New Neighborhood, New Challenges, New Success!

I asked him to pose for a serious picture for a second. This was his best take.

It has been a while since I wrote about my dogs so before I dive into this dog’s big success today, let me explain a little bit about his history. Loker, this 5.5yr old husky/shepherd mix, spent his first 2.5 years of life in a shelter and was adopted out twice (and returned twice) before I adopted him. When I adopted him, I used dog training methods that were the result of watching a reality TV dog trainer. I tried to use those techniques to address his reactivity towards other dogs and some people – after all, I had used the dominance-based training approach on many other dogs and they worked just fine.

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However, Loker got even more agitated and his reactivity towards other dogs got a lot worse the harder the prong collar correction I gave. Fortunately, I was open-minded and sought alternative methods to address his behaviors because I was determined to help him and enjoy walks again. And that’s when I began this blog about my crossing over journey to positive reinforcement based training.

Rolling around on the ground at the park.

Rolling around on the ground at the park.

Beautiful weather drove me to take Loker out into the neighborhood before school let out to explore. Since we just moved here a couple of week ago, I hadn’t had a chance to take him through the neighborhood, only quick walks to the park a couple of blocks away and back. This time, I was ready for a new adventure. Armed with high valued treats (freeze-dried chicken) we set off through the neighborhood.

Before even leaving out own street, we passed several homes with dogs on tie outs and behind chain link fences that came charging out at us unexpectedly. I remained calm and praised Loker as soon as he heard or saw them followed by a couple of chicken treats. Shockingly, despite being only a 10-15ft away from some of the dogs, Loker only let out a few whines, but kept a loose leash and didn’t bark back. I was pleasantly surprised to see him not react more than he did. I have a couple of ideas as to why he might not have been that reactive today:

  1. Knowing that he has never done more than bark (he’s a talker, not a biter), he was more intimidated by the other dogs due to their proximity and approach towards him. He was not comfortable talking back and did his best to ignore them and move forward.
  2. He was caught a bit off guard and hadn’t had a chance to amp himself up to talk back.
  3. Our training has paid off more than I thought. He always surprises me. Our training together pays off way more than I imagine at the time I’m working with him. He’s a remarkable dog that is sensitive and very intelligent, but lacks impulse control. (I lovingly call him my “socially awkward nerd.”)

Most likely the success he had today was some combination of these points. A new place means he’s not as confident as he would be in a familiar setting, but thanks to our training he was able to focus on me and move passed each situation without getting overwhelmed.

I asked him to pose for a serious picture for a second. This was his best take.

I asked him to pose for a serious picture for a second. This was his best take.

The most successful part of our walk in my opinion was his ability to walk passed a golden retriever who was walking anti-parallel to us down the street. If you have a reactive dog, you know this is the most challenging situation your dog can go through – they are being approached head-on by another dog. Not only that, but this golden was staring him down intently. Loker would have barked, whined, and put his hackles up before, but he simply sniffed the ground and let out a little whine as he kept on walking.

I praised Loker as we passed the golden and let out a “good boy! I’m so proud of you!” when I noticed a contractor watching us as we walked by. I laughed at myself and just kept on walking. This neighborhood will be a lot of fun to train in. :)

If you’re struggling with your dog’s reactivity, check out my FREE Leash Aggression Classroom.