Posts Tagged ‘leash reactive’

Challenges of a Leash Reactive Dog

February 13, 2014

Pierson has made a lot of progress with being better on his leash when he sees another dog. Two things helped. First, we cross the street when we see another dog. I have Pierson sit and I use the “look” command to distract him. He gets rewarded with lots of treats every time he pays attention to me and not the other dog. Second, I was fortunate enough to find a group of people who were willing to get together once a week or so to help work with our dog’s leash reactive behaviors. We walked our dogs at a distance from each other and the distance depended on our dogs’ own individual thresholds. Pierson was always last in line and furthest away. But by the end of fall, he was able to get within a few feet of those other dogs without reacting.

Pierson Group Walk Group Photo

Everyone is proud of Pierson’s progress.

There have been four major challenges in trying to overcome Pierson’s leash reactive behavior:

Challenge – Walking Two Dogs
Pierson’s leash reactive behavior is due to his high prey drive. He could even be called aggressive, although it is difficult to imagine such a cute ball of fuzz with a girly bark as aggressive. But that is what it is. He whines, he barks, and he lunges. Maya’s leash reactive behavior, on the other hand, is due to excitement. She loves other dogs and really wants to go say hi. She barks and lunges too, but only because she is so happy.

Needless to say, I can’t walk Maya and Pierson together. Maya’s happy bark makes Pierson’s aggressive bark more intense, and vice versa. So in order to properly work on their behaviors separately, I need to walk them one at a time. By the way, the “look” command does not work on Maya when she is excited. I need to find a different training technique for her.

Pull No More dog harness

First I walk Pierson, then I walk Maya.

Challenge – Loose Dogs
One day when I was walking with this group down a nature trail, someone coming up from the other direction had two dogs not on a leash. When the dogs saw us, they ran towards us. Their mom called them but they didn’t listen. They ran straight for Pierson. In order to keep something terrible from happening, I quickly picked Pierson up out of the way. Luckily the two dogs were small. That would not have worked if the dogs had been bigger. The lady was apologetic but she didn’t really grasp what had almost happened. Luckily, the group of people I was with explained to her just how close her dogs had come to being injured. Having a good recall is extremely important, and this trail was not an off-leash trail. I think the reality of the situation sunk in and I hope she learned her lesson.

A similar situation happened in my own neighborhood. A Lhasa named Barkley is often allowed off leash in his front yard when his mom is out with him. I have met Barkley a number of times and know that he usually has a great recall. But one day, there was just something about Pierson that he had to investigate head on. I picked Pierson up out of the way. Barkley’s mom kept saying that Barkley was friendly. I told her I knew that, but my Pierson was not. She finally understood. And the next time I met her while we were both walking our dogs, she called Barkley back and put his leash on while I went across the street. She complemented me on being so responsible.

Challenge – Other Leash Reactive Dogs
Pierson is very good about paying attention to me when we cross the street and I use the “look” command. It works most of the time. The only time it doesn’t work is when the other dog is also leash reactive. If the other dog reacts, Pierson does to and no amount of bribing with treats will distract him.

Pierson on a Leash with Look Command

The “look” command helps me to distract Pierson whenever we see someone else walking their dog.

Challenge – Winter, Fewer Dogs
We are getting a little out of practice this winter. Even though I still try to walk Maya and Pierson every day, we seldom see other dogs. In fact, we have gone over an entire week without running into any other dogs. I fear Pierson will be greatly out of practice when spring arrives.

Do you have a leash reactive dog? If so, what are your challenges?

See what other people with leash reactive dogs are doing to manage the behavior in the WOOF blog hop below.

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Ten Dog Training Mistakes I Make

May 25, 2013
Pierson on a Leash with Look Command

Teaching the ‘look’ command to get my dog Pierson’s attention when we see other dogs.

I read a great article some time back from Modern Dog Magazine. It listed ten dog training mistakes that people make. These mistakes are easy to fall into, and oftentimes we don’t even realize we are doing them. But once you recognize them, you can easily remedy them. I have listed the top ten below and also noted how I personally make those mistakes with Maya and Pierson.

1. I don’t train my dogs often enough. I tend to get lazy in winter when it comes to walking the dogs. As a result, every spring I have to start over with how to walk on a leash without pulling and with dealing with leash reactiveness with other dogs.

2. I sometimes repeat commands. I’m not supposed to say ‘sit’ more than once. Maya and Pierson should sit immediately after I give them the command. Otherwise, they learn they don’t have to sit unless I say it more than once. Honestly, I don’t make this mistake often in regular circumstances. But when we are in public and their attention is diverted, I find that I repeat myself. To overcome this mistake, I really need to work with Maya and Pierson regularly and in various situations – not just at home where it is quiet.

3. My training sessions run too long or too short. Actually, I think we’re fine on this. Our training sessions are generally short, but frequent. I make sure all training sessions end with success and I don’t drag out training to the point where it is no longer fun. Three sessions a day each lasting three minutes has worked perfectly for Maya and Pierson.

4. My dogs’ obedience behaviors are not generalized to varying conditions. This is what I meant when I talked about how I have to repeat commands in public situations.

5. I rely too much on treats and not enough on praise. Actually, this is another one that I don’t really have trouble with. Both Maya and Pierson have a number of commands they obey without having to be bribed with treats. For example, they obey the ‘play dead’ trick specifically for the belly rubs. Also, Pierson’s ‘speak’ command was taught exclusively for a praise reward.

6. I use too much emotion. No, I don’t get irritated or angry during training sessions. But sometimes I can go over the top with praise, especially in the beginning stages of training. Sometimes, this excites Maya to the point that she is no longer able to focus.

7. I am reactive, not proactive. I should have been working with Maya and Pierson on their leash walking and leash reactiveness before I started having problems. I should have been worked on their training at home before slowly introducing them to public situations. Since I didn’t, bad habits developed and now I have to work harder to overcome difficult behaviors.

8. I am inconsistent. This goes hand-in-hand with number one where I don’t train my dogs often enough. When I am teaching a new command and trick, I am generally consistent to the point that they master it. Then I follow up every now and then to make sure they still remember. But I have not applied that same consistency with leash walking and leash reactiveness.

9. I lack confidence. Actually, I don’t think this one applies to me. I think I am pretty good at training when I put my effort into it. I know my own shortcomings, with the biggest being that I put off working on training aspects that I find the most difficult and time consuming (leash walking and leash reactiveness).

10. I don’t train to the individual dog. Actually, I don’t make this mistake either. At least I don’t any more. I used to train Sephi and Maya together. But after I got Pierson, I realized that training them to walk on a leash properly was a lot more difficult if I walked them both at the same time. So now, I walk them each separately. If I take them out to a public setting, I seldom take both of them at the same time. Even with fun training, I try to keep them separate. When I was teaching Pierson agility, I had Maya sit and stay while I worked with him for a minute or so. Then I had Pierson sit and stay while I worked with Maya on different tricks. This technique works really well since both got to practice their sit and stay in a situation where it was very tempting not to stay.

Even though I think I am relatively good at dog training, I am far from perfect. I am like a lot of other people out there with dogs in that I make mistakes too. It’s okay if we make mistakes, so long as we try to learn from them. What about you? Do you make any of these training mistakes with your dogs? Don’t be afraid to speak up. No one here will criticize you. 🙂

Top ten mistakes borrowed from the Modern Dog Magazine. Click for more info.

Sort of Wordless Wednesday – Walking to Help Leash Reactive Dogs

May 15, 2013

Pierson is very leash reactive when he sees other dogs. He probably wasn’t properly socialized when he was young and I have not done a good job of consistently working with his socialization skills. But now that the weather is getting nice, I intend to do better. Recently, we joined a dog walking group that specifically gets together to work with our dogs’ behavior. I say gets together but in reality, we have to walk a distance apart.

Dog Pierson in Group Walk

I’m working on Pierson’s dog aggression by going on group walks with other dog owners.

Some dogs are doing really well and can now walk with other dogs without much trouble. Pierson is doing better, but as you can see from the photo he still has to stay a distance away. We can get a few feet closer than this before Pierson starts going crazy. Over time, I expect we will be able to get closer and closer. I’ll keep you posted on his progress.

Teaching the 'look' command to get my dog Pierson's attention when we see other dogs.

Teaching the ‘look’ command to get my dog Pierson’s attention when we see other dogs.

This past Saturday, I took Maya on the group walk. We decided to walk downtown and this would be too much for Pierson. Maya has her issues too, but with excitability, so I took her instead. If I had taken Pierson, we would not have been able to visit this nice dog barktique.

Welcome Sign for Lucky Dogs Bakery

Dogs welcome to the Lucky Dogs Bakery and Barktique.

Maya Gets Treats at Bakery

Treats are being passed around at the Lucky Dogs Bakery and Barktique.

Maya at Dog Bakery 1

Maya and others in the Lucky Paws Bakery and Barktique in Downtown Lawrence.

Small Dog Walking Group

Our dog walking group is still small. Thanks to lots of practice, these dogs are not as leash reactive as they used to be.

For more Wordless Wednesday pet photos, check out the blog hop link below.

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