A blog about dog training and dog breeding…and other sundry matters

Posts tagged ‘socializing puppies’

Is there Any Hope for a Reactive Dog?

I took Gretchen out night before last night.  It was late, and I went to the same shopping center as the previous night where she spent her time barking at people.  It’s a fairly well-lit parking lot, and there were people out and about at that late hour, so I felt relatively safe.

At such a late hour, I was able to keep Gretchen in an area where there were no people, but she could see folks walking entering and leaving a nearby KFC.  This was a perfect arrangement for us because it meant that I didn’t have people approaching the pup from every which direction, and I had a place to retreat with her if she went over threshold.

So here’s what I did:

1)  Took her immediately to the people-less area and let her sniff and explore.  I made sure that she would be able to see people at a distance.

2) When I saw that she was looking at people in the distance, I turned and walked the other direction with her BEFORE she started barking.  I praised her as I walked away.

3)  I then turned around again and walked towards where the people were, coming in a bit closer.  She looked, ears erect.  I again walked away with her praising her for not barking.  The idea is to let her see the people, but not bark.

4)  Rinse and repeat the above, but getting closer to the people.

Then we stopped for the night.  I had only one barking incident that was very brief, and that happened when I took her from the car en route to the “People-less” spot.

Lessons will resume today, but I’ll try to take her out during the daylight hours this time.  I feel there’s hope for this puppy, if I go about the socialization sessions in a consistent way that does not overwhelm the puppy.  I don’t think she’s barking out of fear, but it’s a behavior that I sure would like to stop because it will get worse as she gets older.

In the meantime, Tuvok, who has adjusted to going out with me and no longer barks or growls at people, will be accompanying me on errands again this morning.

Tuvok’s Adventures on the Town

Tuvok went on errands again today, and he was so well behaved.  Again, he didn’t bark at anyone or growl, and walked nicely on his leash with no pulling.

He sat when we got to the curbs and was only mildly curious when a black plastic bag floated in the wind in front of him.  My rottweiler got spooked once at an obedience competition when a bag similar to the one Tuvok saw floated in a gust of wind outside the ring.

No one stopped to play with Tuvok, but that was okay.  I’m not sure that he’s really into being petted by strangers at this point, but I’m hoping that very soon he will accept strangers approaching and interacting with him.

We weren’t out for very long because it was hot, and his little tongue was almost touching the ground.  I suspected that the pavement was hot, too, so we called it a day after about a half hour, and rested in the air conditioned car for a while before heading home for lunch and a nap. 

Tomorrow we won’t be able to go out because I have an insanely long day at work, but I will have Friday free, and will be able to take both dogs out separately.

Now, I’m off to dinner, but I shall take Gretchen out later.

Working with Reactive Dogs

Gretchen went out for socialization for the first time this week, yesterday to be exact.  It was a disaster.  She barked at people and I was most embarrassed because there are so few dog-friendly places in Jamaica, and whenever I take my dogs out I want them to be on their best behavior.  For 14 weeks, Gretchen has a big bark. 

Punishing her would only create greater aggression because she would associate humans with something negative–like being yelled at, or a leash pop.

I have taken, instead, a Pavlovian approach to helping her with this.  Whenever she sees humans, she gets clicked and a treat.  The idea is that she will associate humans with something good:  food.

The shopping mall parking lot, such as the one I went to both last night and tonight, were not suitable.  Gretchen was okay when the humans were a far distance from her.  Then she was sub-threshold and wouldn’t bark.  Once they got nearer, she would bark; she had then gone over threshold.  No one ever approached us directly, but people approached from many directions to get to their cars. 

Ideally, I should have kept her sub-threshold and simply sat with her and treated her.  That was what I did after it started getting late and most of the cars that were parked near us were gone.  She could see people several yards away remain calm and I would click and treat for no barking.

There is another shopping center that I can take her to tomorrow.  It has a HUGE parking lot that is rarely filled up.  I will take her to the furthest corner of the lot and just let her see people going into the stores from a far distance.

Thank God that I’m on vacation now (sort of), and can devote more time to training and socializing these puppies.  They learn so fast, but I’m feeling really worried about Gretchen.  I’m hoping that I will be able to help her with her reactivity towards humans.

Puppy Chronicles–Day 36

Monday, September 28, 2009

Puppies Day 36 001

Little Darlin plays with his crazy chicken



The puppies spent nearly one hour in their kennel sans mom, and they settled very nicely–no one screamed murder.   Then each puppy got to spend individual time with me.  We played a game of tug and the “let’s follow the human” game.  I tossed a ball, but they weren’t interested in going after it.  They are too young.

Cody played for a short while with her sister Athena, and I was so relieved that they played nicely.  I played a game of “relay fetch.”  It’s a simple game.  I hold two balls in my hand, toss one and send one dog to get it.  While she brings it back to me, I toss the other ball and send the other dog after it.  We keep this up for as long as I can stay coordinated.  It’s great exercise for me, and fun for the dogs.

Anyway, back to the puppies.  This is, afterall, their link.  Turbo Puppy and Little Darlin have learned how to stabilize their food dish with their paws.  Turbo Puppy has this cute habit of pulling the dish to her when she wants to eat.

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