Friday, July 15, 2011

Up and Down

Today Dave and I took Jonah to a local park.  Right from the moment he got out of the car he was a little crazed.  There were squirrels everywhere.  He was not focusing on me well at all.  At first he was fine with other dogs nearby, but then one of those boisterous labradoodle types came bounding over to him barking. Great, I think.  I turn Jonah away and ask him to focus on me as the dog comes right up to him and starts leaping next to, in front of, behind and on top of Jonah.  Of course, Jonah starts barking at it, and I keep trying to move Jonah away from the dog and focus on me.  The dog follows, leaping and barking as Jonah barks back.  The owner wanders over behind the dog calling its name to no effect.  Finally he yells at me, "Can you just stop!?"  I was totally flustered and said, "I'm just trying to get him away from your dog!"  Meanwhile the barking and the other dog's leaping continues.  Eventually the guy did get his dog on leash and things settled.  I stood there shell-shocked while I listen to him go over and start complaining about what a terrible dog owner I am, and the lady with him responds, "Yeah, I saw a woman the other day yell at a dog for chasing a ball.  Some people just really don't get dogs."

It made me pretty angry.  I'm trying to get Jonah to be better around other dogs while he's on leash, but experiences like this don't help.  At that moment I was feeling pretty self-righteous:  the rule in the park is that dogs must be leashed (although most people don't follow that rule), I had my dog under control except for the barking, and I was trying to remove him from the situation.  He had not had control of his dog, who was, at least in my opinion, the one creating the ruckus.  In hindsight, my moving away was clearly not helping, as clearly the only way he could get control of his dog was to physically approach and leash it (voice commands had zero effect).  So, once I realized the dog was following us I really should have stopped.  Honestly I wonder if it wouldn't have been better for me to just let the two dogs work it out.  I know Jonah won't actually attack the dog--he'll just bark.  The problem was that this dog did seem like it was on the edge of aggression, and I never want Jonah to get hurt.  He's had that happen to him enough.  That's where this on-leash reactivity came from, after all.  Sigh.  It was not a great moment for any of us, but I guess the best thing is to just keep trying.

- - -

Since Jonah's focus had been sub par at the park, Dave and I did some work here.  Of course, here he was great.  First Jonah and I did ground work while Dave ran circles around the yard, did jumping jacks and sprints and the like.  Jonah was excellent.  Then we went back to the agility area.  Jonah and I did a little course while Dave tried his best to distract us.  Only once did he look at Dave, but it happened to be enough to miss a weave entry.  Once we went back to fix it, though, he was great.  When we were done, Dave left and we schooled the table a few times.  I could tell Jonah was slightly concerned about where his dad had gone, but he stayed with me.  When I finally released him and told him to go get his dad, he took a few tentative steps, stopped, and looked back at me.  "Are you sure, mom?"he was asking.  I said yes and started to run in that direction.  Exuberant, he raced away to find dad.  This was the perfect way to wrap up the session.  Part one of my training with Jonah was among our worst, but Part Two was one of the best.

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