Thursday, October 22, 2015

Viva's adjusted behavior modification plan when dogs are in the area

Here is part one of this series of posts  Working with Viva who has reactive behaviors
I love this article  Misconceptions of Counterconditioning Leash Reactive Dogs lots of excellent information!
Again, I use the mantra of what  4paws university says:

Time to go back to basics around working with Viva's reactive behavior with dogs in the area. 

I begin the task of scoping out a place to start working with Viva. It has to be a location where I can control the distance in which she sees a dog.  Distance is extremely important when working with a reactive dog.  If you have enough distance the dog can think about what new behaviors to use.  If they can't think they revert to what has worked in the past.  Every dog has a different distance in which they can stay under threshold.  And for each dog that distance can change depending on what's going on in the environment and how they are doing emotionally.

I find a good environmental set up at Genesis dog park.  We can get about 100 yards away from the dogs in the  fairly small dog park.  I opt for this specific dog park for a couple of reasons.  The dogs stay contained by the fence in the park. The gate where the majority if people bring the dogs into the park is on the opposite side of where we will be stationed.  It's not a huge dog park so there just aren't that many dogs that come here.  And the biggest reason is the distance we can get from the park and the sight lines.   I also decide that coming early in the morning is best, when there are not so many dogs in the park.

A zoomed in picture of the dog park - you can see it's not huge and that works to our advantage.

The below video is the set up.  I park my car by the rocks and the rocks is where we are going to be stationed. I'm concerned about the walking path but, the sight lines are good enough that I can see a dog coming from a pretty good distance.  As I pan to the left you can see the large playing sports fields.  I have my car close so that if we need to go, I can quickly get Viva in my car and away from a dog.


 What we are doing is desensitation and counter conditioning.  You can hear and see Viva hard at work, trying to sort out her behavior choices.  I have bag of high value treats.

 We do ok considering this is our first time at this location. Viva is fully aware of the dogs at that dog park.  We only did this work for about 5 minutes.  This is hard work for Viva so, short training sessions are the way to go at this point. 
  In watching the below video, there were a couple of things I'm going to adjust.  I'm actually going to move to the east side of the rocks. It gives us more distance and me more visibility to see what is coming. The other adjustment is around the food reinforcer.  You can see how quick Viva is with catching the food and then going back to engaging with the environment. I would like to slow down how quickly she goes back to engaging in the environment.  I do have a plan of how to do this. Stay tuned for that as Viva and I have some prep training stuff to do before we get to that point.

Is this work challenging?  Yes it is. It can be emotionally tough when it doesn't seem like it's getting better and then exciting when you start seeing progress.    It is often a roller coaster ride when working with a reactive dog and you shouldn't give up.  Remember R.E.A.C.T and reread the article Misconceptions of Counterconditioning Leash Reactive Dogs.  I'm sure that going back to the basics with Viva (as I spoke about above) will give us positive results and it just takes time, flexibility, consistency in training and patience.

I find it sad that when I'm walking with my dogs and I see other people jerking their dogs and using other punishing behaviors because their dog is reactive on leash.  That jerking and other aversive stuff will actually make the behavior works and the dog is doing what works for them.  The human isn't keeping the dog feeling safe by managing the environment. And more often than not, the behavior is fear based.  

So, given the lack of daylight and my work schedule, we will be doing the above work on the weekends.  It's not ideal but, it's the best I can do at this point.  Stay tuned to see what we are doing for our early morning walks!

After our work above, it was time to find a park with great sight lines so that Viva could explore the environment on the long line.  We were at both parks early in the morning which is the best time to avoid seeing other not at the dog park.
Just because a dog has reactive behaviors on leash doesn't mean they can't get out and explore the environment.  It just means the human has be creative and flexible in terms of figuring out where to go.  So be creative, have a plan and manage the environment to the best of your ability. 

Working on recall

Watching the birds!

Then we find this

Viva has fun exploring this area

A playground that is free if kids

Time to head to the car

Busy morning for sure!

Tired and relaxed Viva!


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