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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Free Shaping and Uncomfortable Situations

Trying to keep the post updated!

Continuing on the trend from last post.. barking. Our new approach is clicker training. Al  though we have been using clicker training since puppy-hood, we haven't really try to incorporate it in our "barking training". Also, we have used it while luring/helping Tjido into the behavior we want, ie: sitting, lying down etc.

As you know, we do training on saturdays with the animal shelter.  We had asked for help with the 'reactivity on leash' and we got 2 personalized training sessions! Yesterday was our first one :) and we learned about free shaping with clicker. The idea is to get Tjido's attention in walks, as they told us that he basically ignores us to the max outside. This is how it looked like:

Aim: Dog has to touch the tip of target stick.
1. Stand still with treats and target stick - wait for dog to look or make contact with target stick. Do not say anything!
2. Click for wanted behavior. Be patient.
3. Look for 3 repetitions.

Basically Tjido was barking, sniffing.. whatever. He did touch the stick once on the right spot, which we thought it was coincidence.. but after a whole interval again of being a teenager, he did it again and again. The trainer said he knew exactly what he was expected to do, but just couldn't care less.

Exercise 2- Aim: For dog to make eye contact.
1. Stand still, do not say anything.
2. If dog starts finding things to do, move a few steps and stop again.
3. Click for wanted behaviour.

This was of course much more difficult, but he did make eye contact after quite a while.

We have repeated this exercise at home. At home it is easy, outside with little distractions as well. But this will certainly be a looooong process... Next saturday we will do the next step I guess.

After our training we walked our typical loos-leash route through the forest, and while we sat on a bench for Tjido to drink water, a german shepherd approached us, but basically threw Tjido on the floor. He submitted automatically but when wanting to stand up, the dog went at him again. It was actually quite scary, maybe the 1st time he has really been 'attacked'.. Nothing mayor happened but it was certainly a surprise to see a loose dog like that.

Then today, after the doggy park, we saw again a german shepherd and Tjido cowered behind us. I hoped that if they could sniff each other it would be a pleasant encounter, so I didn't think anything when he approached us... oh how I was wrong. Seriously, a big coincidence, but the dog attacked Tjido as well!  The owner couldn't control his dog so he went at it another 2 times and well.. we didn't know what to do but try and stand in between.

So just to add the cherry to the cake, on our final walk, Tjido as always saw a dog and barked at it. The woman stepped out of the way, but then she shouted at us. I couldn't hear what she said because of Tjido's barking, but I understood she was warning us that if our dog would bite her it would cost a fine of 100 euros. I shouted back that our dog only barked, she responded "yeah, but he bites mine as well".  I thought she was being quite rude.

But Joost heard clearly that she was blaming us for a bite dog, and that it had cost her 100 euros... We had NEVER seen that woman or dog in our life, and Tjido has NEVER attacked a dog.

Since we were confused we walked away, but we now feel in a way guilty and annoyed. I wish we could have talked to her, but with a barking dog, she wouldn't have appreciated me coming close. I assume we will meet her again sometime, but yeah.. I feel bad that he is sometimes regarded as "aggressive" because of his barking, when actually our 2 dog attacks have been by non-barking dogs (which i know has nothing to do with aggressive or non aggressive, but there's an irony).

To end this post in a more positive note, he is starting to shed, so our next post will be all about shed & hair and no barking ;) Oh yeah! And our Icelandic Sheepdog magazine chose our picture! HERE I am looking forward to make more summery pictures of our little fluffy monster!

PS: I hope no GS owners are annoyed by this post. I really believe it was coincidence that it was the same breed twice. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Leash Reactivity and Easy Walk Harness

Ah yes, the dreaded post..

Well as you know, as many Icie owners, barking is one of those issues...
As I have explained before, Tjido is very much reactive on-leash, and since his puberty this has escalated.

It is annoying in the sense that you can't pin the real reason. He is certainly not agressive, since when you close the distance between him and anther dog, he basically goes into "nice to meet you mode". He is not scared or anxious since he really wants to run off to that other dog. So we asume it is just his way of letting out his excitement and being all "HEY YOU! Wanna play?!" or "LOOK AT ME!" shouted at very high pitched levels that really make me want to crawl under a rock.

Our main concern is the fact that he gets in a certain "tunnel vision" that I have also mentioned before. This makes distracting him difficult, and walking away means basically pulling him against his will and makes me feel terrible about it.

Therefore I bought "Fiesty Fido" by Patricia B. Mc Connell. I like her way of explaining things, although the training does assume you can train your dog on a distance from other dogs (sadly on our walks there are ALWAYS dogs). But we have started with the following training method:

1. When we see a dog (that Tjido hasn't), start giving Tjido treats - asking for eyecontact with "look at me".
2. When Tjido tenses up because he sees a dog, distract, ask for "look at me" and shower with treats.
3. Praise enormously when walking past a dog, with full attention of Tjido for treats.

If he goes bananas because we were too late, we don't give treats, and try to teach the command "silent". This works so-so...

We hope that by doing this "dog = treats", that he can clam down. I has been working, but it is a very slow process that gets ruined when dogs suddenly appear out of nowhere, or the neighbour walks him (this happened twice last week because I wasn't home - so we needed help).

I also believe that the "Easy Walk Harness" has helped us allot! It is a harness that clips on the front, which makes pulling annoying for the dog in a very animal-friendly manner. Loose leash walking has become very natural, so we're happy!

Well I hope to write soon! With real Tjido pictures haha!