Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Distraction work

I wrote this post Saturday afternoon and then forgot to post it because the other topic took over my head and insisted it be presented first. So just pretend it's Saturday night while you read this.
Today Jack got to come help me work at the prison. He did great. Roxy and Gordon made progress in learning how to keep focus on their handlers around a distraction. The distraction being Jack of course.
Gordon and Roxy are distracted by Jack for completely different reasons. Roxy loves other dogs and wants to play with them all. She needs to learn she won't always get to do that. Not all other dogs will want to say hello to her after all. Gordon on the other hand sometimes gets intimidated by other dogs and tries to drive them away with bullying. So for him he needs to learn to be more comfortable when one is around. Using food for classical conditioning and not pushing him beyond his social threshold is important in the beginning.

So even though it is for different reasons they both need the distraction work. This is just one important skill that will help them when they get adopted into a home. No one wants a dog that goes crazy when they pass another dog during their walks together.

They both did well and by the end of the session were lying down with Jack walking past them and vice versa. It will take more sessions with multiple dogs for this to be something they generalize to all other dogs. How the other dog acts towards them will also come into play. I brought Jack because he is non-confrontational and friendly towards other dogs so his body language is appropriate.

If you bring a dog that is threatening towards Gordon for instance he would take much longer to calm down. He would also be less likely to trust what the other dog was doing. I also recommend using the BAT behavior program for dogs that are fearful towards other dogs approaching. It basically teaches the dog that you are listening to them and rewarding them for not getting reactive with a functional reward in that moment. This also helps build the dogs trust in you as the handler.

As always most training is about learning how to communicate with each other. I'm pretty lucky to have Jack as my helper. I'm sure he appreciates the extra treats he gets paid for the work.

(Yes he is tethered in the above photos so I can better direct the handlers but prevent any unwanted contact. I also walked him around on leash as well.)

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