Thursday, April 7, 2016

Training & Treibball Updates! Getting Out Of Our Comfort Zone!

This past week we started our new class, Impulse Control and we also had our Treibball Class with Phoenix. Impulse Control was on Friday and Treibball was on Monday.

On Friday I was having a lot of anxiety and I was an all-around basket case before class. We got to my work very early. Whenever I take my dogs to work, I try to show up before the office staff leaves and locks me out because I don't have a key yet. It gives me a chance to let the girls run around and have some fun so that they associate the building with good things. They help me set up for class and I throw them some toys and we have treats and practice some tricks. Zoe gets weird about new places and she's not loving their flooring so it's really important that the training building becomes a normal thing for her and a fun place.

Friday's class was a brand new class for us with new dogs, completely unknown dogs and owners. I was freaking out. I set myself up two barriers, one blocking the dog beside us and one directly in front of us. Basically, I was afraid someone would accidentally drop their leash and the dog would end up in Phoenix's face and that bad things would happen. We have a young puppy in the class and the last thing I want is for my dog to traumatize a baby puppy. I am really trying to set Phoenix up for success and I don't want another incident. So we were behind the barriers for the whole class, I would let Phoenix peek out from them and feed her for looking at dogs, then we'd go back and work on the exercises for class. After class, my trainer told me she wants me to stop hiding behind barriers.

Sigh... I want to trust my trainer and I want trust Phoenix but I don't trust Phoenix. It was only two weeks ago that she went after this trainer's dogs and I'm not over it. It's hard for me to be objective about the behavior that's happening right now when we just had that incident. I also think that because Phoenix is not explosive in her reactivity, she doesn't bark at every dog in sight and she doesn't flip out until it's too late that people tend to misread her a little bit. I do it all the time (and I'm constantly staring at her trying to figure out warning signals) so it's not hard to assume that someone who doesn't know her will misread her too. I misjudged her two weeks ago when she went after my trainer's dogs! She is usually fine with dogs her size and smaller. Usually.... Until she decided she wasn't fine.

On Saturday, we did another trick demo for our Basic Manners class and Phoenix got to stunt double for Zoe. Zoe does not like the flooring at my work and she refused to do her back stall. Phoenix was able to come out into the room that was full of dogs (some were barking) and she was able to do the trick. She was off leash but 100% focused on me. So there's that and I probably should trust her more than I do. I think the difference is that I am much more confident with tricks than any other sort of training, so my mindset was "Phoenix will come out, do this back stall and it's going to be perfect then she's going to go away" and that's exactly how it went. I don't even remember her looking around the room. She just came out, I told her to wait, we did the trick and she nailed it and then I put her right back in the lock out with a jackpot of treats and brought Zoe back out. It was awesome and both dogs did a great job showing off their tricks. The class loved them and many of them had lots of questions that I was able to answer. It was a great confidence booster for me and also good practice speaking in front of a group.

So the Monday Treibball class came and because I had already been in class with everyone for 4 weeks, I decided that I kind of knew what to expect with this set of dogs and handlers and I didn't put up any barriers. Only one dog from our class showed up. It was a success. Phoenix was nervous when the other dog was moving around but she handled herself pretty well. The other dog stayed on his side of the room and we stayed on ours. I was able to do quite a bit of counter conditioning with her watching him and it worked out really well.

Phoenix is advancing in her Treibball lessons and she's doing a good job. We've been practicing our homework every day! Right now we are working on directional cues, so she's learning which way I want her to go around the ball. She's also starting to learn to push the ball a teensy bit. She really shouldn't be pushing the ball yet but she's pretty good at all the other foundation skills that we went ahead started her on the ball. Who knew all the other training I've done with her would come in handy for Treibball? :) At some point, I will try and get a video for everyone so you guys can see how she's doing!

The goal for tomorrow's Impulse Control Class is to get down to only one barrier to block the dog next to me. Instead of having two of them. I'm going to try but it's definitely out of my comfort zone. The one good thing about being set up in the corner of the room is that I'm stationed right next to the holder for the barriers so if I absolutely have to, I can pull another one down. I've been talking to one of the other trainer's that I work with, she used to teach a lot of reactive dog classes and she definitely thinks I need to push Phoenix more. I can't advance with her training if I hide behind every barrier and around every corner. I will make sure to keep everyone updated with how it goes!


  1. It sounds like she is making strides. I bet if you could get started in nose work it would help her out a lot. It will teach her to work in so many different environments and if you compete, trials are set up for reactive dogs. It would be so perfect for her and I've heard so many success stories for dogs with issues like she has.

    1. I've heard wonderful things about nosework! Treibball is also set up for reactive dogs. :D

  2. Looks like things are working out very well. Pretty soon there will be little effort on all of your parts. Practice makes perfect.

    Have a fabulous day. Scritches to the girls. ☺

  3. It's hard though. When you've had a dog react to another dog, you certainly don't want to see it replicated. I get that same thing with Delilah although most times on our walks she is the easiest one to manage.

    Maybe you could try removing the barrier for the last 15 minutes of class, after she'd been in there and comfortable and slowly work your way up?

    1. Yeah, I definitely agree with you! It IS hard. That's kind of what I was thinking of with the barriers, too. I'm keeping the side one for sure and the one that's in front of me should be okay to be gone. I'm just hoping everyone stays with their owners... sigh... That's the scary part, really.

  4. Aw, it sounds like she likes Treiball -- that's great!

    Does it help at all to think of managing your own feelings just like you do the dogs'? Yes, you need to stretch to grow and yes, you need to be mindful of what the pup is ready for, but your fears are as valid as hers and it's okay to say, "I'm not quite ready yet" as long as you don't say only always that, you know?

  5. You can do it!!
    Time to stop hiding, sounds like you have a great support group to work with. :-)

  6. These classes are great and will help her with her issues! Good luck and keep on training!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  7. Seems like things are going well! You can both do it!

  8. As someone who knows the struggles of staying in the comfort zone with a reactive dog well, part of me agrees with your trainer that you shouldn't keep hiding since the only way to improve is to face new challenges, but the other part of me knows that you know your dog better than anyone else and you are the only one who should be making decisions about when to remove barriers. I strongly believe that training a reactive dog (or any dog really, but especially a reactive dog) is not a linear process--there have been plenty of times when Barley has made progress week after week and we've pushed ourselves a little more each week and then all of the sudden Barley gives me a sign that she's uncomfortable (like she spazzes out when she sees a trash can at the end of a driveway where there's never been one before when we walk before class) and we get to class and take a few steps backwards to keep her comfortable. Things we were able to do with ease one week might be things we struggle with the next week.

    In classes with new dogs, I always introduce us by saying, "I'm Beth and this Barley. I'm friendly, but we keep our distance because Barley's a little crazy." So far, it's been a very effective way of making sure our new classmates pay extra attention to where they position themselves in relation to us in class--and I never hesitate to move myself if I think someone has settled in a little too close. Now, with select classmates, Barley will let us stand close enough to them that I can have her sit on one side of me and then I can walk out to the end of the leash and give a (dog) classmate a treat and then walk back and reward her without any sort of reaction out of her other than a "I get a treat!" tail wag. But every time we get a new classmate, we start that process over.

    Take your time and work up to getting comfortable removing the barriers--I think your plan to remove one and see how it goes is a great one! But if you think you need to move it back, that's okay, too. You're Phoenix's best advocate and biggest supporter (although we're rooting for her, too!), so don't let anybody else pressure you into moving more quickly than you're comfortable with. If you're anxious about it, she will be, too, and that's when things are more likely to fall apart (or when you lose all of the anxiety and get too comfortable and let your guard all the way down as Barley and I are far too familiar with), so do what's best for you and Phoenix and move at your own pace--a good trainer will respect you more for that!

    Barley and I are sending you both lots of good luck vibes and we'll be here to celebrate your successes (and vent with you on the rough days)!

    1. Thank you so much, Beth! I really appreciate your advice! I really like how you said you introduce yourself and Barley. That's such a great idea!

  9. Oh my goodness do I understand that feeling of not trusting my dog in certain situations. As you said it's only been 2 weeks, and it's not something that can just be forgotten. In some ways I wish I were more like I was when I was younger, when I didn't think too much about consequences & was more care free... But then I think about what a bonehead I was because I wasn't being considerate. And when you add your own dogs into the mix it's important to keep in mind that you are their advocate; you're the one whose fully responsible. It's stressful.

    I talk way more about resource guarding than reactivity on my blog because in many ways I just don't "get" reactivity. Laika will do perfect one week and then bad the next.

    You guys are doing great, and I'm in awe of all the awesome work you're doing.


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