This post is to organize my thoughts and training. I find that writing will help me organize and see things more clearly.
I don’t know what it is, but I am feeling very stressed lately about Oreo’s progress. However, I keep reminding myself that it will take a long time. I came to accept that she is never going to be “cured”. A dog who is reactive and highly scared will never be 100% “normal” (whatever that definition is…). Many reactive dogs progress immensely within months, while some take years. Many factors impact the progress. I have to keep in mind that only a few months ago we finally got all of her medical issues treated (hopefully). This is the third month she has been on medicine for hypothyroidism so hopefully she will rebound more with continued usage.
There are just so many things to work on it can be overwhelming. Things I would like to work on:
-calm while waiting to go into the vet
-dogs (she shows interest in playing with some dogs, but gets too nervous when they are near)
-people-especially men-tall, heavy, limps, hats
-being able to have people over. It can be very stressful to imagine never being able to have people over. Unfortunately she HATES crates. She was crate trained but hated it and was miserable the entire time. She now can be gated in the kitchen, but it is open concept in our condo, so it doesn’t leave any room for privacy for guests. However, we recently had some home depot people stop by for flooring and I started leaving her in the room upstairs with kongs-perhaps that could be an alternative-but the house is small with all the noises I don’t see that as working very well. Perhaps management would work better in a bigger house-but my hope is that one day we can have friends over. We can have family over whom she is comfortable with, however, people she has not met she will bark at and is extremely fearful of them. I tried using treats and kongs, but I will have to slow it down.
-Greeting people calmly. She has improved and hardly ever jumps up on us, but when over excited she will jump up on my parents and sister.
-Maybe one day grinding nails-we walk her a lot so she is okay, but they are a little longer than should be.
-Being more comfortable with being held/restrained. I would be afraid if we had to hold her in place or scoot her over a bit she would snap.
-resource guarding new toys or toys with food
Wow! What a list, but I’m sure if I kept thinking about it I could add more. However, some are more of a priority than others. Some things we are continually working on. For example tonight we (my husband and I), sat outside. We brought Oreo out and watched people and dogs walk by at a distance (past the yard it’s at least 30 feet). As we are all relaxing and watching people and dogs, I give her treats for being relaxed…same thing when we go to the park. However, I would like to up this a little. I would like to take her to a park with kids and sit at a distance with her treating her. I believe she needs more of this. She needs to just be able to relax and SEE more kids and more people. She spends most of her day inside, or in a yard, a few walks, that’s it. She isn’t exposed to that much…because of management, but I believe at the same time she needs to see more and be treated for relaxed responses.
Also, I will continue the protocol for relaxation-which I have been severly slacking on. I did see great progress with it, but for some reason I have been slacking. After figuring out her med problems and driving 4 hours to a holistic vet (which really helped by the way), I felt we both (Oreo and I), needed a break from training. However, I guess I enjoyed the break too much and need to get back into the hang of it.
I also would like to see my husband “trade” Oreo for items. However, since he has been untrustworthy with Oreo in the past with trade (saying trade to get items and she gives it up but he gives no reward), she has learned not to trust him, especially since he used to take things from her a lot without trading. I was thinking of changing the word. Perhaps making it “swap”. Hopefully this may change the association from negative to positive with him.
Something new I would like to start after the protocol for relaxation is to find live bait. What I mean by that is…find someone to practice with! I would like to have them throw treats to Oreo while walking by at a distance, and eventually decrease the distance over time, etc. Eventually add things that scare Oreo like hats and a limp…and get different people to practice with her.
That brings me toward our long term goal…being able to have people over. This would happen after she has successfully enjoyed the presence of people we have walked near, met, and done tricks for. I’m not sure about all of the details yet, but I would like her to either meet the person outside first or have her put upstairs, however, since she doesn’t like surprised (sudden changes to environment), I think meeting outside would work better, maybe even taking a little walk.
Then progressing to having them come inside. I have seen people train their dogs to go into a certain room or behind the gate in the kitchen when the doorbell rings. I think this might be a good idea to have Oreo go into the kitchen when she hears the doorbell ring.However, as soon as I would invite someone in she would lose it, but bringing her into a surprise sitting in the living room doesn’t work either. Perhaps when she is comfortable with people coming in, then maybe I could teach her to go into the kitchen.
Anyways, when they would come in Oreo would have to be fed treats while laying on the bed next to my chair while the person is at the furthest point away on the couch. This will have to be thought through, each step. This can be exhausting, but if it’s done the right way over a long period of time the dog will love when people come in and hang out. People would stay for short periods of time and we could build the time up each visit, and the distance can decrease.
That training is probably months if not longer away until we reach it. She needs to be comfortable with people outside, before we move them inside.
As for greeting people calmly, that is something we can work on as it comes up. I tell my relatives to ignore her when she’s jumping, however some have reinforced it, so that needs to stop.
Other issues will have to be dealt with at another time, or along the way. I have trained her so that I can vacuum, however it’s more like playing a game throwing treats to her while I’m doing it. Not exactly what I planned, but I wasn’t patient enough (yikes!).
-Work on liking dogs/people with treating at parks & sitting around
-work on “swapping”…well have my husband work on it every evening or so
-have relatives ignore jumping for more polite greetings or offer incompatible behavior such as performing tricks
-find bait to do people work, vary people, clothing, etc
-final goal: people inside
You may wonder about dogs. For a long time I really wanted Oreo to be able to play with other dogs…because she wanted to play with them too. She used to LOVE playing-it was the best thing in the world to her. Maybe it could be again, however, I don’t trust her with other dogs, as she doesn’t trust dogs now. I did bring her to training, and think maybe one day she will play with dogs, but it’s not at the top of my list. We need to work with things that make things less dangerous for people.