It looks like it’s been about 2 months since I updated last, and since we have begun our new routine, we have had some positive progress. Warning: This is going to be long but I want to detail it incase it helps other people dealing with some of the same things. We are still hit/miss with regards to her reactivity, but that I’ll touch on further down. We know that good dog is in there somewhere, we just need to help bring it out!
Jazmyn spends most of her time in her crate, unless she is being directly interacted with. This means she is out for bathroom breaks, walks, playtime, training exercises and socialization, but essentially it is all “work”. Playtime involves basic obedience thrown in, laying on her bed involves down/stay, etc, etc. She is not allowed “free time” to do with as she pleases. This has created a pretty big difference in our home. She gets very excited to come out of her crate now, and actually listens to what we’re asking her to do. She wants to be with us more and wants to engage with us, although our bond with her is still a work in progress. Backyard time is usually spent on her long line, but this is to reinforce commands as occasionally she’ll take pleasure in grabbing a chunk of dirt and trying to entice a chase game with it (Sorry lady, no chase for you!)
One of the things Jazmyn has an issue with is learning to come down once she is in an excited state. Her usually pattern is to keep going up, up, up and that was causing barking/nipping/mouthing on me, so it had to stop. We spend time practicing amping her up (getting her excited to come out of her crate, amping up her want for a ball/rope, etc) and then stopping the activity and placing her back into her crate. She’s done pretty well, and settles quite quickly understanding that we control the game and when we say stop, she stops. Glad to say, I no longer have bruises and haven’t in a few months (yay!).
Now for the reactivity…. Jazmyn reacts to pretty much anything, when she is with us. (She has barrier reactivity: leash, crate/kennel, car window, fence, etc). When she’s with her trainer, not so much, and sometimes not at all. She has created habits and built up reactions, that we’ve reinforced unknowingly, that need to stop. A large part of this is our handling techniques, however, her genetics also create a force that we’re battling against at the same time. Jazmyn’s new world needs to be black & white, no more grey area, no more nagging, just right and wrong. Corrections need to be of a more serious nature, and not of a constant nagging nature so she gets the point. I need to pump up my confidence levels, and amount of handling I do with her, as it is with me that the strongest reactivity generally occurs.
We left her at Mike's for an overnight boarding while we were at a wedding. While she was there, he took her out and was working on a few things with her. She self-corrected herself on a long line, and after that she listened to Mike with minimal effort on his part, and had almost zero reactions to other dogs, and to dog/cats/people in his home. There was a cat that dodged by, his pup Nick in his crate, a husky in an ex-pen, his dogs outdoors, his wife, daughter and other people that came to the door. He took a video and sent it to us, and it was really great to see that she had it in her, we just need to learn how to handle her, and how to bring out that good side.
She barks heavily as people enter our apartment (don’t worry, the neighbours upstairs are my in-laws lol), but is learning to settle much faster. She is not allowed out of her crate while people are over, but after her initial burst she will lay down and just observe people in the house. It took her longer to settle down in her crate with my niece around the other day (2 years old), but she eventually did and we ended it positively (Note: the 2 year old was not scared at all, she waited patiently to give Jaz her birthday cookie until she was “good and quiet”).
We’ve got new techniques to work on, and ways that I can improve my handling. Jazmyn, in times of stress, does not look to us for direction (we’re using quick movements & turns to force her to follow). She will either attempt to avoid, and if she can’t, she lunges forwards. This is what needs to change. Our work outside is about getting, and keeping, her focus. We’re rewarding for movements back towards us, for eye contact, etc in stressful situations, but attempting to stay below threshold at all times. Walks are a bit challenging as she is a puller (Even though it works for her walking, I don’t trust an easy-walk harness to be safe enough if she reacts to another dog), but we’re working on it, and some days are better than others. She walks pretty well on a long-line and now will often stay within her length limits without hitting the end of the line.
One item we’re having pretty good success with is Jazmyn’s exposure to the upper levels of our house. As a pup, my brother-in-law didn’t want her upstairs, as he feared she was too mouthy to be around my niece (essentially, he complained until no one wanted to hear him anymore, and Jaz was banned upstairs through no fault of her own). This created some major excitement for the times she did get to go upstairs, and it’s been a battle ever since. We have 2 cats that run like the wind, only activating her prey drive. Combine the excitement and moving prey, and the upstairs is a pretty fun place apparently. We’re now working on walking around the 2 upper floors on leash, using movements & turns and getting her to follow us loose leash. We practice calming down in a variety of rooms. We’re also working on exposure and desensitization towards our cats (This is being done very very slowly, and in very gradual stages) – 1st stage is Jaz on leash, cat in a carrier at least 6 ft away and Jazmyn learning to relax.
Overall, I'm glad we're seeing things getting better, and while it's a very long tunnel, with time and effort I believe there is a light at the end of it.
Thanks for reading!!
Jazmyn - 11/11/2011
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