for reading and your continued interest in our journey together.