Advice on how to relax
Hi guys, haven't posted in a while. Loki is about 9 months old right now, and she's the best dog you could ever ask for at home, around people and strangers. But she's become quite aggressive to dogs. I'm working with my trainer, but I'm not comfortable with him and I am looking for a new one. I'm pretty sure her dog aggression is out of fear--even after all the socialization she got as a puppy.
I'm just wondering from those who have been through this before; how do you relax? I've stopped taking Loki around dog saturated places, but she does love the river walk in my town, and while it's normally people, bikes and scooters, there are a few occasional dogs. As soon as I see one, I always tense up and my breathing gets quicker. My grip on the leash tightens and I can visibly see Loki tensing with me. However, I just can't relax. I know it's coming, even if we step off the path, engage or try to divert her attention. I know I'm failing her in this, but I just get so anxious.
Tonight we went out on the river walk and got pretty far before we crossed paths with another dog. I called her to heel, told her the watch me command, and we tried to pass the other dog. The paths are small, and they're fenced in, so we couldn't step to the side on that part of the river walk. The dog comes towards us and Loki breaks eye contact, her hackles going up, tail raising and she starts to lunge on the leash, barking loudly. I was so tense in that moment that I know I escalated the issue, and I really want to be better about that.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated! :help:
From our walk;
I'm sorry, whenever I scroll down and see a grinnin' GSD at the end of a misbehavior thread I burst out laughing :spittingcoffee:
As to your question, you already know you need to channel your inner serene goddess. Casually turn the other way and think of chocolate, or the beach, or whatever you find very relaxing. I find that bringing a device that has my favorite music, and singing quietly along, is a lot of fun.
I have a big guy who is dog aggressive. My trainer taught me to have a loose leash held at about 8" from the dog in my left hand, no loops. The right hand holds the loops, and my right hand is placed at my belly button. This makes me stand square and forward facing. His thought is that if you're square, you're facing front, not toward the dog and therefore more relaxed. It actually worked, plus I could give better correction in that position. He also told me to have a bigger voice, more confident. I was skeptical, but it worked. I'm short, so 8" was for my height with a big guy.
That was the hardest part for me, learning I had to relax. In his worse early days, Woolf redirected on me a few times. We would see a dog or a stranger and I just knew 'here we go again, another trip home bloody'. That was before we found the wonderful behaviorist we have now. We started back at basics with OB for Woolf and handling for me, then adding in one of her dogs (Bouviers) as distraction, then her neighbor (who is also helper at club she is member of) pitched in as the human distraction. From there, moving out of the safe little world her training field provides into the unpredictable real world. It took a few sessions of me successfully handling him through the training sessions to realize I wasn't tightening up on the leash, that I wasn't tense all over.
All that to say it took a trainer I trusted, a new set of handling skills for this dog and successfully handling him before I was able to relax.
I will make one suggestion for the river walk. If it is fenced in, that leaves you without an escape route; especially if it is a tight path. There isn't a chance for Loki to pass a dog that isn't inside her bubble. As much as you and she loves that path, it would be better for both of you to walk a different route where she can see dogs, but they aren't with in her safety bubble. Both of you will be able to relax, as her training progresses and your confidence in yourself and your dog increases, you will be able to work closer. To add - if you aren't comfortable with your trainer - seriously find a new one.
Something else I thought about and wanted to add:
You are reading yourself, you are reading Loki; have you thought about how many ways Loki reads you? For instance - I would look at a dog or human with no tension and just a glance, Woolf would then as well even though up to that moment he was ignoring them. I would see the trigger come on the field, I realized I would do a half-step. Woolf picked up on that and you could see him set himself up to explode. We did a lot of video of training sessions. It was after repeated viewing and connecting the dots we were able to see what would seem to be small changes in me that sent the wrong message to Woolf.
Yeah, more info then you asked but if it helps... :)
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