Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ground Work

Things have been pretty crazy around here lately.  We've been dog-sitting a friend's dog and it turned out to be a bit more of a commitment than I'd anticipated.  He didn't settle into our house very well and his nervousness led to a number of accidents, even right after we'd taken him outside.  Aside from the housetraining, this dog was a big puller on the leash, barked a lot and was generally not very obedient.  It made me really realize how lucky we've been with Jonah in so many ways.

On the other hand, a trip to a dog park yesterday, some walks this weekend, and my reading the Clean Run magazine is making me think we have some real basics to be working on.  At the park, it was very clear that Jonah's social skills are poor.  He would want to join in with other dogs playing, but he doesn't seem to know how.  His response was to bark repeatedly at the group of dogs.  After 10 minutes or so he got more involved and would run with the other dogs, but it took quite a while.  Some of the dogs looked startled when he barked at them.  I know that he's not going to attack them, but he doesn't sound very nice, and I don't think the other dogs know he won't go at them.  I know their owners don't.

Then, both yesterday Dave and I took Jonah for a leashed walk around the neighborhood.  Most of the time he was wonderful.  He walked beautifully on the leash, met people and dogs happily and didn't mind when cars drove by.  Most of the time.  Actually, he was good on the leash all the time, but he barked at one large man we walked by (who jumped back and was clearly frightened), lunged at a large pitbull, and jumped at a few cars.  At this point I'm thinking that having good behavior 90% of the time or so isn't good enough, because the 10% of the time he's not good he's pretty bad.

Today Dave and I took him for another walk, just along the road (there's a nice sidewalk).  Every time a car would go by, I would ask Jonah to focus on me and do tricks.  There were still a few episodes of him losing focus and lunging towards the cars, but in general I think it was an improvement.  We're going to keep doing that until he doesn't blink an eye at a passing vehicle.  It's nice, too, to work on the car issue before we focus on other dogs and people, because the cars are never afraid if he barks at them.

We're also going to make an effort to take him to more off-leash dog parks so he can work on his social skills, too.  He's much better meeting dogs off-leash.

Anyway, I don't know when our wonderful little dog has become semi-reactive, but I'm hoping we can rid him of it.  It's interesting that, at this point, I can tell what dogs he will get along well with and which he might bark at.

We have a trial this weekend, but then we're entering a time of a big break between trials while I'm out of the country, but I really want him to be better with these things by late June when we trial again.  He's manageable now, but it would be a lot less stressful if there were fewer 'issues' to manage.  It's nice to have a real focus, and especially when the weather's good and it's fun to go for walks and to parks!

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