Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Aversives?

This morning Foz and I went for a walk alone together to try out our new skills. We saw three dogs: with the first, he lunged and barked and didn't care about the hot dog I tried to lure him away with. The key here was that we didn't have enough time to redirect before the dog was too close--often the case on narrow trails.

For the second, the person was standing with his dog off the trail a ways. We approached, Fozzie started to stare, and I guided his nose away with the head halter so he was looking in the other direction. We then walked away a few paces, calmed down a bit with hot dog, and repeated a few times. He was definitely calmer the next couple of times.

The third was a senior dog, and Fozzie started to rear and bark, at which time we put more distance between us and redirected the head. The human on the other end of that leash then started to talk to me, which normally is way too much for Fozzie, but this time I just talked to the guy while focusing on Fozzie, redirecting his head.

We were able to approach closer, and finally I even let Foz stick his head under the low fence between us and sniff the dog. He wagged, sniffed, and we walked away calmly.

Questions:
  • The way I used the head halter seemed very harsh! It did get his attention away, but it was also definitely what I would call an aversive--especially in light of the tender, raw area that is already on top of his nose. I don't know how I feel about this as a positive trainer! Maybe its a case where when nothing else works, use of an aversive is preferable to surrendering an animal to the shelter (not that Fozzie's in any danger of that, but a lot of dogs are because of their lack of leash skills)
  • Some trainers are adamant that dogs with issues should not be allowed to greet on-leash. But in Fozzie's case, it seems to calm him and put him in a better frame of mind, so he responds better to dogs he sees subsequently.
I would love to hear what other trainers think about these issues!

2 comments:

  1. I am NOT a trainer, but I have always been told that on-leash greeting is a no-no, unless it's in the form of parallel walks, gradually coming closer, and butt sniffing. Part of the trouble is that it creates tension, and part of the trouble is that you never know how the other dog is going to react. I can see both sides though, especially if you are working with two dogs who most decidedly do NOT have leash greeting issues. A worthy goal for you will be to teach Foz to calmly approach another dog and its person on a loose leash. Otherwise he is self-reinforcing the pulling and lunging ("if I pull and lunge, the lady will eventually let me go say hi"). Right?

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  2. I think you are absolutely right, in Fozzie's case--he needs to learn more self-control, and I need to be "strong leader" in helping him learn it (not a "pack leader":)) You said it very well!

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