Leo’s metaphoric ladder of success

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward

leo forward

Leo would love to climb this ladder, but I doubt he ever will. He doesn’t seem to understand the nuances of his hind legs. Not that he’s disabled in any way. He can run and jump just fine. He is capable of jumping or climbing on the furniture, but half the time, he just rests his front paws on the bed or couch, leaving his hind feet on the floor. I help him out by lifting his back legs up the rest of the way. It’s weird.

I took this photo yesterday to represent a commitment to move forward. To help our Leo be the best Leo he can be.

He’s sort of a problem child. I found myself saying the other day, “Leo is not reactive like Isis was. When he barks at a bicycle, he’s doesn’t have a full-blown, out-of-his-mind reaction. We just have to watch out for his redirected biting … oh, who am I kidding? He’s reactive.”

Leo experiences barrier frustration. When he’s on a leash and sees a bicycle, he barks at it. Confined by the leash, he can’t get to the bike. He gets frustrated and lashes out at the nearest thing. Sometimes Mia’s head, sometimes our legs. Mia’s head can take it. Our legs are more sensitive.

Joggers and other dogs present a similar problem, but usually I can get him far enough away that he doesn’t bark. Lately, bicycles have become more of a challenge. Rob and I like to walk the dogs after dark, when there are fewer people around. Last Saturday night after 10 pm, we encountered two bicycles. I couldn’t get Leo far enough away. He barked and lunged.

I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of training this behavior away, because of what I went though with Isis. Writing her memoir, I’m still living those two years when I was obsessed with fixing her. With Isis, we got to a point where I could safely walk her around the neighborhood. I need to revisit those techniques to make Leo less reactive.

We started last week by taking Leo to a neutral location with Rob’s bicycle. Leo had no trouble walking beside us while we walked the bicycle. We got overconfident and tried walking around a larger area, inhabited by other people. A person riding a bicycle passed. I clicked and treated Leo, who didn’t react. Hooray. I let my guard down further and missed the approach of a second bicycle. Leo barked and lunged.

I burst into tears, something I don’t remember doing with Isis at this phase of her training. I failed him. Why is this so hard? 

Nothing is worse for reactive dog training than losing your cool.

I realized we need to go back before we can go forward.

We tried again yesterday with the goal of keeping it short and successful. Make sure Leo is calm before we get started, able to make eye contact with me. Have Rob walk by with bicycle. Click and treat Leo for calm. Have Rob ride bicycle slowly past us at a distance. End on success.

Leo became very agitated when Rob mounted the bike. He barked a high-pitched nervous bark (as opposed to the Big Boy ferocious bark) and I could get him to calm down. I moved him farther away, had Rob get off the bike and stand next to it.

Leo could not calm down 50 feet away from Rob standing next to a bicycle. Part of that could be anxiety because he wanted to get to his daddy, but it shows that we tried to move too fast.

So, that’s our starting point. Next time we will start with Rob standing next to the bicycle at a greater distance away. I will try some BAT techniques of rewarding Leo by moving him farther away when he shows calming signals.

We’ll take it from there. Move forward.

4 thoughts on “Leo’s metaphoric ladder of success

  1. I’m sure you’ll find the keys to Leo’s success. Dogs, like people, work at different paces and in different ways. He’ll get there. :) Keep up the good work!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier for my SITS Day, too! :)

  2. What a handsome pup! He’ll get there…dog training is always a process. We’ve got 3 and every dog is different. But they’re smart and they want our approval…they will eventually come around to what we need from them. Hang in there!

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