Monday, March 25, 2013

Getting Back to Basics, and Our Walk Today

Our training plan is to get back to basics, work on our foundation, and to start moving forward again from there. A few of the things we are going to work on this week are:

The Look at That! Game (McDevitt, 2007)
Whiplash Turn (McDevitt, 2007)
Mat work (McDevitt, 2007)
Relaxation Protocol (Dr. Karen Overall)
Leave It
Reorienting out of kennels, doors, etc. (McDevitt, 2007)
And lastly, re-conditioning to the head halter.

The Halter
I am thinking about using the halter again. At this point I still feel like I need some way to "break" Rocket's "border collie" rock solid laser focus stares that she will set into when she sees something she may react to. Being able to move her head helps us when we start to get "in too deep" (reactivity is a threshold issue, you go through certain levels, like mild, medium, HOT...sometime around "medium" she needs to be broken away and cannot do it herself). I have disliked it very much in the past, and she has too! But, I am thinking with some extra sharp cheddar cheese and a week of very slow, careful conditioning, maybe we will like it. I admit I was too impatient conditioning her to it the first time, so hopefully I can fix my mistake. I will be sure to update progress.

Reorienting Exercises
A little on reorienting. We have been working on reorienting in the home, the easiest way for me to train was coming out of the kennel. So, she comes out of the kennel, I am slightly behind to the side, so she must come out, turn and find me, and sit. This is the same for coming through a door, or getting out of the car. It is already proving to be invaluable for helping Rocket stay focused!

Going on a Walk
Before walks, per the advice of my trainer, I am starting to take an entirely new attitude. We do some focusing work in the house, before we even walk out the door. Then, coming through the door, I ask for her to whip around and look at me (this is all explained and taught by Leslie McDevitt in Control Unleashed (2007)...I highly recommend it! Once that is over, I do a couple little focus exercises, assess how she's looking and taking in the scenery, then we go on our way. Then its my job to have eagle eyes and manage anything and everything that comes our way - I am armed with multiple games, such as Look at That!, to battle the evil forces of reactivity.

Today our walk went was windy, cold, and not very nice out, so it was short, and I noticed it was a little frightening for Rocket. The leaves blowing and just the general nastiness seemed to unsettle her, so I kept it short and kept a high rate of reward going. It worked.

We saw a "scary strange woman", on whom she immediately locked her gaze. She set herself up, looking big, tail up in the air, ears forward, she even placed herself in front of me. Not reactive, but ready. Vigilant. This is the beginning stages of "mild" for Rocket. Staring at the woman, I noticed Rocket was saying "I am unsure, what is that, I am on watch" I started to play Look at That! with her. At one point, she let out a small woof, so we took a few steps away, continued to work, and when I rewarded her, I threw three or four treats on the ground, allowing her to "forage". I have noticed "foraging" or just sniffing around like that is great for helping bring her down a bit. Sniffing is a natural stress activity for this seems to play very well into what she needs.

This walk was only 15 minutes at most, but it was jam packed full of experiences and we got home before it got too overwhelming. I would say, day well done!

McDevitt, L. (2007). Control unleashed: Creating a focused and confident dog. (1st ed.). South Hadley: Clean Run. Retrieved from

Dr. Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol

A Great Video on Muzzle Conditioning, which is guiding my head halter conditioning process:

Kikopup Muzzle Training

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