Sunday, January 20, 2013

Magdog: Walking Like a Pro!

When we're out walking, it's easy to forget just how much of an utter mess Maggie was before we really started working with her on her leash walking and reactivity.  But then I recall trying different helpers like front-clip harnesses (ouchy hotspots, returned), backpacks (she doesn't mind it but I don't think it helped much with walking, keeping it for camping tough), a simple Cesar Milan style loop collar lead (fine but the leash part is too short), a Gentle Leader (didn't work super long on this one but she HATED wearing it at first) and using a Chuck-It to startle her into walking back behind us (in all fairness, this doesn't really scare her at all and did help us to teach her where we wanted her to be but many people would probably disagree with this method).  Back in October, if you would have told me that she could on a walk with only one bad reaction to a dog and ignoring 1-3 other dogs, I would have laughed in your face.

ALAS!!!  I am a believer.  For the last two days, Miss Mags and I have switched back to treats and working on loose leash walking and "stop and wait's" at corners (silly city walking means we have lots of corners to stop at).  She has been a GEM.  I don't know if it's the fact that we have Nigel now and walk time means individual time or what, but she is rockin' out on leash.

Her reactivity is still pretty bad with some dogs but next week, we start working with a positive reinforcement trainer to combat this issue.  I don't know why I didn't find her before in all my trainer searches but she specializes in working with reactive dogs and I'm SO happy to have found her.

Brandon's method was working pretty well with Maggie but with two dogs now, we need to modify.  Nigel is a little lot more of a 'fraidy guy than Maggie is (he's a little older, a little gentler and a lot less puppy-ish than she is).  We had fully, 100% bought into Brandon's methods for Maggie but for the two of them, it's just not right.  They both respond really well to food based rewards and we want them to be trained in obedience too (so Maggie needs work on NOT reacting on leash so she can be in class with other dogs without creating a ruckus).

I'm starting to read more about positive reinforcement training and just dog behavior in general.  First up is The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell.  She talks a lot about how our physical movements are MUCH more important to dogs than our verbal commands and how we are constantly conveying information to them (think about how changing your smile to a smirk can take a millisecond and be such a minute movement).  Her writing is incredibly accessible and her blog is awesome!  Review to come when I'm done.

And since this bloggity blog post is awfully wordy, here's some fun smushy pictures of the pooches.


This is Killian, my 17th birthday present who lives with my mom in Chicago.  (Okay, she truly is HER dog but she was my lady till mom had to keep her and smush her.)




Hope you had a great weekend!!

10 comments:

  1. Good job! I love her nickname, Magdog...haha. What collar did you end up using in the end? Kaya used to be a really bad puller, I used your chuck-it technique, but used my leg instead with her. It worked pretty well, but she's not reactive. Not sure if this works in a busy city, but I used to walk Kaya & Norman on either side so that I could correct them separately and Norman would not feed off of Kaya's energy since he is naturally mellow.

    I like the idea of that trainer to use less voice. I try to use my voice as little as possible when working on things. It does add a lot of excitement and confusion. Dogs are great at reading body language. My dogs go ballistic when I laugh at them.

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    1. We ended up just using a flat buckle collar because we didn't want to go prong or others. We never tried a Martingale which may work well with her. She has been slowly improving with her reactivity as I learn more about what excites dogs when they're still sub-threshold and how to ward off going above threshold. Some of it feels like it should be intuitive (not showing my own emotions). Hopefully I'm getting better!

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  2. I would love to smush their faces...they're too cute!!

    Ed was a crazy puller too -- but luckily, non-reactive. We tried all the devices and ended up settling on the prong collar and love our results. I plan on writing a post about our walking trials this week -- funny you should post this, too!

    We had trouble using corrections on Ed..not because they didn't work on him...but because they scared Tess and we ended up with a little puddle of pitty. And I agree, we've found that giving him our hand cues (that we always had) keeps him alot calmer!

    Good luck with the new trainer! Keep us posted on the results!

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    1. That's so awesome to hear how great the results are with your prong collar!! I'm so nervous about when she gets reactive about a dog or a squirrel that we would end up hurting her neck (she goes all fish on the end of a line kind of trick). We're having the same issues with Nigel getting super scared if we try to correct Maggie. And he has his own walking issues (I keep saying it's like walking a zipper!). Can't wait to read about your trials and successes!

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  3. Nice job! Ray is still quite a puller in lots of circumstances but we just keep plugging away at it.

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    1. Slowly but surely, right?! We notice improvements every time we walk (or just a bad walk, which I'm sure happens to everyone). Yesterday, she didn't react to one of the five dogs we encountered because I was trying to counter-condition but she FREAKED out fully over a squirrel. Win some, lose some!

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  4. We have been working with our adopted male pit bull type dog on reactivity since we brought him home over two years ago. He has made huge progress but still has a room for improvement. I have learned with reactivity issues it is a lot of baby steps towards your goal. Sorry to ramble... I wanted to share with you that positive reinforcement training worked best for us to address our pups reactivity and BAT (Behavior Adjustment Training) that uses function regards was the best things we found. BAT helped us learn how to help our pup make better choices around dogs. Wanted to share this great resource!

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    1. Thanks, Amanda! I actually just learned about BAT from someone's blog pretty recently and I need to learn more. Did you start training with it using a trainer, online resources, books?? Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

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    2. We purchased the book online form Amazon and started reading it. Very easy to understand and follow the basic principles. Then we had a few sessions with a local trainer (trained to use BAT) with our pup. The one-one-one sessions helped from a practical application standpoint. Good luck - it has make a big difference in our pup's ability to make better choices when he sees other dogs.

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    3. That sounds awesome. We have one local in Los Angeles who I'm going to contact after reading about it some more! She's actually doing pretty well right now but is freakin' over squirrels. One vice for another...

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