Sunday, March 20, 2011

Informal training sessions.

Whoops, long time no posts!

I really should get back in the habit, so here's what we've been up to the last few weeks!

Random picture; Luna at 12 months, first -and last- time in season, playing with a ball on 'her' couch.
There's been no formal training all this time, but to counteract that I have been training A LOT on our daily walks. When taking our old boy the Westie out with us, Luna and I play the Got Leash? game (deliberately moving into pressure on the leash and thus creating a loose leash), we practice Hand Touches, Going Around objects, Sits, Downs, and Stand. Luna especially loves the Hand Touches. So much so that it has nearly become a new Come cue. Cool!

When we encounter other dogs on our walks, we play Look At That!; look at the dog for a click and treat. This, too, has been going fabulously. Just this morning we went right past 3 other dogs, one of which off leash, grumbling and coming after Luna, and she was completely relaxed the whole time. She'd look at the dog as we approached, I'd say 'Yes!' and out came a treat (another awesome thing, she'll work her butt off for 'boring' kibble). Look at the dog, Yes, treat. Look at the dog, Yes, treat. And so on until we had passed the dog and I could tell Luna was done with it. Then I'd praise her and tell her to go on, and she'd just keep going as if nothing had happened. Before, even after having passed a dog, she would often look back a few more times and be less calm.

During all 3 dog encounters, Luna was off leash, on the same side as the other dog (so I wasn't between her and the dog) and she didn't even have to sniff the other dog just to make sure 'it's just a dog'. She was totally committed to playing Look At That! and not interested in the other dog at all. Amazing, good girl!

Also, because she's doing so well and I keep remembering to play Look At That! when we see a dog, I have become much more calm about encountering other dogs. I didn't freak out or anything, but before, if we'd see a dog, I'd think 'damn, a dog'. Now it's 'hey, look, another opportunity to play Look At That!' So basically, now, Luna and I are both having fun while meeting other dogs, where before it was quite a stressful thing.

When we'd just set off on our walk this morning, Luna was about 50' ahead of me (off leash) when she spotted a 'scary' dog (also reactive, will bark and chase her when off leash) about 30' to her left. She started barking, I said 'Hey!' (that's a reflex I can't seem to get rid of just yet) but even before I said anything, she had already veered off to the right, intending on going to the field where we were heading. Wowzers. Yes, she did react - and she did so because she found herself 'all alone' with a suddenly appearing scary dog - but SHE chose to go away from the dog rather than towards the dog and scream in its face. Wow. What a GREAT choice, girly! Once safely off to the right, Luna stopped and waited for me to catch up with her. By the time I reached her, she was back to being her calm and relaxed self.

A few weeks ago, she did something else that I thought was SO great that I still remember it several times a day. We were on one end of a 150' path, and a 'cookie lady' she and I know well was on the other end. Luna saw her, looked at me (another thing she's learned to do, rather than rushing off the second she sees the lady), I didn't see a reason to keep Luna with me, so I gave her the go ahead. Luna took off at full speed, but halfway down the path she stopped and turned back to look at me again. Hmmm... So I tried to see what she was trying to tell me, but all I could see was that the 'cookie lady' had company in the form of another woman. I just couldn't see who it was, and I saw no dogs, so I told Luna to once again, go on. She did. Then, when she reached the cookie lady, a little black & tan pincher started screaming at her, and being all alone (without me), Luna resorted to her reactive behaviour; she did the same, screaming at the pincher and charging him. Ack, oops, sorry Luna, sorry little pinscher, sorry owner of the pinscher!

It was basically at the same time I recognized the other lady (we see each other several times a week, she owns the pincher and a Westie), that Luna got into a screaming match with the pincher. Again, Luna stopped immediately when I said/yelled 'Hey!' (I'm sure the fact that she listens makes it so hard for me to stop doing it), and I KNOW she has no intention of actually touching the other dog, but still. Little tiny pincher gets 'attacked' by a shepherd with bared teeth, hackles raised, tail up. Not a pretty sight. By this time I'd reached them, Luna was already over it and collecting cookies from the cookie lady. The owner of the pincher was laughing, saying 'serves him right' (um, no, not really, your pincher is screaming at Luna for the exact same reason Luna screamed back - fear) and told me that no, Luna hadn't touched him. Thank goodness. So why do I think this was great? Because Luna TOLD ME that there was another dog she wasn't comfortable with right where the cookie lady was, and she was ASKING me for help! And here I am, dumb trainer, telling her to go on and take care of it herself, KNOWING she can't take care of it without freaking out. Oops... Obviously, next time she tells me, I WILL listen and help her out!

I suppose the summary of this post comes down to me being very proud of what great progress Luna has made, despite sometimes having a trainer who isn't paying attention. Luna, you're awesome!