Sunday, 22 April 2012

Steeling the Limelight

I went to Wallingford show today with a goal of getting a clear round with Rhyme. 

When queuing for the class Rhyme became concerned about the noise of the seesaw. His ears were right back and his eyes were wide in alarm. I could get no calmness from him.

I decided not to run him at the time (a very big thing for me as I had booked in and was nearly at the line). As his recall took some getting I knew that the fear he was experiencing would be bigger than the strength of recall I have and he would run. Running at a big show would only become even more alarming with people trying to catch him.

I went back to the van and got Torro out and walked back up to the ring. The idea was that Torro would not show any sign of fear so would allay Rhyme's worries.

Success - I ignored Rhyme's panic and played with Torro and eventually Rhyme joined in. Luckily the other ring had finished and were walking the next class too so there was no more noise close by. He did still react to a seesaw in a ring further away.

On the start line he was totally focused and worked extremely well so the result was much better than if I had tried when he wasn't able to work. We also achieved our first clear round :)

It is hard to work through a dogs fear as it is a balancing act of increasing intensity whilst not going overboard and creating a full blown phobia.

I personally don't think saturation is a kind training method and can even result in an incurable problem. So I will be doing lots of "outside the box" games with Rhyme to create another reaction from him when he hears that kind of noise.

Noise sensitivity is a strange thing as it effects dogs so differently. I have also heard comments such as "it's in the line". Is it something that can be inherited or just the way the puppies are brought up?

Our dogs are very different with noises. 

Flint is great out and about except for air rifles which has now also gone into crow scarers and other gunfire - living on Salisbury Plain we do walk opposite a firing range. We played a bang game with him so when a gun goes off we say bang and make a game and joke of him worrying. This has worked to a good degree and he can cope with it. Inside he hates the noise of the iron and nothing on earth would ever ever make him want to be in the same room as it. Perfectly understandable LOL Conversely he loves watching action films with fighting and gunfire and explosions, the more the better. 

Kodi is not bothered by any noise in any way. He was born a couple of weeks before Nov 5 and his breeder says it is because he experienced the first lot of fireworks when still with Mum who wasn't bothered by them either.

Torro is uncomfortable with thunder and some noises but not scared. He just puts his ears back and puts on a brave face.

Devo too is unconcerned except if he notices Flint being scared which gives him a reason to herd Flint (very weird).

Rhyme has been scared of noises since a pup and his hearing seems sharper although the other dogs probably hear the same but don't react.

I do believe the more you ignore anything that worries them then the sooner they will realise it is nothing to worry about but sometimes his reaction is so strong that it is close to hysteria and he couldn't care less about whether anything else doesn't like it just that he has to escape :(

This is where some people may be encouraged to use drugs or herbal remedies and although some people have had success I have also heard that the fear,is still there but the drug inhibits the dogs ability to show a reaction. Ultimately this can cause the dog more distress.

So for me it is off to think of ways to create a new reaction to a banging metal noise to help my gorgeous boy feel happy around the rings.

Apparently Simon Cowell likes dog acts - a steel drum playing dog has got to be a first. Watch out for next year's Britain's Got Talent :) :)

Monday, 9 April 2012

Scaredy Cat

I was asked the other day if Rhyme was spooky & it reminded me that he had been and still very occasionally got worried by something.

In my mind there are 3 kinds of spooky things
1 everyday things that will cause a dog stress if not sorted  e.g  strangers approaching
2 things that will affect my dogs agility performance e.g  the seesaw moving when they are on it.
3 unusual things that they may see in strange places e.g  a cat RSPCA collecting tin that upset Devo in the vets waiting room.

It is important to me to deal with 1 & 2 by carefully thinking about why those things create a reaction and how to counteract them.

Rhyme is a strong dog that likes to be in control of the situation so anything he doesn't know and therefore control would cause a reaction. People appearing, people appearing wearing hard hats, workmen in holes and even a lady in a mobility scooter were all cause for alarm as a puppy. Luckily he is so adorable that all these people could be persuaded to spend time with us and give him treats and fuss him. Now unknown people are all desirables. I may do that differently with any other puppy and ask these people to ignore him and to give me things to give him. In that way the approach of a stranger means good things but the provider of them is still me as Rhyme's recall suffered as he thought people were rewarding.
His recall is sorted now and I do like that he loves people so much.

With more reactive dogs it can be hard to encourage the dog to take a reward and the approaching person to give it. In that case it is good to drop handfuls of treats just past the dog's nose to distract and to help the dog understand that they are not required to react to strangers.

It is key to understand your dog and how much it can cope with before introducing too much into their world. I was lucky with Rhyme that strange things all occurred when I walked out with him as a pup so it could be dealt with then. Once a dog gets older it can be much harder to address but not impossible it just takes a lot more time and well thought out plans.

Obviously strangers & strangeness is a large part of agility so careful socialisation is important to give a young dog skills in coping with adapting to their environments.

Each weekend a new challenge in a new place. For a spooky dog agility may not be all that fun after all.

I am confident that Rhyme is up to the challenge now. He has learnt to have great fun and to not worry too much about what else is happening while he is working.

To me helping dogs deal with spooking is all part of foundation training.

Particular spooks affecting agility performance are challenging and again it helps to understand what caused the fear/dislike. Rhyme has done wobble boards etc and I worked slowly in introducing the seesaw but he does not like it tipping. At the moment I am going to change tactics on it but it may be a while before I will do agility rounds. I will not force my dogs to do things they don't like and greatly admire people who make the decision not to compete with dogs that are nervous or scared of it after they have tried ways to counteract it but the dog still dislikes it.
That said I am a determined person and I confident I will find away to help him think it is a fun thing to do. 

Things like Devo's collecting box can be counterproductive to trust if you try to force them to accept something alien and they will never need to worry about again. As soon as the vets receptionist moved it out of site he settled down :)

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Compare the

I am intrigued by what attracts people to do a particular training course. Possibly because I spend quite a lot of time devising the courses I run for a particular purpose and try to use the name and write up to help people choose if it is the right course for them.

This usually does work but on recent external training courses I have found that what I had planned to do would not suit the dogs that are attending. I can adapt them and still give a good training session in their eyes. Internally I am disappointed that I have been unable to use the equipment/exercises I had planned though.

I will be doing some market research on this later in the year to ensure I word things perfectly for next year :)

Meanwhile Torro does an amazing impersonation of Sergei from the Compare the Meerkat adverts J

He really is a geeky looking dog but has the most gorgeous eyes. He is a tri colour – not a showy off kind off tri like Rhyme but a discreet tri that only his close friends get to appreciate.

I have written a lot about Rhyme in my blogs and don’t mention Torro much. It is as if Torro is private and not to be mentioned. Far from it. 

Torro is the kindest of dogs and is always a part of all we do. He is never any trouble, except for the bopping of dogs not wanting bopping and the disappearing into Tunnels on courses that I don’t want him going into!

At the weekend we visited our niece and nephew Ollie and Emeilia. Ollie is a real outdoor boy and a bit of a daredevil. He is 5 and Emilia is 2. We took the dogs out and dispite their little legs they can walk a long way:)

They don’t have pets and Mark’s brother wouldn’t really want them so we are their opportunity to socialize with dogs. Some parents approach bringing their children up as we do with our puppies with specific socialisation boxes to be ticked (or is that just our sister-in-law?)

Ollie obviously needed a dog to walk – madness giving a lively, excitable Border Collie to a non dog family five year old – recipe for disaster. Not if that Border Collie is Torro Laker. He was superb and just ran along side Ollie – no pulling or messing about. He stood still for Ollie to undo his lead to run with the others and came back to Ollie to have his lead back on for the on lead part back to the house.

We hadn’t seen Ollie or Emeilia since Mark’s birthday so they sang to him :-

Very cute if you like kids :)