Leo redirected on me last week during a walk. Things had been going just smashingly and we hadn’t had a reaction worth reporting in a long time. On this walk, he was triggered by a pedestrian and a bike on the other side of the road. He barked, lunged, and redirected twice on my leg. His teeth didn’t break the skin, but the experience is quite like getting bitten. It felt like a setback.
One bike. One (admittedly sketchy) pedestrian. One after another. I thought I could manage the situation by hiding behind a partial wooden fence, forgetting that this technique has backfired in the past. I have turned “Quick, Leo, let’s run and hide!” into a cue something scary is coming.
A couple of preceding events may have helped push him over his threshold:
1) I came home smelling like three strange dogs from the Humane Society.
2) Minutes earlier, Rob and I saw a deer. I do not think the dogs saw the deer, but they definitely smelled it.
Whatcha gonna do? It happened and it was a bummer.
Walks around our neighborhood are challenging because it’s tough to escape an oncoming trigger. The secret to a successful Managed Training walk (I just coined that term) is visibility. I need to be able to see the bikes and the sketchy pedestrians coming in time to decide whether to manage the situation by preventing Leo from seeing the trigger at all, or whether this is a training moment when I can counter-condition him to the thing by feeding him cheese as we pass it.
That’s why I like to drive my dogs to their walks. This time of year, we’ve been having a great time parking by a baseball field, walking up a hill toward a sports stadium, and circling the neighborhood. Even though we encounter some bikes, even though there are people playing on the fields, and even though last week a toddler ran straight toward us – I’m able to see the triggers in time to manage or train.
The hill I speak of is just camera-right of the photo below from May 2014.
On our most recent walk, we’d gotten about as far as the grass in the background when I saw a man jogging toward us. I didn’t have time to race ahead and get away, and since I was armed with at least eight sticks of cheese, I veered off the path to counter-condition Leo.
So far, so good.
As soon as the man headed down the hill, I looked ahead and saw a little kid running toward us, with an adult just behind him.
Argh. Oh well, let’s see if we can keep the cheese party going until they pass.
Miraculously, he continued to take the cheese calmly.
Once they passed, I looked ahead again and saw …
TEN more people about to run past us. The whole damn track team!
Feeling doomed, I considered asking the joggers to stop, but instead pulled out more cheese.
It cost me four or five sticks of cheese, but Leo did not bark! Nor did he take the cheese particularly hard.
This might have been my proudest moment.
Leo biggest achievement here is that he counter-conditioned me. Next time the Track Team heads toward us, instead of cringing and bracing for the reaction, I’ll remember how it felt to stand next to a calm Leo as joggers pass.
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