When we arrived at the training facility, Cooper barked his face off at a woman and her dog who were the first to arrive – the trainer and her assistants lead the dogs from the parking lot inside so that they don’t encounter one another – and that was the only time he reacted the whole class.
Ah, controlled settings. If only the world worked that way…
Cooper’s issues are different from Lucas’ leash-aggressive situation. Cooper is fine meeting other dogs on leash IF they are introduced properly in a controlled manner. He’s fine with meeting most people, on leash or not. The exceptions, which is where the whole “world” thing comes in, are surprises. Cooper can.not.handle. surprises. If someone comes around a corner, gets out of a car, exits a house, sounds funny, walks differently, makes a loud noise, drops something, and on and on… he loses it. On occasion, when we have a can of cheese and he’s somewhere comfortable, he can regain control. Otherwise he goes into, what we call, “black-out mode” barking and squealing, wild-eyed, lips flapping, and often straining on his hind legs.
He’s super smart. He’s a fast learner, and he loves a challenge. He just has zero emotional maturity or impulse control.
So, we’re taking Reactive Rover. The sole reason I signed up for this class was because Cooper LOVED agility. He was scared of the facility. So, we switched to a new place, and the trainer terrified him (I have several theories why, all of which were/are avoidable for the future…), and then we moved. So I let it go. But he needs that stimulation, that challenge. I know it’ll help build his confidence.
But we need to first get to a place where we can start (if that makes any sense at all).
The first class was a piece of cake for him. All the dogs are in cubbies that block their line of sight from one another. The exercises are performed in the center of the room. The first day was an about-face, which we’ve done a ton, and “leave it,” which he’s pretty good at unless it’s, say, a squirrel running at his face. Even though he knew the drills and didn’t react, he was stressed the entire time, which manifested as a constant, raspy stress-pant.
Also, we’re combining this with the mat work, and we realized pretty quickly that, instead of reclining on his mat, he wanted to squish himself up against the wall (another sign of stress). So, we adapted and shifted his mat to right up against the wall so he could have the benefit of both. Clearly the mat itself isn’t doing it for him yet, so we’ll keep working on RP at home.
This coming Saturday, class will include a neutral dog and a different set of exercises. I’m going to a writing conference all day, so John will be taking Coop solo. He reacts very differently with each of us, so it’ll be interesting to see how the increasing level of challenge goes, especially without me there!
And on the way home, he struggled to even hold his ears up, then he put himself to bed in our room to avoid foster pup Molly. He was just too tired to play!
I know many of you are currently in the midst of training. How are your classes going? Any Reactive Rover-type classes underway?