We had our first training appointment in the Arkassukurssi -training class. They had arranged for two dogs to work at the same time. We were paired with Onni, a beautiful male collie.
We were indoors, on a hallway with a 90 degree turn so we could work out of sight of the other dog. We started by just asking the dogs to perform simple, well-trained exercises.
With Una, we have practiced our funny bite-targeting a lot lately, to have a strong behaviour for this difficult situation. I changed from “touch my finger” to “touch the palm of my hand.” This practically eliminated the biting, now it looks like a very enthusiastic and energetic nose-push. Not bad, given that the brisk, pushy emotion that came with “biting” acts perfectly as a courage-giving trick in difficult situations!
So, I asked Una to sit and perform a succession of nose-pushes. She was very nervous, as she always is in strange places, especially indoors. She was able to listen and sit, just.
While we practiced with our dogs, Tommi (the trainer) walked around and played different noises from his computer (at a low volume: ambulance, barking, …). He had also brought a skateboard for Una (she reacts very strongly to youngsters on skateboards) and moved it a little every once in a while, near Una.
Next, we took turns at walking to the turn of the hallway and back, so that the dogs saw each other for a short time. The dog that remained still either continued to perform the exercise or was allowed to watch the other dog. I chose to let Una have a little look and then we went back to nose-pushes.
When we did the walk with Una, she could not concentrate on me very well, but looked around and explored the objects she saw. She was able to eat treats when she took contact, however. Good.
Next, we did a parallel walk. That means walking side by side to the same direction. This is a good technique, since the other dog is not so threatening when he moves this way with you. We had the dogs next to each wall, with us people walking in the middle. This provided a safe buffer for the dogs.
So, that was it. The 45 minutes went very fast, since I needed to be extremely focused all the time 🙂
The recommendations we got:
- Train Una to walk on your right side, too. Blah… As an old obedience trainer, I feel totally out of place if the dog is on my right side. Exactly as you would feel when trying to write with your left hand. But I get the point, of course. And plan to do that every time I pass a dog with Una, on our walks… Full of good intentions 😉
- Download different sounds from a website (Tommi will email me the address) and play them at home. Starting with a very low volume so Una doesn’t get anxious. Practice different tricks with her with the noises in the background. Increse the volume little by little and so on. Una is scared of many loud and sudden noises, especially different kinds of metallic rattling sounds, clanks, bangs and such.
- Have Una target a 0,5 liter plastic bottle standing on the floor so she knocks it over. This is brilliant! The dog chooses to cause a small clang-sound – voluntarily 🙂 When Una is comfortable with this, I make it noisier by adding something in the bottle. Tommi told me, as an example, of a dog that ended up expertly knocking over a 2-liter bottle full of stones!
The overall feeling of the session was that Una was so nervous about the new place that she hardly noticed Onni or the skateboard. I have seen this before with her, many times. When the new environment is scary enough and Una hasn’t had time to explore it, she blocks out many things happening around her – she simply runs out of free broadband. When she gets more comfortable, she starts her spot-stare-bark -routine. So, this is what I can expect with these sessions, as well. Unless Una keeps feeling as scared as she was today.
I remain pondering Una’s emotional state during the practice. She was so anxious, I would judge the situation (mainly, the strange indoor location) being something between desensitizing and flooding. I need to ask Tommi about this.