Thursday, February 23, 2012

On A Walk

Yesterday for Out Of Control class, we took a walk in the neighborhood around Seize the Leash.  There are many dogs in this neighborhood - some are fully exercised, some are not.  Some are formally trained, some are not - but all dogs are "trained" and get training every day, every hour.

Dogs do what gets them what they want.  That dog barking at the fence at you and your dog is usually telling you to please go away.   They always get what they want, you leave.  The actions of barking, lunging at the fence, pacing, racing around, jumping and carrying on are reinforced every time someone walks by that house.  Some dogs get so good at these behaviors the fence starts coming apart from all the pounding.

Yesterday was no exception.  We stopped probably 10 times during a four block walk (we spent some time at the park doing heel work).  Every time we stopped our purpose was two fold - one to teach our dogs that the dogs behind the fence are not all that interesting and that you should just ignore them; and two, to teach the dogs behind the fence that we weren't going to leave until they stopped their crazy behavior.

We succeeded at 9 out of the 10 houses and when we passed those houses again, no noise, no lunging from either our dogs or the ones behind the fence.  That 10th house was the most interesting.

There were three dogs at this house.  One was a shepard mix, possible still young, very anxious and needy.  One was a pit/pointer mix ? who was pretty laid back and the third was an Amer Eskimo mix.  The Eskimo was the one with most of the issues.  We first stopped about 40 feet from their yard because I saw as we were walking up that the Eskimo was redirecting his frustration on the shep mix.  Even Brynda was taking exception to this dog and it took about 7 minutes to calm all of our dogs down. 

The pointer mix just paced from the gate to the front door and back and never made a sound.  The shep mix was up on the fence, licking his lips, high pitched chittering and squeaking.  But the Eskimo was digging at the ground, the fence, jumping and carrying on.  But even this energy was finally disappated and we started to move on. 

In passing by the gate, the shep mix was there trying to come to us and the Eskimo restarted his efforts to fight and redirected on the poor shep mix about 3 times that I saw.  Then I looked up and noticed that the owner was standing in the yard with her arms crossed and a nasty look on her face.

We had stopped to calm our dogs again and it was apparent that she did not like us stopping in front of her house.  So I asked her if it was ok and she said an emphatic NO, stop irritating my dogs.  I started to explain to her that what we were doing would calm her dogs also and that they too would benefit from the training our dogs were getting.  But before I could tell her why her dogs would benefit, she screamed that she would hope that her dogs WEREN'T being trained.

So we moved on.  Our dogs were already calm and it was only the Eskimo mix that was still going ballistic.  But what I couldn't explain to her because she didn't want to hear it was that by leaving,  the Eskimo got what he wanted - all of us leaving - and that his behavior had just been reinforced once again.

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