• Courtney Bray

    April 15, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    Hi Zee!

    Great to hear your progress report.
    Some feedback, not necessarily in order.

    BODY LANGUAGE and PACK STRUCTURE: I’m going to pretend you know nothing about dog body language or pack structure/leadership dynamic. So if I’m redundant, sorry. Rgd ‘skittish’/fearful dogs: The best thing we can do is offer a solid Pack Structure in the home, in other words, a leadership dynamic.
    That always slowly chips away at letting your dog know that YOU have their back, ie they don’t need to be in charge or have to be in charge. This allows, in your case, a skittish fearful dog to relax more, knowing that you aren’t going to ‘ask’ him to be in charge. He doesn’t ‘have to’ enter the aggression cycle and choose (in his case) ‘flight’ every time his adrenalin starts pumping.

    Pack Structure leadership training in the home is the slow, constant training that takes place whether you are meaning to be training or not. So, better to do it right. Even if you think you aren’t training or communicating who makes the decisions, you probably are.

    1. managing resources (pick up bones and toys as soon as he walks away from one at a time)
    2. keeping him out of sofas or beds (confuses dog as to who is in charge, as well as creating conflict with resting areas and humans)
    3. maintaining initial control of food (don’t let your dog ‘rush’ at the bowl, only let him engage/eat when you ‘free’ him up) and pick it up IMMEDIATELY after he walks away from it
    4. ‘leading’ the walk. Ie, this is not a you get to smell whichever tree or bush you please to smell and I follow you type thing. This is also where we often need to keep chipping away at a solid heel. But remind me to tell you about basic leash manners and ‘name’ and turning.
    5. affection ONLY after your dog ‘does’ something. ie make them earn your affection. No free love
    6. I’m going to add ‘make the decisions’. Meaning, if you start to ‘read’ signals from your dog like ‘I have to go out to pee’, or, I want to go outside to play, or whatever signals you start to read, you have a decision to make. If you want to let them out, then do so, BUT at the VERY LEAST, call them away from the door with a ‘Fido come!’ good boy (praise)… walking away from your dog (they chase things/people/dogs moving AWAY from them, not toward them) and praise… until the dog comes to you. THEN take them outside. The beauty of dogs is .5-1.3 second cause and effect recall. Meaning, by the time your dog comes to you, he’s forgotten he asked you to go out in the first place. Now it’s YOUR idea.
    Now, if you don’t want to take him out at x time or play, then don’t. If his needs are taken care of, he’s just telling your what he wants you to do, not the dynamic your want in the long-term.
    Since you WON’T be leaving tugs or toys or balls out (likely only giving him something to chew on when appropriate), you won’t even have the resource managing ‘play with me’ moments.

    Now, back to specific body language things which can help you and your dog.
    SKITTISH DOG BODY LANGUAGE: If I have a fearful dog (and I don’t mean fearful aggressive or any possibility of aggression or of you getting bit in the face or otherwise), cowering, flighting, and generally tail-tucked (NOT showing hackles), if I want the dog to consider approaching me, I squat down, don’t look the dog in the eye and hold out my hand palm out. Depending on the level of fear, 8 or 9 times out of 10, if I have ignored the dog for a good amount of time during an initial consult, they generally come on over for a sniff or lick in their own time. I try to not really ‘pet’ the dog unless I try to say sit (if they do it without problem, then I would likely give them a treat and verbal praise to start out with.). If I have no relationship with the dog yet, I have to play that by ear. Preferably no petting.

    If I don’t have to rush this encounter, I don’t. Period.
    Better the dog come/be interested first.
    Now in your case, you’re pretty much beyond that.

    What you are NOT beyond is HOW you put the collar and leash on and how you physically ‘pet’ your dog.

    Most dogs (certainly you get the impervious ones, who could care less if you do everything wrong) don’t like a ‘dominant’ expression of physicality. Which means I would NEVER pet on top of a skittish dog, on the back or neck or head, or put the collar on from the top of the neck down.
    Collar goes on from under/the bottom of the neck upwards. I usually blather on and tell the dog how good they are being when I’m all up in their business (putting the collar on). Always seems to help. Especially if you mean it and have a calm voice. If you are only quiet, it is less ‘engaging’, they tend to want to ‘get away’ more quickly.
    One little extra detail: when I ask for a ‘down’ in training with a defensive dog, I also often get better results if I’m not directly in front of the dog, but alongside of the dog (both our noses facing forward). It’s less confrontational. If it is feasible and helpful, you might try a less ‘frontal’ putting on of the collar as well.
    Remember, direct and prolonged eye contact is confrontational in the dog world. Use that fact judiciously. If a ‘stable’ dog is challenging me, I use it, use that stare, if they are off, I choose wisely. If they are fearful, I’m also careful how much I ‘confront’ with my eyes and when.

    DESENSITIZING WITH COLLARS/LEASHES: As with any desensitizing, you can work on the getting the collar on and off with treats when you don’t really ‘need’ to go anywhere. No rush. Let him flight. If he’s not treat-motivated, don’t feed him before that exercise. Use the ‘Putting a muzzle on’ (I believe the name is something like that) vid of Mike’s. It sort of gives you the idea of how to ‘re-train’, even though it’s a collar versus a muzzle.

    HOW LONG IS THIS PROCESS WITH SKITTISH DOGS? To give you an example of what kind of time you are looking at: The aforementioned Pyrenees (my last post) was so fearful when her owners adopted her, she was cowering in the corner. It took slow, patient obedience training. About 9 months to ‘finish’ Tula. She gained confidence, loved to work for her owners, did fantastic. They did not rush at all. The only thing that ‘remained’ is that when we would go downtown and train in a high distraction level, someone might say ‘Can I pet your dog?’ Before we could even answer, they would stick their hand ‘on top’ of Tula, she would flight so quickly, cringing away. Frankly, it was lucky she didn’t bite, but she preferred to flight with that kind of ‘strangers’ dominant body language. Point is, you might never ‘fix’ all of that, but you can CERTAINLY build confidence with patience and solid obedience training, and of course, predictable and balanced handling.

    BALLS: There is only so much you can do, BUT you might be surprised what you can do with one squeaky ball and one non squeaky ball. I usually just get the generic yellow/green tennis balls that look very similar. MOST dogs don’t get to smarty-pants to know which one you are throwing, IF you do it cleverly.

    1st step: Make the squeaky ball ‘alive’. This means squeak it around and move it around (just not stupidly slowly). Before I actually throw the OTHER BALL (non squeaky), I kind of hold them together and fake out the dog:

    2nd step: throwing the NON SQUEAKY ball. Never throw the squeaky ball!!!! You always keep it for yourself.

    Once you have done this, one of a few things usually happens.
    1. the dog goes to find/grab the ball you threw
    2. he doesn’t care and does nothing (you can prob. forget trying :))
    3. the dog looks at the squeaky ball still in your hand (you prob. weren’t clever enough faking them out)

    If the #1 happens, then a few things usually happen with that.

    If your dog:
    1. runs to the ball and leaves it there, I go to the ‘dead’ ball and pick it up myself, starting the whole process over. Sometimes this changes the dynamic, ie eventually he picks it up.
    2. runs to the ball, grabs it and stands there, I always try PRAISE and walking AWAY from my dog. Sometimes this encourages them to come to you. If it DOESN’T, then I try squeaking the ball in my hand and moving it around. SOMETIMES this causes the dog to drop his ball and run to you (then I go to his dropped ball and start all over again…) and sometimes it helps him to come to you with his ball.
    3. runs to the ball, grabs it, comes back to you, but doesn’t drop the ball??
    SQUEAK THE SQUEAKY BALL AGAIN, MAKE IT ALIVE. 9 times out of 10 they drop the ball. This helps to avoid the whole ‘drop it’ training, which I find very irritating at early phases of training (this is a quicker and useful ‘fix’).

    Things to be aware of (you will do this once and prob once only): If you are squeaking the ball around and bend over to grab the ‘dead’ one your dog just dropped, DO NOT SQUEAK THE SQUEAKY BALL IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE, do it off to the side. You might get an over-enthusiastic mouth in/on your face. Not fun.

    Why does this work? You dog ultimately wants the ‘alive’ thing (the squeaky ball), dead things are boring. Use this to your advantage.

    It sounds very, very complicated, but really it’s simple. I just tried to cover all the possibilities I’ve seen.
    Bottom line, squeak the squeaky, throw the other, dog doesn’t get it, pick up the dead one, start over. Dog brings it back, doesn’t drop the dead one, squeak, they drop, you start over.

    If your dog has the remotest interest in ball fetching or chasing, they will be interested with this dynamic. If they don’t, it’s prob not happening.

    All for now, hope it helps!