Facing adversity with positive training and string cheese

Lovely Leo
Leo’s leash-reactivity has been so well controlled that I decided to increase the criteria with a more challenging walk.

Just kidding. We accidentally encountered unexpected triggers because we went later than usual.

We walk this route a couple of times a week, and it involves passing some sports stadiums. There are often games on these fields, but not usually on all of them at once. With members of the public attending. This evening, people had parked their cars along the sidewalk and were walking toward the entrance to the stadium in greater numbers than we’ve seen.

I successfully cheese-cheesed Leo from barking at the pedestrians, until one of them, apparently having forgotten something, turned and ran back toward his car. I saw him do it, but couldn’t get far enough away, so Leo barked and lunged. The ball-capped dude looked very apologetic and actually said he was sorry, so either he recognized that running at a German shepherd was not the best idea, or he was trying to get on my good side so I wouldn’t let my dog bite him.

At that point, we moved onto the grass in front of a fence around an apartment complex, to create some distance between ourselves and the pedestrians. The grass feels like a public space, even though I guess it’s not. My dogs shit here all the time. I pick it up every. single. time. But I have seen other dogs’ poop left behind there before. Which probably explains what happened next.

An old dude comes out of the complex and walks toward us. I’m strategizing the best plan of escape when he growls, “Get your dogs off the property.”

Okay, but I can’t because there’s nowhere for us to go that won’t lead to barking and lunging. I don’t say that, just turn and walk the other way, remaining on the grass until it’s safe to go back to the sidewalk. He mutters a couple of other things at me.

And Leo did not react! He only barked at the guy who ran directly at him, and only a little, and even that guy forgave him!

Honestly, I’m comfortable with where we’re at. I manage Leo pretty damn well. He doesn’t bark and lunge a lot, and when he does, I’m prepared, and I get over it. But that old guy bothered me.

Obviously, we couldn’t continue on our usual route, so I did something unorthodox and took them them down a wooded trail I’ve never been on before because I have no idea where it leads. What if joggers pass? Or bicycles? Couldn’t be any worse than the current state of our usual path.

We saw no one, and it was lovely, and I contemplated walking there again someday. We cut through the woods to a paved path that led back up to where I’d parked. A couple of bicycle cops looped around below me, and I had a flash of worry that the old guy had called the cops on the trespassing German shepherds.

As the cops started pedaling up toward us, I said, “My dog barks at bicycles, so . . .” And they kind of nodded, like, whatever. While they passed, I cheesed-cheesed him to a ridiculous degree, adding praise like, “I know! This is stressful! You’re doing so well!”

And. He. Did. Not. Bark.

Which would be a terrific happy ending, except then a kid whizzed downhill toward us on his bike, and I couldn’t get Leo cheesed fast enough to keep him from barking.

Oh, well. Two out of three ain’t bad.

Positive Training

This post is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hophosted by Cascadian NomadsTenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days. Please share your responsible pet owner positive pet training tips by linking a blog post or leaving a comment below. The Linky Link will be open through Sunday.

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10 thoughts on “Facing adversity with positive training and string cheese

  1. Good jobber, Leo! And a big growl to the man who growled at you to get off the grass. He totally needs to chill out. P.S. I love the word cheese-cheesed. It is just brilliant.

  2. Congratulations! I love when they surprise you with handling unexpected obstacles. Timing is everything with the snacks, isn’t it?

  3. Great post! I’m glad you and Leo had a successful walk even with the many obstacles thrown at you. My dog and I walk every day and it is always seems like we’re on an obstacle course with joggers and other dogs.

  4. Yay for small successes! Oh those days when it seems triggers are everywhere! We’ve been in some tight spots where there are dogs on every corner. Thanks for joining the hop.

  5. Ah, the power of cheese! That works well with Rita too – but it’s always a challenge when something/someone/some dog comes on us too quickly for me to react in time. We have a trainer coming tomorrow for a “walk and train” session. With our luck we won’t see another dog and she’ll be her normal, good self! The minute the trainer leaves… her “nemesis” will walk past!

  6. I live in Wisconsin, where, of course, we use cheese as occasional training treats too! It sounds like Leo had a good outing all-in-all.

  7. That was brave taking a new trail on a whim like that and I’m pleased it worked in your favor! Good job to both of you!

  8. Take every success you can get! It’s kind of funny that Leo didn’t bark at the old guy that deserved to be barked at though. 🙂

  9. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re doing great! I too struggle with Harley when it comes to bicycles, school buses and motorcycles – should I just say wheels? LOL He’s not aggressive, and because he’s full of fluff, he’s not intimidating either. However, he will catch me off guard, surprise and startle little and old people and get Jaxson excited (not to mention pulling my arm out of it’s socket!) – so I empathize with you – keep up the good work, and I’m cheering for you.

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