Sunday, August 24, 2008

Day 18 of 30DR: Muddling Through

I purchased Gentle-Leaders for both dogs. B-dog is always much better about tolerating new "gear" so I've been working with him first. Because this is a head-bound collar I'm hoping it might ease the transition into muzzle-wear. Also, of course, I'm hoping this lead will help me train both dogs to stop pulling the lead as we walk.

Both dogs are pullers, despite lots of training (never as much training as is humanly possible but still enough training that we ought to do better) as well as experiments with the Illusion Collar and shoulder-leads in addition to the slip-collars we used in obedience classes.

The Gentle Leader is recommended training gear in the Click to Calm book we're doing with the new trainers.

I'm trying to calm myself with the idea that I can focus on one thing at a time and measure some progress in that way instead of yearning for a miracle. But of course I'm still tense and worried.

Meanwhile, today I learned a couple of things:

B-Dog:
* Buddy really doesn't like the Gentle Leader but is putting up with it while attempting to periodically scoot it off his snout. I was going to trade his buff-colored leader for a black one so that people wouldn't think it's a muzzle (my neighbor saw it and immediately said, "Don't bit me, dog" and warned his little boy to stay away--I'm pretty sure this was all about the lead because he knows nothing about B-dog's situation and, for crying out loud, his dog is the one that actually killed a small dog down the street last year--Sheesh!). Anyhoo, I'd read about that reaction to the Gentle Leader because people freak out when they see dogs in what appear to be muzzles (Lord, they should see the real thing!). But I decided I'm going to keep the buff-colored one on B-dog because I need to be able to see whether it's slipping or loosening from his head, especially if we go for long-distance walks. If he wears black I may miss seeing it slacken. (Yes, if you put it on properly it's not supposed to slip but B-dog is Houdini and a little sneaky about these things.)

* During our walk a couple of very friendly humans (neighbors with rescue dogs of their own) approached B to say hello. The man was intimidating--big and hunched over--so I told him we're working on our socialization, etc. He insisted on petting B (you know, I've had this happen before: men say, "It's OK, I'm a dog person" and keep approaching even though--as in this instance--the dog's ears are back. B was looking wary but not growling or anything. I didn't want to alarm him by pulling him back so I said something like, "Well, thanks for saying hello but his ears are back so we're going to have to see you later" in as friendly a voice as I could muster.

This in-between world is so tough. If I'm going to use the label what I have right now is a couple of fear-aggressive dogs. And I'm trying to socialize them in a way that's safe for them and for those with whom they interact. And in a way that doesn't give me an ulcer (or worse).

* P-Dog:
Petunia is going to require lots of baby steps. She can read me like a book and can tell when I'm about to have her do something she doesn't like. She immediately goes to her crate or crawls under the bed. So tonight I managed to get the collar-part around her neck once, adjust it, but not try it again. (The Gentle Leader DVD suggests not to push dogs into the collar but instead to use lots of short sessions with extra-good treats.) Tomorrow I'll attach the leash to the leader before trying it on her because I think she's more likely to compromise and try the thing on if she knows it's related to going for a walk.

* Right now P is lying on her side, the dearest little bundle of fluff. Reminds of me of when she was a puppy. It breaks my heart to think that I could be endangering her by keeping B with us. I'm terrified of that. Even though there's been zero visible aggression between the two since the episode during the training session (at least zero noticeable to me). I continue to keep them separated by baby gates. But I'm still so worried about getting this wrong.

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