Luna and I had a great weekend. We went to see a behaviorist and then went to visit my parents at their cottage. When it was time to drive home this is what Luna did all the way home:
Luna is leash reactive. Two years ago she was attacked (while she was on leash) by three dogs. They were off leash. One was a pug, the other a medium/ small cross breed and the other dog was a bit taller than Lu. And here is the worst part. They belonged to the trainer that I went to see to work on Luna’s distraction issues. The end result … I now have a leash reactive dog. Lesson learned : choose your trainer carefully.
Needless to say I am a little jaded when it comes to trainers now. I’ve worked with Luna everyday since ‘the incident’ and even though we have made progress, I felt I was missing something. Some step that would get her over this. I decided to find a behaviorist and maybe find the answer.
I decided to go see the behaviorist at the Edmonton SPCA for a private session.
I knew the SPCA was big on clicker training which I wasn’t a big fan of. The truth was that I didn’t really know the concept behind the clicker. I had spoken to people who went to classes that used clickers and they said it was silly among other things. But I was open to options as I really want to help Luna with her anxiety with other dogs.
The behaviorist was really nice and said that Luna didn’t really seem all that bad as she laid down in the room we were in after about 10 minutes. I told her that Luna had already gone for a 45 minute walk prior to us coming here so perhaps that was why. She said that usually reactive dogs that come in this room take a long time to settle as they are surrounded by the sounds and scent of other dogs. ( the room we were in was in the corner of the adoption wing). This gave me hope.
After discussing history, things that I’ve tried and commands that Luna knew she started to tell me about the clicker.
So my understanding of this device is that you are able to ‘mark’ the behavior you want quicker with the clicker. It made sense. Lu is usually a fast learner. It takes her maybe 5 goes to learn something and sometimes more if it is a little more complex. This clicker would, in theory, take her less time to learn a particular cue or behavior I wanted. Sounds good… We shall see.
After a few demos and me trying and some more discussion I was given homework and a clicker. When we return in two weeks we would do some practical work with another behaviorist who would be handling a dog from the shelter and our behaviorist would be coaching me with Lu. All of this sounds good to me…we shall see.
Once we got home and I woke Luna up. I figured I would start our homework as I was told that her meals were now to be hand fed for the two weeks. She would be hand fed while working on the exercises laid out in our homework.
The exercises are basically sit/stays that increase in complexity as the days goes on. I looked at it and thought ” Lu can do most of this already. This won’t take too long.” Wrong! I knew I was missing things in her training and boy was I right. Luna is impatient and will bark or whine at you if she is waiting to long for something to happen. That was the first thing to fix… Click, click. Done. Next was for her to hold that sit while I walked 1/4 way around her. (She would get up and turn with me)… Click. Done.
We are only on day 2 of clicker training but I am finding that Luna is quicker to figure out what I want from her and the fact we are using her daily meals to do this training is a bonus. When we start doing the dog-dog exercises or there are high distractions, we will use high value treats as this is where it will be needed. But for now, I think this clicker may be a good tool. It gives me hope.
I know there are things I need to work on too in order to help Luna. I didn’t realize that the ‘incident’ was still something I needed to get over until the behaviorist suggested that we attend a leash reactive class after 2 private sessions. When I quizzed her about the class and the other dogs that would attend I found myself crying and telling her that I don’t think I could handle Luna getting hurt again, I loved her too much for that to happen again. (psychologically she was hurt but not physically) She assured me that this would not happen but that she understood and just to keep it in mind.
I know I need to get over this. I know to help Luna I need to. And I think that maybe as Luna gets better I will be able to put my guilt away for allowing this to happen in the first place. And maybe if I write about the ‘incident’ and the guilt I feel over it. I can get better too. But I do have hope that one day Luna will be able to walk beside me and not lose it when she sees another dog.