Puppy Forum and Dog Forums banner

1 - 20 of 21 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,403 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I've enrolled Oliver in a class for reactive dogs at a local training facility near me.

The class is called "Cool, Calm, and Collected" and is geared towards any dog that is reactive but can be controlled and is overall safe. Their are only 5 people allowed in the class per session, and I was on a wait list for quite some time. Now we are in!

My main end-goal that I am hoping to achieve is to be able to have him in a room with other dogs and be able to focus and learn, as I would like to get into some formal and consistent agility and rally classes with him. I also would like to learn how to read him better and be able to manage our walks better.

The first class was a bit of an introduction, sans the dogs. The instructor went over some basic, broad knowledge about reactivity and general dog-wellness, some of which I knew, some of which was new to me. We discussed NILF and PILF. For homework, we have been assigned "SMART x50" where we mark and reward for any good behavior (like looking out a window and not barking, settling, laying on their bed, etc) at least 50 times a day. The instructor told us to try and move our walks to more nature-y, woodsy type locations, which is the majority of my walks already, anyways.

This Thursday is our first class where the dogs will be present. We will be leaving the dogs in the car at the start of class, meeting up to get the game plan, and then we will be entering one by one. There are panels to break lines of sight, and barriers to form little pens, for each dog/handler. We were warned that it will be hectic the first class, but she told us to remember the first day and then we can compare it to week 6.

I'm excited to get started. From the descriptions everyone else gave of their dogs, it sounds like Oli may be the most severe case of reactivity of the bunch, but we will see.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,296 Posts
Sounds cool! I hope you have a great experience!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,744 Posts
Sounds like a great opportunity! Some of what you're already doing is very similar to what I'm doing with Sam and what I've read about. Grisha Stewart also really likes SMART x50, and "decompression walks" in the woods have been a huge help to us.

Wishing him best of luck!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,403 Posts
Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Sounds cool! I hope you have a great experience!
Thanks! I hope so too. I did the basic puppy classes with him when I got him at 5 months old, but didn't have the best experience. After that, I did a lot of reading and did my best with the rest of his training myself. This facility seems much more geared towards my training style/philosophy. Fingers crossed!


Sounds like a great opportunity! Some of what you're already doing is very similar to what I'm doing with Sam and what I've read about. Grisha Stewart also really likes SMART x50, and "decompression walks" in the woods have been a huge help to us.

Wishing him best of luck!
Yes, I'm excited to have gotten in and to have found this facility, and especially this specific trainer who solely teaches these types of classes for reactive/anxious/fearful dogs. Thank you for the luck! I'll be updating this as we (hopefully lol) progress.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,450 Posts
Wow that sounds like a great class! I wish we had something like that here for Kane.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
123 Posts
That's great, I hope you and Oliver have a lot of success! My local humane society offers the same class, with what sounds like a very similar setup, and a friend found it tremendously helpful for her reactive dog.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,403 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
We had our first class on Thursday.

Oli had been a little off on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I was keeping an eye on him, thinking maybe the cold weather was making him not want to go outside much. Thursday morning, I woke up to him lethargic and completely non-weight bearing on his hind left leg. I got him into the vet where he tested positive for Lyme (we live only about 40 minutes from Lyme, CT, where Lyme Disease gets its name from. Loads of dogs around here have Lyme, even with religious tick medication.) He got antibiotics and pain meds and by the afternoon was feeling much better, basically back to himself, no longer limping. I had asked the vet about whether or not to attend class, and she said that if he was feeling better and his temp was normal (he had a slight fever) he could go, since the class isn't something strenuous like agility. I made the call just before class that he could go.

Everything went very smoothly. We started off discussing how to read dog body language, and then she had us bring our dogs in one at a time to do a 'sweep' of the room, where we called out our observations about their body language while in the room.

Once all of us had done a sweep, we then one by one retrieved our dogs from our cars again and filed back into the room, separated by baby gates covered in sheets so that none of our dogs could see each other. The trainer commented that typically this is when things go haywire, and she is usually screaming over dogs that are totally freaking out. There wasn't a peep and everyone was happily eating treats in their little cubbies.

After several minutes we started to file back out, one by one. The instructions were to head immediately for the exit, and to absolutely not let our dogs approach any people/dogs in their areas. Of course, one lady wasn't listening and turned back when she reached the end of the room and her dog came pretty close to our pen. Oli lunged forward barking, but I was able to quickly regather him. I'm actually kind of glad that happened, because she had us leave last after his little outburst, which meant more dogs passed us while I fed him treats to keep him busy, getting us more exposure than everyone else got. At no point did I feel he was ever "over threshhold".

The trainer was speaking with us about how a lot of trainers would tell us to avoid other people and dogs like the plague in between classes - that keeping them under threshold is critical, inside and outside of class. However her philosophy is that that isn't realistic, that we don't live in bubbles, and she would rather teach the dogs to take a moment to assess and judge the room instead of instantly reacting (not her exact words, but the gist). I enjoy her perspective on things because she has a lot of the same philosophies that I have, with a little twist, and obviously is much more knowledgeable and experienced than I am.

I wanted to write more, but alas, it is finals week and my brain is fried.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,296 Posts
Glad you had a good experience and that Oli recovered well from that small incident :)


I'm in the midst of creating a reactivity course because it's sorely needed in my area. I agree that we can't keep our dogs in a bubble. There is a balance somewhere between reaction-recovery, and prevention-decompression. I think it varies for each dog. I think the biggest challenge is recreating classroom experiences (keeping dog under threshold, predictable distance and intensity of triggers, etc.) in the real world. Programs that focus too much on pure classical conditioning (open bar/closed bar, feed food the moment your dog sees another dog, LAT, etc.) can be limiting. Which isn't to say those games aren't useful, because they are. I've heard some people say that some reactive rover type classes were too reliant on luring or too basic. I appreciate your recounting of your experience and hopefully I'll have a comprehensive course running in my area soon so my organization can start helping those pups outside of private lessons.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,403 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Maybe it's total coincidence, but we were walking at a park today and there was a dog playing frisbee with its owner in the (fenced) baseball field. We passed within 50 feet of the dog near the fence on our way in. Oli looked and observed, but moved on quickly. On our way out, we walked down the side of the baseball field, probably about 15 feet from the fence. The owner and dog were doing laps around the perimeter of the fence and at one point were walking parallel to us. The other dog even barked at Oli. Oli did his usual marking of a stump and was definitely watching the other dog, but again, not a peep. He was on a 100 foot long line during this with a lot of slack in the line. Normally, he would have been going bonkers just from seeing the dog from 50 feet away.

Whether or not I can attribute this to the singular class he attended, I'm not sure. It could be that he is still a little sluggish from the Lyme (although he is acting normal otherwise), that this dog was sending out a lot of "friendly!!! calm!!!" signals, or who knows what else. But I guess it wouldn't be all that far fetched that a good, positive experience in a room full of dogs, whether he interacted with them or not, was a bit of a confidence boost for him.

The trainer has put a big emphasis on the fact that we have dogs with "big feelings" and I believe she is trying to address the problem (not being able to handle their emotions or assess a situation before reacting) rather than just the symptoms (barking, lunging, etc). While I understand this approach may not work for every dog, I'm hoping that this encounter is an indication that it will work for Oliver.


Glad you had a good experience and that Oli recovered well from that small incident :)


I'm in the midst of creating a reactivity course because it's sorely needed in my area. I agree that we can't keep our dogs in a bubble. There is a balance somewhere between reaction-recovery, and prevention-decompression. I think it varies for each dog. I think the biggest challenge is recreating classroom experiences (keeping dog under threshold, predictable distance and intensity of triggers, etc.) in the real world. Programs that focus too much on pure classical conditioning (open bar/closed bar, feed food the moment your dog sees another dog, LAT, etc.) can be limiting. Which isn't to say those games aren't useful, because they are. I've heard some people say that some reactive rover type classes were too reliant on luring or too basic. I appreciate your recounting of your experience and hopefully I'll have a comprehensive course running in my area soon so my organization can start helping those pups outside of private lessons.
That's awesome! I'm so grateful that I found this facility that has a number of classes geared towards reactive/fearful/anxious dogs. I'm sure plenty of people in your area would be just as grateful. I believe that even basic foundation-type classes can change a dog owner's life (and the dog's), especially for those who may not be well versed in training theory, but I think dealing with these types of issues makes an even bigger impact. Reactivity can suck the joy out of owning a dog, and classes that help work on that are a total game changer.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
12,194 Posts
I'm glad you found a great class!

I'm curious, is the trainer Casey Coughlin?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,450 Posts
That's great! I so want to attend this class, haha! If only I were just a bit closer ;-)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,744 Posts
So cool that you're already seeing improvement!

Sucks about the Lyme, though. Hope he recovers fully and never has any more trouble.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,227 Posts
Awesome. Sometimes a bit gets into the brain and something clicks. Could be you, could be Ollie. Bucky is definitely one with big emotions. He may be a little guy on the outside but he does everything big.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,403 Posts
Discussion Starter #15

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,403 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
so awesome look forward to following your journey <3
Thank you! Glad to see you around here more often again =)

That's great! I so want to attend this class, haha! If only I were just a bit closer ;-)
"Within driving distance is" is subjective ;D I hope a class like this will pop up near you eventually!


So cool that you're already seeing improvement!

Sucks about the Lyme, though. Hope he recovers fully and never has any more trouble.
Thanks! He tested positive for lyme when he was about 9 months old, but was asymptomatic. We only discovered it during his heartworm test. Hopefully he won't have a flare up lie that again, poor guy.


Awesome. Sometimes a bit gets into the brain and something clicks. Could be you, could be Ollie. Bucky is definitely one with big emotions. He may be a little guy on the outside but he does everything big.
Like they say, "its always the little ones!"
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,403 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
Yesterday's class went really really well. I was very happy with the class and with Oli.

We did our normal loading in one by one, then worked in our "cubbies" (baby gates with a sheet over them) with having them jump up on a klimb, back down, back up, and so forth. Oli already has an "up" cue and he loves paw targeting so this was easy.

Next, for the first time, we worked our dogs at the same time. We had our cubbies, which all had a klimb, and then a climb 15-20 feet away from our cubbies in the center of the room. There were 4 of us in class last night, so she had us go out two at a time, every other dog so as to keep some distance. We were told to go out at the same time and have them hop up on the klimb in the center of the room. This went without a hitch for everyone. After we did that a few times each, we then went out all at once. The klimbs were about 3-4 feet away from each other. By the third time we did this, every dog was on a loose leash and the handlers were all standing a foot or so back from the klimb.

At this point, the trainer remarked that this was the quietest reactive dog class she has ever taught. She (jokingly of course) said "well, what are we gonna do for the next 3 weeks??". Of course, there's still plenty more to work on, and for non-reactive dogs this wouldn't be impressive at all. But in a reactive dog class, not even so much as a single bark or growl while all working together, pretty close, for the first time is impressive.

We then worked on 2 "drills". The first one we went back to just two dogs at a time, and this time when we went to the center-klimbs, we crisscrossed in the middle to go to the other dog's klimb. The other drill, we all went out to our klimbs in the center, and then worked counterclockwise around the room, jumping from klimb to klimb, as a group. The only minor hiccup here was a schnauzer who was extremely intrigued by another dog's klimb and wanted to just sniff around and not participated in the drill.

Oli was beginning to disengage a bit by the end of class, but never to an extent that I couldn't get him back and keep his focus. Just not as engaged as he normally is. Once or twice he lost focus and was watching the other dogs working in the room, but he didn't make a peep and after several seconds returned to working.

All in all I was very encouraged by this experience. I'm eager to see what we will be working on next week. This week we were rewarding for looking at the other dogs without reacting, which she said we will be phasing out. Hopefully this will help me keep him engaged because I'm sure he was stuffed full by the end of class lol.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
358 Posts
It’s wonderful that you have found a class that can help you. Also that you recognize the issue. So many classes are built around competition as that’s what the the trainers lived on. I like to train “ street wise”. Things that you see every day. Just going in and out of you home calmly. We live in a large apartment with many dogs. I train to wait until I get out of the door then command to sit between me and the door while I lock it. Then we heel close order down the hall. Again wait at the stair well door until I open it. We stop at the first step. The command go down is “one step” this means go down down at what ever pace I go. Be it very carefully with things in my hand or an easy pace.

Going up is the same except the command is “ go easy”. I step first then she follows with her head even with me.

Going in and out of various training centers is usually not a problem as most of the dogs get some kind of tracing to enter and leave.

Keep up your good work.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,403 Posts
Discussion Starter #20
Another week, another class. This time we had no barriers/cubbies! Once again, before we brought the dogs in the trainer went over our goals for the class that day. Once loading in and sitting next to each other without any barriers (visual or physical) went without a hitch, we started doing the same drills we did the week before, going back and forth across the room, passing each other, etc. Everyone did this successfully except for a lab whose owner kinda sucks (why pay for a class if you aren't going to take it seriously?) so she is falling behind. Luckily the rest of us aren't being held back by their lack of progress.

Once we had gone back and forth across the room, we worked on a find it game. We toss a treat, tell the dogs to "find it" and then call them back to us for a (informal) front. Typically the dogs are 6-10 feet away from each other. The guy with the lab wasn't paying attention and his dog got really close to us and braked/lunged, and I was happy that Oli only glanced at her and continued returning to me to sit.

After playing the game for a few minutes we went back to our klimbs and the trainer set up 3 foot section a metal grate-like fence, and put two target mats on either side. We then were supposed to play find it by tossing a treat onto the target mat, with a dog/handler on either side of the fence, simultaneously. The mat started about 3 feet from the fence and we worked up until both mats were right against the fence. Oli and the corgi we were partnered with were the only ones to do this successfully, without a hitch. At one point, the other handler even accidentally tossed the treat under and over to our side. The corgi went right up to the fence while Oli lingered, eating both treats, and there was no problem.

During the find it game with the fence, there was a bit of chaos with the three other dogs (a rottie, schnauzer, and the lab) and we were basically encircled by 3 dogs freaking out and reacting very loudly while I sat on a klimb with Oli. Poor buddy was obviously terrified but didn't join in with them reacting, and I was able to direct him towards the wall away from the loopy dogs and he engaged nicely.

We aren't having class this week because of the holidays, but we got some homework. We are supposed to go somewhere where there will be foot traffic but not dog traffic, and find a spot where our dogs can see the people but not close enough to interact/have people bother us. Then we are supposed to play the find it game and have them do other tricks (work, basically) while out in public around people. I bring Oli into stores regularly and he is able to perform commands so this shouldn't be too difficult but will be good practice for us.
 
1 - 20 of 21 Posts
Top