Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Elo's Threshold Analysis

On Thursday, Elo is starting a new class called Changing Attitudes. It is supposed to be a "Control Unleashed" type class, but the impression I've gotten about it is that is used more as a "Reactive Dogs Lite" class. Elo has kind of advanced beyond the basic reactive dog class situation. I'm not entirely sure he's ready for this class, but we're going to give it a go anyway, cause he has nothing else to do at the moment. Part of our homework was to think about our dogs triggers. Of course I immediately decided that I KNOW what my dog's triggers are. But then I got to thinking more about it, and I think it might be a good idea to put a bit more thought into it. So here goes.

Elo now HAS a distance threshold! I'm not sure what it is. But I know for a fact that there is a distance at which he can see a dog and not react. That distance changes depending on whether the dog is known or unfamiliar, looking at him, making any noise, or moving.

Smells and sounds
Elo can handle dog smells (for the most part)! This is major progress. We went to the vet the other day and it was a huge contrast from last year's exam! He was lying calmly at my feet instead of needing to have treats shoveled in his mouth constantly.  He does still have a problem with new dogs that enter the environment after he is already there. This is one area where my expectations exceed his ability and then I get upset with him when he fails. Time for some more SAT (sniff at that) and LTT (listen to that).

I've recently realized that this one of Elo's biggest challenges. He does a lot better with dogs he's worked in proximity to in the past. We've recently been doing some Abandonment Training which has been working great for him, but he had more trouble in our third session, with an unfamiliar decoy, than in our first two sessions, with familiar decoys.   In addition, he had a lot of trouble at our weekly informal training group with a dog who was new to the group. It was the most disappointing training session we've had in awhile, but had I stopped to think about how badly I was over-facing him and stacking triggers it would have made a lot more sense.

Dog Characteristics
Elo reacts to dogs. All dogs. Big, small, black, white. It doesn't matter. He still absolutely cannot handle dogs looking at him. Maybe from a very long distance, but definitely not at 15 yards. He can handle casual movement now, a bit. We do need more distance if the dog is moving, but he can do it. He has even been known to handle running, but I would expect him to need a lot more distance for any kind of fast-paced activity.

What Elo is Doing
When we started reactive dog class a year ago, Elo was not able to look at other dogs while HE was moving. If he was expected to do anything other than concentrate very hard on not barking at the other dog, it would put him over the top. Now, if there is enough distance, he actually does better if he's moving or has something else to think about. If there is not enough distance, asking him to move is trigger stacking. How long Elo is allowed to look is also a factor. We also can't do relaxation around other dogs. If there are other dogs around in any fashion, I MUST be engaging him in some way or feeding him. Actually, that is not totally true. He did successfully relax in a crate in training group the other day, so I guess he can do that sometimes. I should probably play with it a little more and figure out when. CA should be a good opportunity to build that skill.

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