Friday, June 18, 2010

that don't impress me much....

I went to that training class last night.... pretty much exactly as I expected it would be.  Ironic because, before the class, someone told me I should bring Roxy there because it would teach me how to control her (as in, she's fearful, so she's out of control? I don't know, really, what that meant).

Let me recap what I observed last night at this "training class":
  1. I saw a panicked German Shepherd get hung by his leash while he spun in circles trying to get away from the instructor.  The instructor was explaining to the class that "this is what he's used to doing in order to get out of it. He knows exactly what he's doing, and it's because he knows how to get what he wants."
  2. I saw a well-behaved Pit Bull get repeated leash corrections because, "He needs to learn not to pull on the leash."
  3. I saw a tall, lean hound mix get repeated leash corrections for barking. I saw dogs forced into the sit position, and then get leash corrections for standing up. They were then forced back into the sit position, thoroughly confused.
  4. And, I saw a medium sized mixed breed dog with her tail between her legs. The instructor was holding her in place and petting the top of her head, while explaining that he had to do that in order to get her more comfortable with being handled.  The poor dog had her tail tucked, face turned away, her ears were back and her eyes were wide.  He was forcing a fearful dog to be petted, even though she was trying her darnedest to get away....
I knew that wasn't going to work for me or for Roxy. Or any other dog I ever owned.

Because I don't want to control my dog. I want to teach her to control herself.  Of course I know that, being a fearful dog, Roxy will always need some level of management, and I'm okay with that...

But if only I can just learn how to help her control herself, help her feel more comfortable in her world, so she behaves because she doesn't feel afraid, as opposed to behaving because she is afraid of what I might do to her if she doesn't.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

not sure about this

So, my rescue works pretty closely with a training center 5 minutes from my house.  The owners often donate extra space in their classes to the rescue... From what I know, they do a lot of correction-based training.  I'm not into that type of "training," but I got offered the chance to go and watch a couple of our dogs go, so I'm going to go and watch to get a better idea of it.  I'm pretty sure all it will do it reinforce the fact that I won't ever "train" my dog that way.

It's funny because I had people suggest I bring Roxy there, because he's helped a lot of the fearful dogs at our kennel. Quite honestly, I'm not impressed with someone who can teach a fear-biting dog to sit by pushing it's butt to the ground.  I'm more interested in helping teach a fearful dog to have less fear, overall.

We'll see how this goes.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

people = kryptonite

At the time of adoption, Roxy's fear encompassed a variety of things, as described in my previous post. And although she is still a bit skittish when unexpected things happen, she does recover from those events much faster now than she did a year ago.  And I can see a definite comfort in her even when scary things happen or things change quickly, but her fear of people and reactivity towards other dogs and people on walks has gotten worse.

And, although I've seen some progress in her, it's not enough.  People and strangers are still her kryptonite.  I've found the problem to be primarily people that don't listen and don't ignore her, but she's also afraid of children and she's not exactly eager to approach new people, even if they do ignore her.  We tried having people give her treats, but most people can't simply toss the treat and ignore her, they feel the need to coax her over with the treat, and then attempt to pet her after she gets the food.  As expected, this only makes things worse and Roxy has learned that approaching some people for the treat just isn't worth it because she knows they will inevitably try to pet her. People that continuously try to pet her often wonder why she literally runs from them, and people that have chased her around with their arms out can't figure out why Roxy will walk a giant circle around them, if she'll even come that close at all.  But, even the people that ignore Roxy aren't necessarily considered "safe" until she has spent a good amount of time with them.

For example, Rob's Mom had come over and Roxy seemed okay with her, but then his Mom stopped by during the day to drop something off for us (we weren't home), and Roxy growled at her, and ran to hide in the basement.  Another friend, George, had come by a few times and Roxy would take treats from him and overall she did okay with him.  We were out of town for a night, and we asked him to stop by once to let her out.  He called us an hour after he was supposed to be there, to let us know that Roxy went outside okay, but that she refused to come back in the house. He wound up creating a line of treats from the backyard up the walkway onto the deck and in the door and walk away for her to come back inside... and she took her sweet time careful observing the treat pathway, just in case he was nearby.  She had gone out into the yard okay, and did her business, but wouldn't come back inside -- and she had never done that before, so the issue was definitely him, not the house.  After both incidents, it took months to get Roxy comfortable with these two people.  Even now, Roxy isn't so sure about George.  We have been having people give her treats, but only if they actually listen to us and not try to pet her, and it's helping, but there is some definite discomfort there.

Another of Rob's friends, Mike, was over the house and he kept insisting that he wanted Roxy to know that he wasn't going to hurt her.  He is an animal lover and just kept repeating that he didn't understand why she was afraid, and that he wanted to show her that he was just going to be nice to her. Despite my objections, he followed her into one of the rooms where she had gone to avoid him and his petting attempts, and I found her laying on a dog bed with him sitting there petting her.  Although she stayed for the petting, she was obviously uncomfortable.  After that, she pretty much avoided him at all costs, and he became more willing to listen when I said to ignore her.  She moved on from purposely avoiding him to just ignoring him completely, but it did take some time.  In fact, there was a time, that she was vacuuming the kitchen floor while a handful of us ate some BBQ, and she was behaving normally and sniffing each person that was in the crumb pathway.  She actually sniffed everyone in the kitchen, then the floor around them, and kept moving -- until she got to him. She sniffed him and literally booked it in the other direction away from him. The behavior was such an obvious avoidance, and although we laughed at the time, it was still a bit unnerving to see her so uncomfortable by one specific person.

She is pretty much afraid of all other people, as well, but these specific incidents are the ones that stick out in my mind from the last year.  Overall, she avoids people altogether or sniffs with caution, and almost always avoids being petted.  If people attempt to pet her, she ducks away and then only tries to sniff again when she thinks the people aren't looking at her.  If they look down while she's mid-sniff, she'll walk away immediately.

So even with all of this information, Roxy's behavior has plateaued. People ignore her, and then eventually some are able to feed her treats.  She got better with some people, but worse with others.  I've been reading a lot of information at the Fearful Dogs website and their associated yahoo group, and although I feel like I have a good handle on the information, I'm not quite sure how to put it into practice.  So now, here I am, with a fearful, reactive dog on my hands and I think it might be time to ask for help.