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The Training of the Rosie Roo

I've had a bit of a lightbulb moment with Rosie Roo.  I've been struggling a bit with her reactions to other dogs, which really have not been improving as much as I'd hoped.   In fact, we had an Unfortunate Incident with a collie pup (although I can't really feel too guilty about that, because I had *told* the owner that Rosie was grumpy, and I was trying to keep her away from his dog, and Rosie was on the lead,  growling and quite clearly not wanting to be friends, yet he wandered off down the road regardless, leaving the pup to come smarming right up in her face.  At which point Rosie had a pop at the pup, and I can't really blame her, although I do think grabbing pup by the nose was a bit excessive.)

But a couple of days ago, I realised that I'd been focussing on Rosie, and assuming that she was 'the problem' - because Brythen on his own gets on well with every dog, and I'd got used to not worrying about him.

But, looking at them together, and the reactions of other dogs when they meet, I realised that although Brythen is not in the least aggressive, he is big and bouncy and energetic - so a dog approached by a Rosie and a Brythen together is far more likely to react fearfully, and get Rosie into nervy trying-to-chase mode.  And when Rosie gets worked up, Brythen gets excited, which doesn't help at all.  Brythen is quite a bit bigger than Rosie too, and although he is soft as a soft thing, it's a lot for her to cope with, if she's worrying about him pushing her about as well as some other dog.   And finally, Rosie is a bit possessive of Brythen, and tends to get growly if he's too friendly with other dogs.

So: the new policy is that, either Rosie gets to greet new dogs off lead, but with her muzzle on, and Brythen goes onlead for greeting, so he can't go piling in, OR Rosie goes onlead and is kept well away from other dogs while Brythen galumphs about with them.  And so far it's working really well: Rosie has greeted lots of other dogs, and most of them without a growl. She's definitely best with calm oldies, and worst with lively lurchers and collies.

Of course, when we find a nice quiet spot both dogs can hare about together.

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I'm pleased with this photo, because Rosie is chasing Brythen rather than being hassled by him, and they are both looking really relaxed - we could do with more of that.
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With the help of Sossidges, Rosie's recall is mostly not bad, although as the walk goes on, she loses focus and become overexcited - actually, they both do.  So another new policy is that there are short onlead bits every so often, so they get a chance to cool off and calm down a bit.
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I'm reading Leslie McDevitt's 'Control Unleashed' at the moment - about offlead control of dogs - although it's written from the point of view of someone doing agility and other dog sports.  I tried to read this book before, but at the time I had Az and Mollydog, and it just didn't speak to me.  It certainly does now, I am reading with grim attentiveness!

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
wosny
26th Mar, 2014 08:33 (UTC)
These are fantastic photos!
Dog psychology is so complicated... :(
bunn
26th Mar, 2014 21:51 (UTC)
Rosie's psychology is complicated. Brythen tends to be a bit more transparent, you can practically see the thoughts moving across his brain by the look on his face :-D
puddleshark
26th Mar, 2014 08:37 (UTC)
They seem to be having enormous fun!

Yes, it does make sense to control as many factors as you can - enormous! bouncing! Brythen! being one of them - when introducing Rosie to strange dogs... Hope she becomes more confident as she goes on.

Max is... okay with other dogs, but clearly never learnt how to play. If they try to play he runs around a bit, then starts barking and then snapping. A shame really. I would have loved to be able to walk him offlead in company with my sister's terriers.
bunn
26th Mar, 2014 22:39 (UTC)
Brythen is a great lummox. They were having fun running this morning and he crashed into Rosie and somersaulted head over heels. He didn't seem bothered, but Rosie was a bit miffed I think.

It would be easier if I could let Rosie run without the muzzle, that way she could tell him off properly when he gets overexcited. He used to play ever so nicely with Az, but then Az gave him a good scruffing the first time he was too rough, and he was incredibly careful and polite after that. :-D

I'm sorry to hear that Max finds the terriers too much. Still, it's only been - what 4 or 5 months? He may yet gain confidence around them, perhaps?
equus_vodka
4th Apr, 2014 19:43 (UTC)
The "look at that dog" game from Control Unleashed worked absolute wonders on Cole's on-lead grumpiness and general dog-coping skills. I think I did spend the first couple of months basically reinforcing him for turning his head at random, but once we both got the hang of it, it worked very quickly. It was also interesting to note what he classed as a dog for the purposes of the game - horses and cats counted as dogs, Blaze did not count as a dog.

- smirnoffmule (deleted LJ but still occasionally checking in :)
bunn
4th Apr, 2014 22:40 (UTC)
My problem with Rosie doing look at that dog was that when she goes into fixed staring mode, she really will not eat - not only does she ignore dried liver, cheese and sausage, but if I try to shove squeezy liver paste inside her mouth she yanks her face away from me without breaking eye contact.

I ended up treating her for looking away from the dog, because it was only when she was looking away that she would actually eat anything - even if the other dog was hundreds of yards away. But it seems to be having some effect - or maybe she's just relaxing as she settles in.
equus_vodka
4th Apr, 2014 23:25 (UTC)
Oh, the non-foody dog problem D: I've always been lucky enough to own absolute piglets, mine have to practically be on fire to not want food. But, I think if the stare is part of the problem, then looking away is definitely the thing you want to be reinforcing? And since she has to look at the dog in order to look away from the dog, I think that still works under much the same principle as the Look game, since the aim of the game is that your dog will learn to take a look and then look back at you without huge drama erupting.

I did "Watch me!" in the presence of other dogs for ages with Cole and while it worked sometimes, it didn't help at all in situations where the other dog was off-lead and came bumbling over too close (and it seemed rather unreasonable and unnatural to expect Cole to continue to ignore the other dog when its jumping on his back or sticking its nose in his intimate parts). The Look game worked better for us ultimately I think because it allowed Cole to acknowledge other dogs were there but helped him not to get so wound up about it, so if the other dog did come over, he dealt with it better because he was calmer to start with. I do wonder though if all the "Watch Me!" we did didn't provide a lot of the ground work which then made the Look game so successful, so maybe you do have to do one first.

Good luck with her, anyway :D
bunn
5th Apr, 2014 09:42 (UTC)
Her fosterer reckoned that she was quite foody, but she hasn't been for me. But then she was with him for over a year, on and off, so I guess she felt quite settled there. She is quite a nervy thing, if you drop a pen or something, she leaps up and flees.

I wish I could walk her without the muzzle, she hates it and I'm sure it does nothing for her confidence. But at the moment her recall isn't really reliable enough and since she has tried to have a go at other dogs, it doesn't seem like a good risk to take.

I'm not really doing a proper watch me, I'm just giving her treats when she will eat them really - which is when she's more relaxed anyway. Neither she nor Brythen like looking at my face, meeting eyes and looking at my face seems to make them uneasy. (I assume this is nerves, and not just aesthetic comment. :-D) I seem to have ended up with right pair of nervous nellies this time round. But they are better in town than Az was in his younger days, at least we don't get the terrified shaking and trying to hide under other dogs thing.

I'm inclined to think that dogs that leap on other dogs or shove their noses where the sun don't shine deserve what they get - I was just wanting better recall and not leaping on dogs that don't approach... Maybe I should up my expectations though...
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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