Working with Distractions

me and blue bonnets

We have been working on loose leash walking here in my neighborhood and Loker has been doing great, so I thought we needed to increase distractions. He has been doing almost perfect on the side-walk so I drove to a local park to practice walking on a new sidewalk, around some children at the play ground, and walking in grass without pulling. Or that is what I was expecting! Little did I know that on a beautiful and warm Friday afternoon all the children at the local elementary school would be at recess!!! There were certainly way more distractions than I had planned for but it turned out to be a great situation because the children stayed on the designated playground only.

We calmly walked around and passed the one man walking the trail a couple of times. He was stressed, lots of panting and trouble paying attention, but he did so much better than I would have thought or than he would have done a few months ago. Despite the huge distraction (about 50 or so screaming children) he listened to me as best he could. There was very little pulling and towards the end he did perfect in the grass. It is so nice to see all our hard work show in unexpected situations.

What brought the most relief was that I knew what to do in this situation which kept my own stress down. It was so nice to know I did not have to worry about correcting him for barking or pulling. Now that I am looking back, I am a much happier person – it is actually fun to work with my dog, it is something I look forward to everyday. Before I would stress about leaving the apartment because he would bark and put his hackles up at everything that moved. I would have to correct him which in turn would make him act more intense which then made me angrier. It is a vicious cycle that I am so happy to be free of. Now I get to act happy and fun to get his attention instead of yanking at his neck. Now he would rather look at me than the person coming down the side-walk. I can actually see him thinking and learning and, most of all, doing things because he wants to do it and because he knows how to do it – not because I told him to!

Tomorrow we begin a “Courteous Canines” class with a local trainer. I am hoping this class will be helpful in helping him focus when other dogs are around. We are not quite passed the reactivity on the leash yet, but this should help him learn to focus on me when he sees a dog. Today’s walk was a good trial run for tomorrows class. I know tomorrow will be a challenge, but with patience and delicious treats, I think we will be okay.

Here is a beautiful picture we took in the Blue Bonnets yesterday. Loker has a blast, he was jumping everywhere like a wild gazelle and nose diving at every good smell he caught a whiff of.