Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I should rename this blog "Updates on Allison and Emmy".  Today on our three miler Emmy was the model doggy citizen.  There were dogs that were far worse than her (thank goodness).  I've actually been noticing that there are plenty of misbehaved dogs more lately because of the books I've been reading.  We have encountered a number of doggies who did not do as their owners asked/demanded.   There was one dog this morning who was lunging and barking at Emmy while she stayed as calm as she could and walked around him with a little whining and a small bark.   That's pretty good for her and I barely had to use muscle to hold her back.  In the past I would have had to use both hands to get her under control.  There was another dog who clearly wanted to play with her when his owner didn't want him to.  It was a gangly black lab of a puppy who saw her and wanted to go sniffing.  She just looked at him and then looked back at me like she was saying, look how good I'm being.  I don't know if it's because we have been going out everyday to walk or play frisbee, the training I've been working on with the Separation Anxiety (SA) in the house, her muscles are sore from running so hard for the frisbee yesterday, or that I feel more relaxed after reading one 30-paged booklet on SA and 50 pages of the Control Unleashed: Creating a Focused and Confident Dog (CU) by Leslie McDevitt book that the rescue lady recommended for me.  Whatever the case, I was pleasantly surprised and was writing this blog post in my head all the way home.  I'm so pleased!  CU has already taught me that her behaviors that I thought were bad, like crouching in a stalking position when she sees other dogs is really just instinct.  I knew that she had what is called the "Border Collie Eye" where she follows her "work" (frisbee, ball, bike, children) in a crouched stance and is very intent on herding, but whenever I would see her do the stalking when we were on walks I would correct her because I didn't like the look of it.  The book, which isn't even Border Collie (BC) specific said that BC's are the acception to the attentive rule because that's their instinct and what they've been bred to do.  Silly me!  In my desperation to get her to do what I wanted, I was really just making her out to be worse than she really is.  Today I didn't correct her at all on it and she was much, much calmer walking by all the dogs.  I think what I was worried about is that the crouch makes her look like she's going to pounce and I didn't want the other dogs or owners thinking that she was.  But she was fine!  After a while we would get closer and she would stop crouching and walk past.  What a good girl!  I was just being an unaware owner!

Like I've mentioned, I've only read 50 pages of CU so far but I feel so much better about Emmy.  Right now I'm in the introductory chapters where McDevitt is just explaining concepts, theories, and training techniques, but she also puts in case studies.  There was one that was just like Emmy.  The dog was basically stressed and very unsure of himself and the dogs, bikes, people, birds, worms, etc. around him, which made him lunge at everything and potentially/actually hurt them.  Sounds like Emmy in a nutshell, especially when it comes to cousin Ruby.  It was all because the dog didn't know what to expect and this was his defensive mode.  McDevitt was able to train the dog and he is a-okay now.  This helped me in a bunch of ways.

  1. Now I know that Emmy really is fixable. 
  2. We're not alone.  There are other dogs out there with pretty much the same problem!
  3. She lacks confidence and is a "reactive"(over stimulated) dog because of it.   
  4. I am more attentive to her and not just the things around her.  When we go on walks I don't listen to music because I need to be able to hear if there are bikers or even runners that might make her want to chase them. I've been keeping my eyes and ears open as usual, but also watching her reaction to our environment much more closely. 
  5. I'm less tense because I know that we can do it.  I think this is why she had such a good walk today.
As I was at the beginning of last week, I still remain hopeful that she will be a cured dog who I can trust to go to dog parks and play with other dogs while children run around too and who I can leave alone while I go out to watch a movie or have dinner with friends.  Our SA training has been going pretty well.  I can pick up my keys without her barking and sometimes even get my purse and walk out into the garage for five seconds before I come back in to get her.  The strategy that the book gave was to fill her Kong with peanut butter and then pick up keys, then take away the Kong.  She has learned very quickly to eat as much pb as she can before I take it away from her.  I think this means she's learning.  The book said that the dog will pretty much be like, "Hey, I wasn't done with that.  Ohh you're picking up your purse again, gimme, gimme, gimmie."  It seems to be going that way, which I'm very pleased with.  I also do random desensitization by going downstairs to pick up my keys and then put them down and then go back to work.  It really must be body language, because she sure does know when I'm picking up my keys to leave for real and not just to condition.  

Emmy is really starting to settle in here and take us more seriously since the training started.  This is good because she responds to us better when we're out on walks and she's distracted.  Last week Christopher and I went for a run.  We were jogging along and a big dog off leash came chasing after us to get her.  The furs on the back of the other dog's neck were raised as he was sniffing Emmy.  Christopher was holding her leash so I made sure to grab the very top of her leash by her neck just in case.  I could see the owner running from who knows how far away, she was very out of breath.  Right as she got there the other dog started growling and went for Emmy's face.  I shoved her head between my legs because she was already sitting to get him away from her butt.  That made it easy for me to control her head.  Thank goodness her owner had gotten there in time.  He kind of looked like a American Mastiff/Boxer mix and was towering over Emmy.  Normally Emmy would have gone right back after the other dog, but I kept telling her to "leave it".  Phew, it seemed to work even if it was just minimally.  I'm not sure if shoving her head between my legs was the right thing to do, but at least it didn't get in a fight.  The apologetic owner sounded just like me when Emmy tries to steal other dogs balls when their owners play with them.   

Until next time, happy training!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thats awesome! im glad its working with her! and im impressed with your patience!