Friday, May 31, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 16

Trip to Petco, May 31

Not having met our 5 person stranger quota, when I got home from work, Doug asked what was for dinner. I told him we needed to run up to Petco so Spur could meet two more strangers. When we got in the car, I realized that what Doug had thought to be doggie treats was actually a package of kitty treats. So, the plan was, when we got to the Petco, Doug would practice some heeling in the parking lot while I ran in to get some cat food and a package of doggie treats. When I came out with the goods, I headed straight for the car. Doug was practicing a heel and walked Spur right by me, keeping his attention so Spur wouldn’t come toward me as I passed. It really was beautiful!

I put the cat food in the trunk and opened the dog treats. We walked back up toward the front entrance of the store. Doug and Spur stopped in a grassy median in the parking lot, closest to the entrance. As I spotted people, I’d call out, “Do you like dogs?” If they said, “Yes,” I continued, “My dog doesn’t like people and we’re trying to train him. Do you have a moment to help us out?” Everyone I asked was willing to help. I’d tell them not to look at my dog, and to ignore him if he barked. “Just stand straight and throw this treat at him.” I think Spur “OOF’d at one or two, but didn’t do his normal crazy, frenzied barking. When the groomer came out for her smoke break I asked her, too. I figured she’d had a lot of experience with shy, crazy dogs. She ignored my plea to stand and throw; she bent over and held the treat in a flat hand. Spur took it from her and backed up quickly. As she stood and talked with us more, Spur approached her again to sniff for more treats. I gave her more and she offered them to Spur. He was getting much more comfortable about sniffing people out to see if they had food. It was a slow night at the Petco, but I was able to get 5 people to throw (or hand) food at Spur! What PROGRESS!!! We were feeling confident, and since the store wasn’t busy, we decided to try to venture in with Spur. We found the (replacement) beehive with squeaky bees was on sale. We decided he’d done such a great job, he’d earned it. When we got to the checkout, the girl at the register remembered Spur from his last trip in and how he’d gone off on one of the store managers. She was able to feed Spur some treats and remarked on his progress. When we left the store, there were a few more people I could have asked to throw food at Spur, but we wanted to end on a good note…

We also stopped at the gas station to fill Doug’s tank, get a soda and a couple of soft pretzels. Spur hasn’t had a lot of good luck at gas stations, so while Doug filled the tank, I held Spur’s remote and tried to re-direct and distract him with treats. Another vehicle had a small yappy dog and Spur heard it. He didn’t immediately bark, but I was ready. He began to focus his sight on a man filling his car in front of us. As he began to really focus, I nicked him once. He barked once so I nicked him again and he barked one more time. That was it, so I didn’t tap anymore. And really, I don’t know if he barked because he was going to bark anyway, or if he barked because I tapped his remote. When Doug finished filling the tank, we pulled up to the convenience store for that soda and pretzels. I went in for those and Doug said Spur didn’t bark at anyone while I was in the store. What a GREAT night! What progress!!! I’m still skeptical, but I hope we’ve turned a corner!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 15

Trip to Tractor Supply, May 28

I kept reminding Doug of his homework… so he took Spur out on Tuesday night. They went up to the Tractor Supply. From what I recall, Doug said the store was not all that busy that evening. Spur had some issues when they arrived. But Doug got him to calm rather quickly. Doug was able to talk two people into getting some of Spur’s treats and throwing to Spur.

Three down, two to go.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 14

Post Class visit to Jann’s, May 25

Before class that day, we dropped our son, Ian, off at Doug’s sister’s house. Jann only lives a couple of miles from the animal hospital where classes are held. Ian was going to help his Aunt hang some shutters on her house. After our class, we returned to Jann’s to let Spur meet (again) Jann and to collect Ian. Jann’s neighborhood is one of those Neo-Traditional ones with narrow streets, the little cottage-size houses on tiny pieces of land with alleyways and garages behind. We pulled up behind Jann’s and I took Spur, and his remote, off on a quick exercise in “Heel.” As we walked the sidewalk back toward Jann’s, he spotted a stranger; it was Jann was looking at the progress on her house. He began to bark loudly and aggressively. I nicked him and reversed direction. He was really interested in the “stranger” down the sidewalk. We did a lot of back and forth walking on that sidewalk before we were able to finally make it all the way down to Jann’s. We practiced “sit” and “down.” Doug had briefed Jann on not looking at him and ignoring his bark. He gave her some treats to throw at him. Spur noticed his dad there, talking to the “stranger” and he also noticed Ian. I think those two things calmed Spur down some, but he still wasn’t too sure of that “stranger.”

The “stranger” walked into the street and called to him, “Spur, sit!” He did and she threw a treat at him. “Spur, sit!” Again, he sat and she threw another treat. He was getting used to this “stranger” when Jann’s neighbor came out to water her plants and sweep her porch. As I said, the houses in this community are spaced very close together, so really, this neighbor was not that far away from us. I worried that Spur would act up. But we held his attention with some re-directs and treats. Spur made no noise with this stranger close by.

A little while later, on the other side of the street, a man with a small dog (possibly a Maltese) were walking. The Maltese spotted us and barked, setting Spur into a terrible aggressive barking frenzy. He took off toward the man and Maltese, jerked my arm and the leash was loose. I tried grabbing the leash with my other hand and it zipped right through my fingers giving me a nasty leather burn. Luckily, Doug and Ian had been right next to me and each of them was able to grab the leash before Spur made it even ½-way into the street. The commotion caused several other dogs, inside their homes, to start barking. We could hear them all. OOPS! One across-the-street neighbor poked her head out of her front door to check on the excitement. Jann assured her that everything was under control; that Spur was visiting and in training. Really, that was the last of Spur’s negative antics for this visit. We stayed about another ½ hour to 45 minutes. Ian and Jann finished hanging the shutters on Jann’s house. We chatted. Jann got pictures and was able to feed Spur from her flat hand. He was becoming more comfortable with this “stranger” and we were able to leave on a good note.

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 13

Class Day 9, May 25

Our Private class with Sam (female) was held at the Pineville location at the same time as a Group Class was being held. Since Spur needs so much of this desensitization, I love that we have a chance to work with the extra people, dogs and distractions. It’s also such a help to have a trainer there with us to guide us when Spur gets out of hand.

We did the normal, walk around the entire Group Class while they’re practicing their activities. We walked down through the middle of the class when it was separated to two sides. Additional spectators were there (most likely also co-owners of the dogs in the Group Class, but sitting out while only one owner works with their dog.) We gave the spectators some of Spur’s food and treats and had them hold it out in a flat hand for Spur to take from them. Spur seemed to get pretty comfortable with these three spectators and continued to approach them to sniff them and see if they had more food/treats.

Probably one of the BEST activities we’ve done to date was Spur-in-the-Middle. LOL! It was similar to musical chairs for the Group Class. The class walked around a ring of place boards. When Courtney would call for them to put their dog in a sit, that’s what they had to do. Then, once the dogs were in their sit-stay, they (the owners/handlers) had to go put their foot on an empty place board. At the call of Courtney, they would call their dogs to them. All this was done with Spur, on a place board, in the center of the ring of place boards. Doug would have to keep Spur’s attention while the chaos of running, excited owners would come toward him to their place boards, and then as the dogs would also come running toward him. We did about 4 or 5 rounds of this exercise and Spur (and Doug) did an awesome job.

Homework for the week was to get at least 5 new people/strangers to throw food/treats at Spur. This would teach Spur that the sudden hand movement was not threatening, and that strangers offer good things/Yummies.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 12

Vet Visit, May 20

Doug needed to take Spur into the vet for some vaccinations, a heartworm test, etc. Doug didn’t know what the vet’s stance on e-collars was, so he opted NOT to have Spur in the collar for this visit. I was so worried about how Spur would behave. Sure enough, there’s a little (like, no more than 18” tall) bronze statue outside of the vet’s entrance that Spur just HATES! EVERY TIME I take him over there, when he gets sight of it, he begins barking furiously at it. I’ve tried to ease him over to it with treats, so he can sniff it and see it doesn’t move. It just doesn’t matter. He hates that little statue.

And this day was no exception. Doug said he tried to get Spur to sniff the statue, but Spur backed right up and kept barking. I’ll have to see if I can get a picture of this little thing. I don’t have a clue what makes Spur so wary of it.

Doug said, when they got inside, they put a muzzle on Spur. He still barked nutso and the tech asked for Spur’s leash. The tech took Spur outside for a little, calming walk so Spur wouldn’t have to feel like he was protecting Doug. The little walk helped his demeanor. The tech took him in the back for his vaccinations and HW test and he came back to the room without the muzzle. When the vet or another tech walked in, Spur would give a warning bark, but Doug was able to quiet him more quickly than usual.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 11

Class Day 8, May 18

Our class had originally been scheduled for 11:00 am, in Pineville at the Animal Hospital. However, a few weeks prior, I saw that there was going to be a group class, at 9:00 am in Huntersville. I asked on the FB page if it would be OK to bring Spur; not to participate in the class, but to work him on the side so he could get used to the distractions. At our May 11, class, Courtney agreed that she could be present at the group class to work with us in lieu of attending our 11:00 class.

Upon arriving, still in the car, Spur saw the people and dogs and began his normal, “HEY! I NEED YOU TO STAY AWAY FROM ME, MY CAR, MY PEOPLE!!!” We were able to settle him down and remove him from the car without too much display from him. Once we walked over closer to the class, he started back up. Courtney took his leash and remote and began a brisk walk away from the class, working on healing and looking at her.

As the group class lined up on the sidewalk beside the animal hospital, Doug walked Spur along the curb. Spur would pick out one or two dogs or people to go nuts on. So Frustrating! So Disheartening! When will this boy learn??? Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap… And CONTINUOUS when he goes nuts! A few more rounds of walking back and forth beside the group class, and he was beginning to ignore the excitement from the class with fewer Taps. Even when the group class practiced stays and comes (with running dogs) Doug was beginning to realize what I’ve been telling him about keeping Spur’s attention during a period of distraction. If Doug can keep Spur’s attention, Spur will ignore the activity going on behind him. It’s a wonderful thing.

There was one man there with an Australian Cattle Dog that has been known to be dog aggressive. Evidently the training is working very well for them. Spur didn’t pick up on any cues from this ACD. While practicing “Place” the man asked if he could practice walking his ACD around Spur while Spur stayed on “Place.” The man circled Spur while Doug kept Spur’s attention. The man circled closer. The man changed direction so his dog was closer to Spur. Spur did GREAT! The man then offered to take Spur’s leash and handed his ACD to me. He practiced walking around the back of Spur and stepping away. Spur stayed on his “Place.” The man, feeling more comfortable with Spur, bent down to pet Spur and Spur did his normal jump up in excitement and bumped the man’s nose. However, this time, the man, used to aggressive dogs, didn’t jump back, didn’t flinch and Spur didn’t go into any aggressive motions. The man’s family came over to see what was up since they didn’t see them in the Group Class. The family had two young girls. Spur didn’t seem to have any issue with them, even as they were fidgety and flailing arms. We all talked about our dogs and their issues.

During the class, Spur had an opportunity to join in the activity that the group class was doing. He did well. We also talked to a woman that previously owned a people aggressive shepherd. She knew exactly what we were going through. She assured us that, while it won’t get cured, it will get better. All in all, even with the few outbursts by Spur, here and there, it really ended up being a good class. The distractions were just enough to help Doug realize what he needs to do when we know Spur’s going to have an outburst.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 10

Class Day 7, May 11

I had some work to do at the office, so I drove separate from Doug. When I got there, there was another couple with their dog. Our classes were going to overlap. When Doug arrived with Spur, Spur gave his normal, loud, aggressive “Hello” to the other students. Will he ever get over it??? The other students headed up to work inside the garage. It was a sunny day and warmer than it’s been in a long time. More typical for May.

We introduced “place” to Spur. We tried to work in the garage, but Spur was still too interested in telling the others to stay away. We worked just outside the garage, still within earshot of the others that were inside the garage. About mid-way through the class, we tried entering the garage again. By now, Spur was hot and tired enough, and more used to the other people that he didn’t seem to mind them in his space. We worked place, getting closer and closer to the other people. At one point, the others were standing, talking and their large dog was lying down relaxed. Courtney took Spur’s leash and remote and tried getting Spur to go “Place” on the place board right next to the relaxing dog. A little tiff ensued, but Courtney got Spur to settle pretty quick. And she tried again. This time with much better results. Then, it was my turn. He did pretty well. We also practiced “come.” Courtney and I would try to distract him and Doug had to call Spur to him. Everything was going pretty well. The other couple left with their dog so Courtney had Sam come over and take Spur’s leash and work with him. Spur had absolutely no problem whatsoever with this “new” person. Courtney had Sam go ask one of the vet tech’s at the animal hospital (where we have classes) to come over and work with Spur some. Spur did great with this “new” person, too! We were told that this vet tech was awesome with all types of dogs and had a way to read them. She agreed that Spur has a “look” in his eye that says, “I’m still not too sure about you. You need to keep it under control, lady, or I might eat your face.” Not what you want your dog to demonstrate. We were given a “Place” board to take home and practice with.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 9

Class Day 6, May 4

Brrr! It’s awfully chilly for May in North Carolina! We decided to stay at the training facility and work on obedience commands that will be needed to join Group Classes. We headed inside the building (basically a 4-car garage) and began training on the command “Come.” We also worked on “Come” with distractions. At one point, Courtney had a tub of peanut butter (barely any left in the container) and I sat on the floor with kibble in my hands. She and I would get Spur’s attention and Doug would have to call Spur to him. The object is to get Spur to come on the first call, have him sit in front and stay until released. Courtney was surprised at how loving and snuggly he was with me. Spur was acting calm and relaxed like he is at home. Spur is getting much more comfortable with Courtney. We determined that he’s truly fearful. We stomped around the garage and he would turn quickly and bark.

Class was going well. Then, near the end, Courtney released her mini Aussie, Berkley, from his crate. Spur and Berkley were having a nice time getting to know each other. Berkley also has fear issues, but he avoids and cowers instead of acting aggressively like Spur. Courtney grabbed an antler off a table and let the dogs have a look at it. Courtney was still holding it as Spur started to chomp a bit on it. Berkley came up to see what they had and Spur got nasty; aggressive, mean. Shortly after that, Turk (the owner of the training company) abruptly opened the door and loudly came in (Turk has a big personality, anyway, and his greetings are always exuberant!) Spur began barking loudly and somewhat aggressively; Berkley, who’s typically afraid of Turk, came close to see what the commotion was and Spur turned and grabbed at Berkley’s back, getting a mouthful of Berkley’s hair in his mouth. I felt so bad. Courtney had a hold of Spur’s leash and was correcting him while Berkley cowered and looked for someplace to get away from Spur. It was a terrible end to a decent class. Sigh.