Wednesday, October 20, 2010


With all of Roxy's progress, I started taking her to the weekly walk-in agility class at Pawsitive experience in Rockaway.  This is the training facility that my local rescue uses.  Honestly, I'd never take a dog there to do any sort of actual training.  Although they have banned prong collars from use inside their facility, they still do a lot of correction based training (read: non-humane training) and I will not do that type of training with my dogs, or any dogs I foster or work with at the kennel.  But this place is 5 minutes away from home and has literally done wonders for Roxy's training.  Now that it's getting colder, there are fewer people to encounter on walks, and fewer dogs to practice ignoring, and fewer stimuli in general.  So this once a week course has been great.  Plus, I think it's important to mention that the instructor realizes Roxy's issues, respects what I choose to do to train her, and doesn't suggest that I give her a leash correction for barking.  She gets it, and we have a mutual respect for one another, despite the fact that I think their ways of training are, well... outdated and can be pretty barbaric.

We started a couple of weeks back and Roxy was pretty reactive the first couple of weeks.  The instructor said it's pretty normal for a new dog to act that way, because there is a lot going on, new smells, new dogs, lots of movement of said new dogs, new people, etc.

Anyway, this has become a great place to practice Roxy's self-control and do a lot of focus work.  Plus, she really seems to like agility.  The instructor was very impressed with Roxy's first class, especially being a fearful dog.  She struggled with the tunnel and the chute the first class, but did everything else without a problem.  At the second class, she was going through both the chute and the tunnel with ease.

The other great thing about this class is it's a "no-touch" class for the dogs.  No dogs are off-leash and no dogs are wandering around or getting in Roxy's face.  But I get the opportunity to mark and pay Roxy for calm behavior while there is a lot of stuff going on.  And there are tons of people there that think Roxy is just beautiful, so we get the opportunity to meet lots of dog-savvy people who ask before they give her treats and ask before they attempt to pet her.  We've been going through our "go say hi" protocol and it's been working great.  There are some people she likes almost immediately, and others it takes a little longer, but overall she's doing really, really well and I am so proud of her.

Friday, October 15, 2010

training: "go say hi"

"Go say hi" is Roxy's new protocol for meeting new people.  It's been working really, really well.

First, we taught her "touch" where she targets the palm of my hand with her muzzle.  Then, I taught her to target other peoples hands with her muzzle (just like she'd do a "touch") and come back to me for treats.  We started with people she already knew putting their palm out for a touch without giving the cue, and when she was reliably running up to their palms, I introduced the cue "Go say hi!" until she got to the point where she learned that "Go say hi" means to go give the other person a touch.

I've essentially made it a game for her and she loves it, and it helps her love people.  The "game" sort of developed over time, and to be honest, the more I think about it, the more I think maybe she invented the game and she's been playing me for a while.

In the beginning I started marking and paying her for any positive interaction, including simply sniffing new people.  She started playing the game and winning, a lot...  It's progressed now to the point where I can have other people ask her for a "touch" and she goes right to them, touches the palm of their hand, and then comes back to me for treats.  And, after she's done this a few times, she's a lot more comfortable around that person.

It's great to see her willingly and excitedly approaching new people. I couldn't be happier!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

busy with training

We've been busy. VERY busy. Which is awesome.

Roxy's making huge progress, as far as I can tell.  We switched from the sensation harness to the halti head collar.  I wasn't having success with the sensation harness, Roxy seemed to just start pulling on an angle instead of like a freight train moving forward.  It's probably user error... but I don't have the patience to deal with that while I'm trying to work on other things.  I'll take a leash puller over a reactive dog any day, so I'll work on the reactivity first, and leash-walking later.

We've been going to public places with her to do some work.  We've been to the pet store a lot, and used the strip mall attached for some desensitization and counterconditioning exercises.  The pet store during adoption events is great for when we want to do dog-dog work, but when I want to do dog-people work, I need to be out of hearing range because the dogs are definitely more interesting to her than the people.

So we sit on a bench outside of Pier 1 and wait for people to pass by. And Roxy eats. And eats. And eats.  Freshpet Vital makes a grain-free fish formula.... it stinks something awful but it's been a great high value treat.  It's dog food, so I don't feel guilty giving Roxy tons of it, and we can just skip a meal if she gets enough during training.

Today we were outside and a nice family stopped by with teenage kids.  Teenage kids are great because they're typically bigger and are more predictable than small kids.  We went through our "go say hi" exercise and she gave all 3 people touches and then even butt-bumped the teenage boy for butt scratches.  This is HUGE for her. HUGE. The guy was a total stranger and she invited him to pet her.

The family loves pit bulls, too... so I think Roxy knew they were good people :)