Sunday, February 23, 2014

So, this happened...

That's right. That's a picture of Elo with a first and second place ribbon. Contrary to what you might think, this was not a "biggest asshole" competition!! It was legit rally obedience. How did this happen, you ask? I'm still not totally sure. About a year ago, my goal for Elo was for him to be able to perform cues, like sit, around other dogs. I can gauge where he is in relation to his threshold pretty well by his response to the cue "sit."
  • Barely hanging on = no response, will either start looking around or just stare at me with the "I'm trying SO hard not to bark right now" look. 
  • Doing ok, but moderate management required = will look around on the first cue but sit on the second cue. 
  • Well under threshold = Immediate response to cue, but breaks attention and looks around after getting a treat. 
  • Normal dog response = Immediate response to cue and remains focused on me.
A year ago, "barely hanging on" was the only level we had. Sometime last summer, Elo developed an actual threshold. Last fall, he began to be able to actually work while under it. Within the past couple months, we have gotten to "normal dog response."

I can't tell you how this happened, except that I've put a ton of work into my dog. There came a point, when BAT, LAT, CC/DS and all the other alphabet soup of reactive dog rehab just wasn't getting us anywhere anymore. I can't describe what I'm doing now with any of those terms, although they're all still a part of the plan. I'm just working my dog, pushing his limits as appropriate. Asking him for a little more every time. We are taking "normal" classes now and they require me to be 100% ON the whole time. It's exhausting, and so rewarding as he seems to be making exponential progress now! I've discovered that Elo LOVES to work! And I've been able to use the opportunity to work as a reward for not flipping out at other dogs. Now, when I have him on his mat behind a barrier, he gets all growly and sassy at me, telling me mat work is boring and let's go work around the other dogs. Some of his recent accomplishments include:
  • Working in a class of 3 other dogs WITHOUT a barrier! This is a tricks class and the other dogs are in motion constantly including riding skateboards. Elo has been able to focus and work, even doing complex tricks and shaping exercises. There is a bathroom that we escape to for breaks every so often, but when we're out all the dogs are in full view.
  • In that same class, last week, he spent the last 10 minutes or so pretending he wasn't reactive. He was just chilling on the floor, giving me eye contact. I wasn't playing any particular game with him. I was talking to the instructor and only rewarding every 30-60 seconds. Every once in awhile he'd calmly glance at the other dogs, then back at me. Not in the "I need to look back at mom before I lose it" manner, but in the "huh, the other dog is a mildly interesting thing in my environment manner." (And, might I add........!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  • Oh, and then there was the rally trial. This was a fun match that was held for the dogs in his rally class. Granted, there were no other dogs in the room during his run, but there were dogs in the building. And 6 dogs ran the course before him and got their scent all over it. He was focused, he was engaged, he was brilliant. He showed off what a happy little worker he is! So proud!
There is a light. It's faint, but I think I can make it out! I'm starting to think that we ARE in a tunnel after all, and not in an abyss!