Knox came down with a bout of kennel cough this past weekend so he’s been isolated from other dogs (as much as I can, anyway) and coming to work with me.
We started the week off brilliantly: Knox walked past a few dogs (and a dog walker with 3 dogs) without incident. We worked on passing without a constant food lure – unless we’re too close and have no escape route – and it was awesome. There’s a few wonderful dog owners that have well-trained and calm dogs we encounter on our morning walks and have been willing participants in our passing practice. “Give him a chance to be a really good more for another minute!” * treat treat treat treat treat *
Perhaps he’s been going a bit stir crazy and bored of hanging out with the humans that ignore him for most of the day… the remainder of the week has been difficult. While we are able to walk past some dogs with lots of effort, his attention span has shortened (my fault, I’ve stopped training him daily) and it’s becoming easier (irony!) for him to go over-threshold. Because of the great weather we’ve been having, we’re encountering more and more off-leashed dogs which subsequently “allows” him to practice his over-reactions. So now we have new triggers: running dogs, playing dogs, off-leashed dogs. Faaaaantastic.
Having no idea what his breed mix is, I think we can safely assume that he has some sort of herding animal in him as he approaches unknown dogs (especially fluffy ones) at a crawl, getting about 5 meters away and lying super flat, ears down, staring. As the dog reaches 3m proximity, he BOLTS towards the dog. Rude, rude, rude.
No fights yet (thankfully) but we need to work on this so much more! One more thing to add onto our list of behaviours to work on.
We’ve been avoiding the seawall like the plague since Knox’s reactivity reached new levels. Now armed with an arsenal of appropriate reactivity tools (teehee, alliteration), we practice in 5 minute sessions for 30 minutes, up and down the seawall. Walking past, walking behind, walking in front.
More importantly, we make sure that every chance Knox has when encountering a dog is controlled and positive.
We recently realized that the parking lot nearby is adjacent to the popular dog walking seawall. With a chainlink fence between us and other dogs, with all the space for us to retreat or measure our distance using parking spaces, this has been the premium spot for us to practice.
Reactivity class has proven to be a little too difficult for us. I’m stressed. He’s stressed. Everyone’s stressed and I can’t help but feel like we’re moving backwards.
The day after class has temporarily become work-at-home half-days to make sure we’re not subjecting Knox to consistently high cortisol levels by throwing him into daycare. Trigger-stacking, as it were, is a hard one to manage. A weekly cortisol vacation for both of us.
In spite of all his anxiety, he’s doing better with being away from us (but not completely alone). He’s also found a safe space on the bed… Which is now consistently covered in sand. Small price to pay, I suppose.