Doggie DI Boot Camp–Day Seven

Above: Our Newfoundland guard dog pal who no longer barks at us as we pass. One of his minature ponies in the background.

So the deliquents were great upon entry through the gate today. Super! They also did record times on crating. I put in a lot of variables so that they have to do things differently every time. Today the fast entries earned immediate release and playtime so they were having a ball crating and uncrating.

Many pets hate the crate because the only times they are in them are when they go to the veterinarian, which usually is NOT a fun experience for them, or they are confined in the crate for long periods. Sometimes confinement keeps them away from where they want to be and so it is not the funniest thing for them to do.

The gate work is still ongoing. The two understand the boundary of being on the deck instead of crowding the gate but under the stress of the anticipation of going out, the behavior breaks down. It takes a long time to get what I need before we leave. However, the doggie duo understand that now and cooperate faster–except when the get into the competive frenzy mode they have maintained over the last year and a half!

They did great and so got to hear the release word and embark on a walk. When we got to my truck, neither dog attempted to push their way into the cab-which is a great improvement.

Our tandem walk was long and filled with different issues. We got past our llama pals, mini ponies, Newfoundland guard dog (who has given up being aggressive now and just ambles to the fence) and finally began a walk up a new road. We don’t take the same routes very often. I want as many variables as possible and since the camp is adjacent to an area filled with ranches and trails we have a wide variety of experiences and trials to face.

This particular road was filled with barking dogs and unruly canines. The horses simply thought we were amusing. The wind howled and blew up leaves and different vehciles zoomed by. The girls did pretty good. I am still working on getting both of them to sit when traffic goes by and when I stop.

Above: Some of the aggressive dogs on our walk. Four total. The pit mix on the ground is the reasons the others are elevated–he tries to displace his aggression at his yardmates.

I used my “Dog Stop” deterrant and decided it does not work good enough–although it did stop the animal I shot on the nose–the reaction was minor and I no longer feel like it stands a high pecentage result of safely detering another critter if an attack is imminent. I am pretty good at holding my own but handling multiple critters AND managing an aggressing animal is tricky.

Above: Two of the four territorial aggressive dogs on our walk Monday.

The dastardly duo don’t learn much on the tandem walks but we take them for two reasons. First, the owners will probably be walking them together so I want them to be workable. They each have a position and are beginning to understand that they need to maintain it. Second, they need to burn off some of their excess energy.

Today the big issue was the nipping and biting that occurs when they compete with one another. The reason the dogs are in boot camp is so they don’t end up euthanized or displaced. When an animal attacks or bites I will do whatever it takes to stop it. Needless to say we are working on, “no biting.”

I used a “set-up” to teach her not to grab and bite. A “set-up” is a controlled circumstance that is used to teach an animal to pick the correct response. Behavior is predictable so you elicit a response so you can correct or extinguish it. In this case, I used the favorite toy–the infamous water bottle.

Both dogs compete for the bottles (they each have one but have to have the same one) so I offered the bottle and said, “gentle” with my famous “don’t you dare grab it” stare and finger point. Since I have been praising the dogs for “good gentle” when they take things nicely, she got it right away.

Above: These two make me smile when I look at them. Dog “A” has one water bottle and is involved in the chase game with Dog “B.”

Now, mind you, she still wants to grab it but she is showing restraint. I have been reinforcing one dog with treats while bridging (blowing the whistle/using the clicker–which is a secondary reinforcer,–or the IOU, remember?) the other dog for refraining from attempts to grab the treat. This is conditioning a new response that is contrary to what they have been doing all their lives.

Above: A friendly tug-o-war good for dogs but not a game humans should play with their pets.

In fact, I have done quite a few sessions where I treat one dog while bridging the other dog for tolerating and ignoring that activity–that dog knows it will also get a treat and it clearly marks (communicates) what is the right behavior. This gets the point across and they each know that their correct actions result in treats for cooperative, non-competitive behavior.

My new citronella spray remote collar should be here this week and I’ll be using this on Dog “A” since I need an extra aid to help get through to her. I originally tested the Aboistop prior to release in the United States and found it highly effective. You can check out a couple of studies on the effectiveness here and if you want one, the humane spray training collars are for sale in our shop.

When we got back to the camp after the walk, I brought the dogs over to one of the chair swings. Earlier I sat on a hay bale and the duo learned to not push themselves into my space for attention. This is really hard for them because they really want physical contact and attention.

Dog “B” is best at remembering to sit still for attention but sometimes she cannot help herself. When one gets pushy, both get competitive and the bad behavior escalates. I can tell we are making progress because my uniforms are cleaner than they were the first few days. We also had some rain which helped with some of the dust.

Today both were fed closer together and just barely refrained themselves from trying to change bowls or steal from the other dog. I hope to obtain cooperative behavior and eliminate the food guarding behavior by the end of boot camp.

One of the things that crossed my mind is that the dogs may have to be wormed. The owner is due to call me and I need to ask when they were last tested and treated. Parasites will prevent a dog from proper assimilation of their food and the frenzied food behavior may be from the lack of nutrition that results. We can get fecal samples over to the vet during the time in camp–hopefully I’ll hear back tonight or tomorrow at the latest.

At the end of the day the girls did great so we had a water bottle play session. They now want to include me in the activity. So, I joined in. I also have begun to stay in their camp quarters so they learn that they don’t necessarily have to be all over me every minute. Learning to be in the same area without interactions with a human is important too.

When I left at the end of the boot camp, both dogs stood on the deck and let me exit without a problem. They got a lot of praise and a shower of treats hit the deck as I left.

Remember this saying, “A tired dog is a good dog.”

Week two begins tomorrow and I will start work on more obedience behavior before taking them out into the world to interact with strangers.

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