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Discussion Starter #241 (Edited)
To me disengage means 'turn attention away from that thing'. Differential reinforcement of other behavior. So it is operant conditioning. I should be more specific, because I actually trained Brae to not just disengage, but engage with me. In yesterday's scenario, it would have been undesirable for him to look at the bear then look away and sniff around. The only desirable response was to look at me for direction OR come back to me. But for everyday distractions like people and dogs, I think 'look away' is fine. General disengage has numerous correct responses because of the DRO.

Counter conditioning on it's own is just classical conditioning. Operant and classical are always happening together so some counter conditioning is happening in disengage training. But for counter conditioning you aren't necessarily looking at any behavior. You are just changing emotion. So dog perceives another dog and immediately gets rewards.

Personally, I like starting with counter conditioning but very quickly switch to disengage/BAT/looking for a more specific response. It cuts down on the number of treats being used and it starts allowing people to deliberately use the environment as a reward.

ETA: Here's one more thing I'll add... I don't necessarily care what Brae's emotions about a trigger is (though he can't help but feel great because of R+ training). The correct answer will always be to disengage. I mean, I want him to be happy and confident, and he is. But if he sees something like a bear, a trigger I cannot predictably train around, I am not going to go in and try to make him like bears by doing counter conditioning. I would hope that by that point his training to disengage is generalized, and it is. I also have found that for dogs who are actually fearful and reactive, disengage helps a lot with their confidence. Because the truth is there are some dogs who will never like other dogs. I think CC is important for those dogs, but ultimately they need to learn that it's good/okay/possible to disengage and let it go... even if they still don't like that scary thing.
 

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Discussion Starter #242
Brae's so acrobatic, I tried this on a whim and got him to flip on the first try (the vid is not the first try)


I didn't plan on teaching him things like flips and rebounds because he's big. He's about 72 lbs these days but he does not move like one. But throughout his life so far he's been doing crazy stuff like this without much prompting. And he does it with ease. A week ago I was doing an easy hike with him and he was playing with a ~20-30lb dog that was hyper and really engaging Brae. They were chasing side by side and both dogs leapt forward. Brae was going forward, the other dog was doing a body slam/shoulder check into Brae. And I kid you not... The dog bounced off Brae mid-air.

Super athletic dog. My partner and I both groan when we realize he's only gonna get bigger and stronger.
 

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Discussion Starter #243
I'm really proud of Brae today. It was his first Tricks class as a demo dog. This required him to be in a crate while I directed the class, and demonstrating a few skills throughout the course. I was nervous because although Brae isn't reactive and he is great with dogs, he is pretty whiny if there's something exciting going on without him in it.

Well, he whined a bit. But by and large he was perfect. The class was a bit rowdy (young, happy dogs) and Brae mostly just lied in the crate and watched. I gave him ample amounts of Kongs and rewards for calm. But really, he did it. And each time I took him out to demo, he was on point. For being very dog social, he was totally focused on me and not distracted by the other dogs, even though the classroom is small and there was a dog barking at him while he was demonstrating at a few points.

I am really, really proud of him. He is more than everything I ever wanted him to be. I did not expect this, and I certainly didn't expect it at 1.5 years of age. Brae's proven himself in every situation I've put him in... on water, on a hike, carrying a pack, running with a bike, facing a bear, around children, in a classroom.... But really, today's situation was one of the final tests. It was one of the last things I really wanted him to be good at, that I was hesitant about. And from this point forward it's just more of everything he's already been doing. I'm excited for the future. I have a really great partner to walk in this world with.

~~
All this can't be said without appreciation and love for Soro, of course. The whole reason why Brae was even in class tonight is I am officially retiring Soro from classroom work. At almost 12.5 yrs, he's just... old. Sor still has great appetite and light in his eyes. But the limp is constant now, and you can tell he gets tired from even simple things. Last year in the kid's camp he couldn't wait to do all the things. This year, he did them and he did well, but he was also happy, maybe even relieved, to lie down and let Brae get his turn. His favorite part was when the kids pet him at the end. Also, over the last few months I've noticed some hesitation about being in the classroom. Maybe it's the tile floors. Maybe things aren't sounding or looking like they used to for him. Either way, he's telling me he's ready for retirement. But Sor was the absolute best in the classroom, back in his day. Alright, maybe he woofed or grumbled at a dog or two that gave him too much eye :) But despite all his challenges with dogs, he never had an issue helping me in various classes, and doing a great job at it too. And... being an absolutely stellar good boy on top of it all.

So I write this with a lot of pride, and also some weight in my heart. I know Soro's still alive and well and all. But this is pretty significant for me. My boy has gotten old. My puppy has grown up. The torch has been passed. And I just think, what a privilege to be part of dogs' lives like this.
 

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Discussion Starter #244
Brae's growing up! Today, he resourced guarded for the first time. It was between him and a dog he grew up with through puppyhood. She went after his ball, he head flipped and barked at her a few times. She still took it, he tried to take it back, she air snapped (or maybe even made contact with his face), I called him off and/or he backed off.

He's becoming increasingly interested in toy interaction, which is kind of scary because it's not like he was lacking in drive before. I still have no worries about him meeting other dogs. He is still social in that he is very eager to meet ANY dog. And appropriate enough that he calmly moves on if the other dog gives him an appropriate warning, or even body language indicating they are not interested. But I knew from the start Brae was not the kind of dog that could calmly mingle in a group of dogs. Today, and a few weeks ago on a hike with a different dog he knows very well, he played with his dog friend and eventually overwhelmed the other dog. He goes vertical and uses his paws a lot. He knocked over the other dog (only 5# or so lighter than him) a couple times, and he didn't let up even when she was tucking tail and moving away. I had to call him off, and surprisingly I had to repeat myself and use my loud voice. Once I stopped him, he was right as rain and kept walking and sniffing the trail. The other dog immediately recovered and continued on as well. Over the course of an hour, there was the one RG situation and the one moment of play tipping over. Otherwise, he coexisted well with the two other dogs, or went after large sticks, and we played fetch with two balls in the river.

But it just goes to show, he's not a dog I'm going to bring to dog social gatherings or dog parks. I don't think there's a mean bone in his body and when things escalate, it's only because he wants to continue to INTERACT and play. But it's just too much sometimes. I have not yet seen him be overwhelmed by another dog. And I would not be surprise if he fought with another dog in an escalating situation before he toned himself down. None of this is surprising or concerning for me. If he was on leash he would be totally calm. And I have long expected that any dog with intense motivation for play (tug, fetch, etc) or even food has the inclination to be intense overall, or at least not want to share with other dogs.

I love him just the same!
 

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Discussion Starter #245 (Edited)
(Sorry, messed up photo formats here)

Not much to write, just a huge photo dump. This is from the last week or so. Long hikes, trail smart, being good around other dogs and people, all terrain all day... Nothing is an issue for this dog.

Ball motivated. I didn't even try to develop this drive because I didn't necessarily need a fetch-crazy dog. But he is. When the ball is out around water, in particular, nothing else matters.
6PLXGVj.jpg

We're in the photo! It's just a pretty big waterfall. Ripe huckleberries all along the edges.


The one caveat to fearlessness... He wanted to go through dangerous rapids to get sticks (read: trees) from the other side. Verbal cues work, but because I was distracted by berries and picture taking, the leash went on.


A few pics from our hike to an alpine lake today.
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I keep him pretty active. We do SOMETHING stimulating pretty much every day. Sometimes it's more brain work like nosework. Sometimes it's distance heavy like a long hike. Sometimes it's intense, like weight pull or spring pole. But it's no surprise that he sleeps well every night and has no trouble settling in the house these days.
 

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Gorgeous pictures and even more gorgeous dog! I wish we had views like that around here! Looks like such a blast.
 

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Discussion Starter #247
Thanks sydneynicole! I definitely moved away from everything I ever knew to find places like this
 

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You've inspired me to try out a few new summits in my area with my doggo this weekend :) The views won't be anything like this, but it should be fun. Thanks for the inspiration!
 

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Discussion Starter #250
Another first today.

This morning before anyone was awake I heard growling and low woofs. I was half awake but quickly realized it was Brae. My house is really small but Brae sleeps in the living room and our bedroom door is generally open, with Soro in the bedroom. So it was surely Brae. My partner got up to investigate, since neither of us had ever heard Brae growl before. I think it was just a stranger pausing and listening to a podcast or something in front of the house.

Still, I'm pretty glad about this development since historically Brae has been non reactive to any sounds outside. Though he does bark at first when a guest first comes in and he is in his crate. But he is still non reactive to all the other sounds that happen in our neighborhood, and I would be fine with a dog warning me about someone lingering in front of the house.
 

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Discussion Starter #253
I did it again.

We haven't biked in a while and I thought today would be a lovely day to go out. The trail I picked is heavily used and well marked, out and back, and it steadily climbs into some real wilderness areas. I've been there countless times (where I saw the bears this summer), just usually in a less biked portion. My goal was to push uphill for 4 miles and then cruise back downhill to make it a nice, round, 8 mile trip. The weather was gorgeous and I pedaled along. On and on we went, until I got the itching feeling that I missed my marker and that we'd been going quite a while. I stopped to check Brae's paws, which were fine. And I decided that since we were both in great spirits, we'd press forward. Ultimately, we reached a large stone bridge overlooking a wild river. Good place to stop, I thought, and I turned back. On the way back I asked a biker about the bridge and how far from the trailhead it was. Lo and behold... We had gone 8 miles out! So by the time we got back to the car, the trip was twice as long as I'd intended and Brae had done 16 miles at a trot and gallop.

Got home, he immediately started chewing on a bone. He fell asleep with it in his mouth. But he's still awake enough to look up and wag his tail at me as I type this :)

So, I need to get better about my navigation in general. But it's nice to have a dog I trust. Brae never slowed down and I know that he will never give up. I don't need to look over my shoulder to know that he's right there.





 

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Good job, Brae! And you! That's a big day! Sounds like a lot of fun.
 

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They went well, thanks for asking! In the past two weekends we've explored two new (to us) state parks, and climbed two mountains that we haven't been to before. Although 3 out of the 4 locations we probably won't be back to for various reasons, 1 of them will definitely be staying in the circuit! I have my sights set on Acadia National Park and I hope to get there sometime this fall.

Your adventures with Brae continue to inspire me :) My dog can do 5-6 miles comfortably now, but I'd love to get some longer and tougher hikes in as we build up some endurance now that it has cooled down.
 

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Discussion Starter #259
It's hard to believe Brae will be 2 at the end of January! He is still just the best. Some minor updates...

-He's fully transitioned into Soro's old 'job' of being my demo dog. He'll be totally calm and settled in a crate, with five other dogs working in sight, and be steady yet eager when I take him out for his turn. He also has no issues being loose in my office, which is adjacent to the training room, even if there is a class full of puppies or barking dogs or people popping in and out all the time. He's just so steady and stable.

-He's getting a little more nervy as he matures too. I still wouldn't peg him as a hair-trigger kind of dog like a lot of Mals and other herding dogs I've seen. But he jumps at things he didn't jump at before. It's not a severe fear response and the recovery is instantaneous. But I always remember that he is a shepherd and I do expect him to see the world differently (ex. people walking in the dark) as he continues to mature. It's very slight, like my partner probably wouldn't notice this difference. But I see these minor differences.

-He's pushing boundaries. Sort of because I've let him a little. For example, I thought it was endearing when he went behind me and stole his toy while I was listening to the instructor in our Freestyle class. But because I let him do that, he's starting to sucker punch me in the gut and grab toys from under my arm before I give him a release cue. Maybe not so cute? :D

-He's still social with dogs but not overly so. We were at a fundraising event that involved a hiking trail and probably a hundred dogs or so. No issues interacting when I let him, ignoring all of the dogs except the ones in our group. No issues meeting any dogs so far.

-He still will bite anyone. My partner was saying last night as we were walking in the snow, 'I wish I could play with Brae without him biting me.' I said 'chase him! he loves that!' Well, my partner chased Brae, and with that forward pressure Brae immediately jumped and bit him. I said 'weird, I can chase him.' So I chased him, and Brae immediately whipped his head around and bit me. This was all totally play and not hard bites, but I can see him escalating if we ever pushed him harder. I put a ball in Brae's mouth, and then we could both chase him with him playing keep-away like a normal dog.


Overall though, there is no situation I don't trust him in and he's just perfect :D
 

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Discussion Starter #260 (Edited)
I very rarely carry around a camera these days, and even rarer is when I have someone to film. But were in the right place at the right time to get some footage of me playing with Brae. We did a few minutes of disc, tug, and flirtpole. Here's a compilation:


(no sound because it's all wind and crunchy ice)

Otherwise, life has been the usual. Brae showed no changes when we lost Soro. He's just the happiest dog, happy to do literally anything with his people. My partner's biggest complaint is "I wish I could pet him without him going zero to sixty" but Brae is an amazing fit for our active little family. We don't have any huge plans this upcoming year. I'm working on some tricks here and there but really we just live and play together.

One video I will strive to get... Brae loves being pet SO MUCH that he'll even 'solicit petting' from pine trees of the right height. Like he'll just weave back and forth in the branches with his head thrown back, tongue out, back arched. Such. A. Goober.
 
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