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Training calm in new situations

834 Views 4 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  Brightelf
Well, I've learned that Grimm and I can walk to the train station here in my city. German train stations are really busy. I took Grimm there late this afternoon, and we did some heeling, some focus, some sits and downs-- but we did it amidst this new setting. It was somewhat calmer than normal, as today is a Saturday on a sleepy holiday weekend. (Germany basicly closes down Easter Sunday and Monday) But, Grimm had never been there before.

There were bumpily cobblestone surfaces to heel over, stairs to go down and a tunnel to go through, plus a conveyorbelt-thingy for luggage that chugs up and down the stairs by the side. We were on a platform that had at first nothing happening, just trains sitting there... then a train came in on one side of us, LOUDLY, and chaos as hordes of people, kids, strollers, luggage all surged out from the train. Whistles blew, loudspeakers crackled and boomed announcements, luggage rolled by. Many smells, sights, sounds.

How did Grimm do? Well, he did fine on the 20 minute downstay I had him do to begin our adventure there, to ground him. His heeling in general, let alone in a new place, is very poor... I am currently using a Halti to correct leash reactivity re other dogs-- and it is a horrible, terrible tool to try and get ANY precision out of an adolesent dog who is distracted at that age and needs reminders to heel. Oh, well... we did okay, not good, with heeling-- but we kept at it, did left circles, and I got some good results body-blocking and stuff, using treats and clicker. Not great... precision is lost with the Halti for heeling a youngster with Grimm's strong mind and temperament.

Grimmi did GREAT with his sits and downs, his come-fores, stays, and his focuswork.. when NOT in motion. We are definitely not great at focus while in motion-- but in such a distracting area, he did great focus when we were standing still and i had my hands held far apart at my sides with kibble in 'em.

The whole loud experience was chaos-- and for a pup of 16 months, he did great his first time there. He yammered a very tiny bit when a train ROARED then screeeeeched in LOUDLY right in front of us, while he held his sit-stay as throngs of people stampeded out of the train, and he didn't get to meet anybody or kiss anyone.
But he really was pretty cool about it. His forehead was full of velvetty wrinkles, ears ultra-alert, but he held his positions--most of the time. It's a start! We will go there again this week a few times, to keep up with this. I am doing this to add to his experiences, and just help him learn to listen to me in the midst of chaos. It's a beginning, anyway!

Anybody got tips for training calm in new situations and helping focus? Where do you train for building acceptance of new situations and calmness?
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The train station sounds pretty tough for any dog. Sounds like Grimm did really well though.
I take Ruby to a huge outdoor promenade/shopping area. Tons of foot traffice, strollers, toddlers, rustling bags, music, you name it. It's designed like a gauntlet so that you have shops directly on both sides of you the entire time. Fountains to rest by patio chairs, etc..
We always have people wanting to pet her, and we always have people wanting to take wide arcs around her (all depends on their comfort levels). It's a really good for practice with small children - stroller brigde can always be found.
To get her to be calm or focus her I keep treat with me. Then I'll pick a spot have her sit and gently call her name. If she responds right way and looks at my face, she gets a GOOD GIRL, pet, treat. If she has trouble I call her again and tap the leash. When she finally looks she gets a GOOD GIRL and pet- no treat.. took too long. I only treat on super fast response first time. Sometimes she gets all wound up then I will set down in a chair bring her really close and speak to her about the world in general in a very soft voice, pet her chest and back, maybe give her a drink of water. She usually calms down and begins to only listen to me.
Sometimes I'll whisper to her and she can't help but look and focus to try and figure out what I'm saying.
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RubySlippers, what a great training experience you have built up for Ruby! This all sounds like it is helping her learn to remain calm in the midst of lots of activity. Ruby is so lucky that you go prepared, and work with her! I understand about the people wanting to either visit with her or avoid her.

We did the train station again today-- it was our third time. He has been good each time, but each time gets a lil better. I think Grimm wants to go explore everything immediately, and this is teaching him that he must first chill out in a down-stay for 20 mins first, then do a lil obedience for clicker-treat-chest-scritching. The crowds surging off the trains, the trains rumbling in and out on either side of the narrow platform, the loudspeaker cracking and garbling loudly, luggage rolling by, and going through the underground stinky tunnel to get between tracks and platforms are all things I want him to experience being calm and happy and working around. My hope is that in the future, if we are ever at an airport, at a new shopping center, or wherevere-- that he can draw on this experience and remember: "Oh, yeah! I relaxed, then I focused on Mom, and we worked a lil... must be what happens here, too..." Ok, ok.. this may take many, many times at new locations for this idea to spontaneously surface in his excitable little brain, but.. I am trying.
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Some days it clicks, some days I'm sheepishly trying to apologize for a ridiculous goof that wants to romp around the plaza. Still in process. But I can definitely say she behaves 90% of the time. The only thing that REALLY makes me cringe is when people immediately reach for the snout. ARGH!
Little hands want to go straight for the mouth and grab on to the face or lips. I have to be like a ninja to block them. When I can see them coming and we aren't ambushed, I put her in a sit and then place one hand on the far side of her face (between her head and the child). It looks like I'm just petting that side of the neck, but what I'm doing is keeping a hand ready in case she were to want to nip, or they want to grab at her eyes, or anything. She loves kids, but I'm very cautious. I coo at her and tell her good girl the whole time- she eats it up.

But it really chaps me when adults do this! They reach for her face on both sides and want to grab her by the scruffy sides of her neck!
I stop them right away, but how dumb! Just because their lab at home doesn't care, why in THE world would you think it's ok to do that to a strange dog?! (I'm all fired up now.. LOL! I'm gonna post this one a different thread and see what others do about this- I can't be the only one). I've had people get offended because I tell them not to do that. They have no idea it makes her nervous. I can see her whole body language change.
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Absolutely! Or, the head-smoosh petting. Who WOULDN'T wanna nip? The dog clearly thinks, "How rude!" And as you suggest, even the most stable, sensible, socialized GSD will be much more assertive than a sweet-n-dopey Lab.
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