Now that I feel like I can hold it together during Jedi’s bouts of leash reactivity…I have noticed a few things. I had been totally missing something that I really believe has been tripping us up.
The information you hear or read in regards to walking your reactive dog, make it seem like excitement is your enemy. Make sure your dog isn’t jumping around with excitement at the start of your walk. Don’t let your dog run out the door or the gate ahead of you, don’t let them fly out of the car, loose leashes. I did all of this, but something was lost in translation. All of these bits add up to an actual message that was lost in the fragments.
Way back when, I enrolled Jedi in a 6 week growl walking class a few months just after he turned one. The instructor, Blair, had grown up on a farm and had dealt with herding dogs all of her life. She was the only instructor who really had his number.
Blair was trying to adorn me with the knowledge of how to get Jedi to settle down. At this current moment in time, I personally have startled many a dog while showing an owner how to make their correction meaningful with simple body pressure. That is sort of the point, to make the dog pay attention to you, over the environment.
The respect it creates can have the appearance of fear as the dog suddenly becomes wary of the trainer, but it is really just the dog trying to respect the trainer and their space. It is respect through consequence, I never even touch the dog (Consult a professional before pressuring a human aggressive dog). The dog is trying to learn this pushy new person’s rules, asking “what would you like me to do?” Blair wholeheartedly achieved this with him.
She tried to convey this message to me. But at the time I took the class, I just couldn’t get it right. Particularly, because Jedi moves from 0 to 60 very quickly. My state of mind immediately went to all of the times this has happened before and all of the weird, shaky, slushy energy would come rushing back to me. Amplified by all of the stares and occasional comments about my scary mean dog, making me question his temperament. I couldn’t lead him properly with that mind set.
Blair also had no relationship with him. When a trainer gets your dog to act differently, it is because they are working with a blank slate of respect and consequence. I had to work on rebuilding our “let’s get out of here” panic mode relationship/state of mind. He was really just trying to help. Mom, I will act all crazy scary and then let’s make a break for it! Such a benevolent little guy. 😆
All of these pieces I tried and tried to fit together. Blair also told me, don’t let him come out of the car all crazy. Well, I never did that. Especially since he was a tiny, tiny pup, we worked on being released from things like his kennel, the agility start line and the car. In fact, for most of Jedi’s life, he had a disdain for coming out of the car.
There was one day; it was something like 90 degrees. I pulled into the garage, opened the car door and released him. He didn’t come out. I had food, nope. I asked my husband to come by and act excited. Jedi still wouldn’t come out. I got Kiska and we played games by the car, Jedi wouldn’t come out. At that point, I opened all of the doors in the car, the garage door was open and I left him. It was so was hot! He stayed in there for 45 minutes. Oh Jedi.
I thought I was doing what I read and the things the trainers told me. Even though he can do all of these separate skills, I was missing the real point! I believed the underlying meaning to be control the excitement, but it is actually arousal. A hyper vigilant overstimulated state of mind.
I have been taking Jedi on nosework adventures and I finally noticed it. He started whining within minutes, sometimes seconds of leaving the car. It was February in Minnesota; the parks are pretty much empty. I looked at him and then I looked all around trying to find his trigger. There was no trigger, no dogs, no people, no cars. We were in the middle of the park with nothing moving even remotely near us. Simply being in the world was knocking him out of his tree.
He was coming directly out of the car aroused to 4 or 5 out of 10. He doesn’t act hyper or jump around, we maintain a loose leash, he stays with me, but it is his mind that is not in the right spot. I am sure he has been loading like this from the beginning. I had spent so much time unsure, with my dog, who himself was unsure.
A new direction, here we go!!
Once I realized what was happening, I wondered how the heck am going to fix his state of mind? Thank you Jesus, I found these guys => The Good Dog Life Blog this blog Sean wrote => Arousal is the Enemy
AND THIS blog about structured walking to help Jedi find doggie ZEN. => Aim for Zero
People can practice mindful walking, slowly feeling each step and quieting their minds listening to their long deep breaths. I cannot just explain that my dog. Now Jedi, I need you to clear your mind and calm your breathing, chill out and meditate. Ha! So, how can I bring this to my dog?
Since we just spent so much time in manic mode and I am not about rushing this process. Jedi has to understand the framework first or it isn’t fair to him. I am keeping high distractions away from us right now. Which has been pretty easy, it won’t be what many Minnesotans think of as nice outside until early/mid May. Lucky me, I have been able to get in a few quiet sessions.
All I asked from him was be calm and maintain his position. Do not alert/load to anything, not even a twitching blade of grass. He must keep his mind quiet, by not having to worry about what is around us. We have achieved that, a nice calm walk with a calm state of mind. Heavenly.
Our next walk, I will get him into that head space again and I will add in distractions…and correct for any interest in anything, anything from THE. VERY. SECOND. WE. GET. OUT. OF. THE. CAR!
A quick update on Kiska, she has been off leash restrictions for 2 weeks now. She is happy and we are just as happy. Walking your dog around your front yard on leash for 3 months is not really that fun. We found out besides the ACL rupture, she has severe arthritis and her meniscus needed repair in two places. It has been a difficult recovery, but she is coming along.
Jedi is an amazing dog. He gets kinda beat up in these blogs. As my husband tells everyone, he is about the best dog you could ever wish for. He just happens to come with no impulse control and is a bit leash reactive…😜💖
Seriously, no one will ever say this about me “She just gave up, without even trying everything”. NEVER. EVER. NOPE. NO. I am pretty sure this is what my husband loves most about me, I never give up. 😂 Honey, that was a joke. 😂
P.S. Bonus points to whoever locates Jedi in the PJ photo.