Hydro’s Progress: Not “Just” a Walk

So, we walk our dogs every day. It is something we should be able to do with our canine companions and partners. We nurture our relationships with our dogs so we can communicate down the leash. They are perceptive to light tension and leash checks.

For two plus years I carted young Hydro around. Two cross country trips, countless trips to the lake, hiking, and training days at the park. From the time he was seven weeks old he was accustomed to leash pressure, and learned all about motivational leash directionals.

So, tell me. How is it that a dog with previously no history of leash reactivity comes back to his original owner now with rap sheet a mile long for climbing the leash and/or redirecting on the handler? Simple. Over arousal, frustration aggression, and man handling.

My perspective-
So, here I am. Little 5’2″ me. I have dealt with these issues in the past, and with some good success, so it’s not my first rodeo. Being out in the middle of nowhere Arizona, living alone on an eighty acre ranch with the nearest neighbor a half mile away, I am forced to train with my brain and not my brawn. Developing feel because I MUST (not optional, as one might approach a paying client).

His perspective-
Hydro now has history. A canine version of PTSD. He has experienced 3-4 near choke out situations, and in his mind when he goes to that dark place he is fighting for his life, and to a large extent, because he genetically loves to fight. It’s hard wired in. It’s a good thing if you need a dog to have your back, but not a good thing if handled inappropriately.

How do we progress?
Simple. Not rocket science.

1). We work always in a LOW state of arousal, which means being super cognizant of dogs present (I specifically rotate dogs based on stimulation level).

2). We build our relationship. Hydro is not a dominant dog. If he were, this would be an inappropriate approach. We need to bring the “romance” back, so speak. He trusted me from the time he was a baby, but don’t kid yourself… a dog, is a dog, and given the right triggers he will do what dogs do and react. Developing a good relationship, whereby I am a predictable handler will minimize reactivity.

3). We desensitize to collar pops, grabs and leash pressure. Using a Flexi is a good choice for him because he was walked on it a ton as a youngster. It’s familiar to him, as is his flat collar. He can be a little rude. The idea is to lift his concerns. I notice slight changes in his breathing patterns on leash now. This is his frustration increasing. I let him deal with it in a non emotional way, and always with a bumper in his mouth to pacify him at this point.

4). Control his resources and minimize options so he doesn’t have to be physically forced to do anything at this point. I will explain the crate issue in a subsequent blog post, as that is another can of worms. Suffice to say a fat dog with leash reactivity makes for time consuming handling.

As time goes on, I will take him to new places to increase arousal as he becomes comfortable.

Amazingly, he recalls his attention heeling, positions (a bit rusty), head position in heel, and can do a plethora of “tricks”. His impulse control is being recalled amazingly fast.

Now time, repetitions (400 reps to classically condition the behavior I always say), and tons of relaxation.

The happy is coming back.

Keep checking back for updates!