Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A new park for learning and having fun

I found a new park adventure for the two of us! It's about a 10 minute drive from our house and it's called Jefferson Park This it the sixth largest park in Seattle and it has wonderful sight lines and there's tons to do.  

Again I'm looking for locations with minimal dogs and good sight lines because Viva is very dog reactive when on leash.  As we are working on creating a behavioral foundation to help Viva work through the reactivity, she still needs to get exercise and environmental enrichment.  So, it's my job to find us places where she can be successful when we are outside.

Viva taking in the environment

Off we go, the park has trees and different shelters but, it's very easy to see what is coming towards us.

A solar picnic shelter 

Again notice how you can see all around you. I have Viva on a 25 foot long line which she's thrilled about.  I do have a 6ft nylon leash with me just in case we need to switch up.

Viva tends to be reactive with people & other moving things (bikes, strollers, skateboards) when she's on leash. With people & moving things, we have started training using Desensitization (DS) and Counter conditioning (CC).

Desensitization is the process of exposing the dog to a trigger, at a distance where the dog is "under-threshold" or not reactive. Little by little, the gap between the reactive dog and the trigger is closed and the dog is rewarded for practicing an alternate behavior.  

Counter-conditioning means to change the dog's association to the trigger.  If your dog receives great things when the trigger appear, she will slowly begin to associate the presence of the trigger with the delivery of good things.  This isn't a verbal "good girl," but something amazing like hot dogs or cheese.  The goal is to change the emotional state of the dog, to the anticipation of good things.

This is often accomplished through the process of rewarding the dog for doing something other than the reactive behavior - like looking at the human.  This is where the work we've been doing at home comes into play.  That work started day one, with intensive environmental management and us constantly reinforcing Viva with high value food when she would look to us rather than the trigger (which was Catty and D'light).  How did we get to this point here's the steps:

Dog sees trigger = food falling from the sky (don't care about dogs behavior) - practice, practice, practice.

Dog sees trigger  = dog begins to anticipate food falling from sky and glances back to see where the food is coming from - practice, practice, practice.

Dog sees trigger = dog anticipates food falling from sky and looks back at where food is coming from and food is give to dog - practice, practice, practice.- emotional state is changing -  Practice, practice, practice.

So, by using classical conditioning, DS/CC while managing the environment we are doing great! Here's a great link with helpful definitions Training jargon

Here are some good links explaining DS/CC

Viva watching the people off in the distance.  After quietly watching this person for a good 15 seconds she then looked at me.  Perfect and she was reinforced for this behavior.

Checking out more of the park

In one section of the park, there's a gradual slope.  I found this and I'm assuming that it means we are 326 feet above sea level.

At the top of the slope and you can see downtown Seattle off in the distance

We practice a sit.  Now one might think this is easy since Viva has such a prompt sit but, the environment impacts dogs in all kinds of ways.  Viva gave me a very slow sit which I'm sure was due to her not feeling secure in the environment.  Hard to get away or be in an alert stance if you are just sitting.  What I took away from this was that I need to put "sit" on the back burner as a behavior I want when we are outside.  She's just not comfortable with this right now so no need to be asking for it.
Viva takes treats very gently.

Watching the people that are about 50 feet away.  After some watching the people move away, she looks to me and is reinforced.

Time to get moving

So much to smell and this was a great experience for Viva!

Off to the next section of the park

Wait til you see what we find!

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