This spring/summer has unleashed sound triggers; babies, toddlers screeching, teenagers racing back and forth on bikes and skateboards on our street, giggling girls and young adolescent boys...cats ..back neighbor renters in their early twenties...who did have a reactive pit/mix .... I've just been pretty much treading water with my guys trying to get used to all this new stuff going on. I don't have those genetically calm dogs...so first I worked on 1 bark then 'thank you" loads of treats to "find" for alerting me to something rather than a machine gun bark....then...
The outcome has been dramatic what has transpired over the course of 1wk.
Video attached for an example of this morning's work...they were so relaxed by the end. If I can continue this...I may have calm chilled dogs after all!
I contribute all this to:
1-Leslie McDevitt's (Control Unleashed, dvd & book) passive attention...(Rita @ Dogsmart was the first to introduce me to Control Unleash methods in her classes) then active attention games ie. "leave it", "look at that" from a default down ...no cuing down other than I am still... is the most rewarded position when outside in the back or front yard until I release them to do as they please. So I guess it's a fusion of sorts...but essentially low key and in default down/stay..I don't ask for the stay, they're just getting used to staying on their own until they hear a release cue. I'm in no rush to ramp things up...they've got that covered already :)
If they don't have the attention span to switch into that calm quiet state, like Daizy.... you use the Premack principle and end up slowly conditioning them to calm then reward for calm is getting to do something then return to calm... sort of like Jazz up and Settle game that Ian Dunbar plays or I call it 'coze coze" as my guys need to come in for a standing quiet time before I give them the cue to jazz up.
Dogsmart.ca calls it "Silly sit". Slowly building up duration of calm and up to massage, or quiet talk or scratches in their favourite spot...the great thing about Leslie's work is it's individual to the dog but the DVD goes into more detail and gives more examples of what you can try with your dog. http://www.dogwise.com/itemdetails.cfm?ID=DTB1048
I have the book and it has been a bible, but together with the dvd, she goes into more detail about all the exercises and why they work so well together. It's soooo worth every penny.
Here's a passive attention example for my guys;
2-Karen Overall's relaxation protocol...which I tweaked to gear it more for sound distractions. Only one thing I do not ever do with my dogs is give them a verbal correction. I don't say "no', "bah", whatever... my silence, sleepy eyes, deep breath, tilt head to the side or a yawn is the only clue to them to try something else or default down and they'll be rewarded.
3-Yoga! I have brought my mat outside. I've got to do more research on the connection but I have seen a leap in their calm and ignoring the "background noise" since adding this half way into the week. Really....I'm sure it's because of the breathing and Hatha exercises that I do while in between working with my dogs.
I work on the exercises anywhere from 10 sec - 10 min or so (ping- pong the time so it's not predictable), then a yoga break, or go inside, then back outside in total we're outdoors for anywhere between 1 - 2 hours in and around our home depending on the weather. When working it's either Leslie McDevitt or Karen Overall exercises then I release them to do whatever they want, or play ball or tug for a few minutes or I go over to my yoga mat and yoga out :P
End result is that they play in short increments, then will come over to where I am and chill next to or on the mat with me while I meditate or am in a yoga pose :)
Next step is taking this on the road....one dog at a time, and then in a group.
So much for the agility circuit this year, we've got more important "background noise and trigger" work to do!