Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Fresh Perspective: Part One

After several months of saying "I've got to get Lucy more training", I finally did so yesterday. We had a credit with a facility not too far from us and not far at all from where I pass after dropping The Kid off at school on Tuesday mornings. I definitely did not want to start another class with Lucy until we got her dog aggression under control. Or, understood it enough to realize we could NOT take her to any sort of class where other dogs would be present.
So, I signed her up for two one on one sessions with a trainer named Samantha. Actually, I'd spoken to Samantha on at least one occasion (right after Lucy ran out of our garage one day and jumped on the neighbor's dog). When I'd explained Lucy's aggression towards other dogs while on the leash, she simply said, "Don't let her socialize with other dogs while she's on the leash". That was good advice (and similar to what our vet had said to me).
Anyway, we arrived at the training center early so we sat in the car about 1/2 hour; me drinking my coffee and reading the paper and Lucy thumping her tail and drooling.
Samantha arrived. I took Lucy inside a big long empty room which had several bowls of water placed around it and many hooks (for attaching dog leashes to). Samantha wanted me to let Lucy roam around and get her bearings off leash. And, Lucy did roam. And explore. And drink out of every single bowl of water. And investigate Samantha.
While Lucy pranced around, we discussed Lucy; her history, what her problem areas were, what she did well and what I wanted to work on: Her aggression towards other dogs (especially while on leash), her protectiveness over her food and her jumping on people during the initial meet and greet.
First off I have to admit I probably needed this session just as much, if not more, than Lucy. I was getting frustrated/embarrassed/irritated/angry at Lucy for her poor manners towards other dogs (and for attacking Pete and Lily). Walks were not much fun as they were spent continually telling her to heel and, basically, holding her in place on a tight leash. Not to mention, the rush of adrenalin when another dog (and therefore a potential troublesome encounter) approached. I've said this before and I'll say it again; I've seen more people that do not control their dogs around our neighborhood than do.
Finally (and this is hard for a strong "J" to admit), although I learned a lot from reading Cesar Millan's books and watching his show, I had to admit to myself that not all of his techniques were working well for our Goose (or us). I mean, we just cannot walk her three hours a day to wear her out (Cesar's answer to everything is "go for long walk"). And, since we don't live in LA, taking her to Cesar's Dog Psychology Center where he and his pack of dogs could properly socialize her is out of the question! But, I did want her to be socialized and knew the best way to do it is for another dog to show her how.
Samantha put a different harness on Lucy and attached her to the wall. I had her leash on her regular collar, held loosely in my hand. Samantha brought in one of her own dogs, a 5 year old Boarder Collie. She told me that her dog was trained in calming anxious dogs down. It was very interesting to observe. Lucy was somewhat straining towards the dog as she entered, then, a bit of a growl, then, her weird talking noises; pacing, back to me for some security, back out towards the dog, etc. All the while, the collie did nothing but walk on her leash with Samantha and sniff the ground. She did not even look in our direction. Samantha said she wouldn't until she told her it was okay to do so. After a few minutes of this, Lucy visibly calmed down to the point where she lay down on the floor next to me (still watching the collie). Ultimately they walked closer to us (not within range though) and Samantha said not to be alarmed if I saw her dog's teeth; that was her smile. Sure, enough, I looked at her dog and it was grinning at us.
Lucy managed this pretty well so Samantha put that dog away and went to go get another one; this time a one year old male Border Collie who was not as well mannered as his half-sister!
Mrs. B


Analee said...


Margot said...

I'm all atwitter; keep us up to date!