So it has been nine days since I last wrote my post about our first behaviour session and we have had another one last Saturday and it went really well. I must say that Leesi really surprised me and showed me the kind of dog she wants to be and is capable of if given the chance and a little guidance.
So just to refresh your memory I took Leesi to a behaviourist to help with her fear of dogs. We already had one session that went very well, we were given a slip lead to help with control on walks and were given a daily plan for training to follow. I have seen a great improvement in her behaviour – that’s not to say she doesn’t have bad days or when she is tired then she tends to react more however she has improved a lot and I have seen her confidence grow too. She still has a bit of a problem walking towards dogs but we will get there. She is great with dogs walking across the street and is great with dogs a little distance from her, although she is still wary and always ‘alert’ to those dogs generally she doesn’t lunge, growl or bark at them.
We have had two negative experiences that were out of our control, the first one is that we were entering the park and a Beagle appeared. It’s owner was with it but when he saw us he turned and went back the way he came. Trouble was that his dog didn’t go with him, he stayed and howled at us, inching closer and closer and got to the point where Leesi was completely freaked out by it so I went outside the park and waited and the beagle ran off back to his owner wherever he went and we carried on with his walk. But Leesi was unsettled the rest of the walk and reactive to all the other dogs no matter the distance. The second being that on a different day we were coming out of the park on our way home when a dog owner parked next to the entrance and decided to let her Whippet out without a lead at the same time we were coming out and the Whippet charged Leesi to which she freaked out and started barking trying to scare it away. The owner apologised but it was still frustrating as the other owner could have stopped it from happening in the first place if she either waited until we had walked away or if she had her dog on a lead.
Anyway the point is that there will still be bad days and bad experiences but we can’t give up and think that’s it, it’s only going to be bad experiences because it isn’t a few minutes later your dog forgets (depending on how bad the experience and how quickly your dog recovers it may take longer – luckily for the most part Leesi recovers well). Writing about it now and giving my friends updates about it makes me realise how far she has actually come. With her new lead she now walks to heal and rarely pulls and if she does it’s easy to correct. If a dog starts barking behind a wall or fence she doesn’t react (unless it suddenly barks when we are next to it because it has surprised us but I don’t blame her for that, as she doesn’t bark back she just tries to get away as quickly as possible). We can now walk past the Akita down the road with her going crazy – she still whines but doesn’t bark, growl or lunge at him like she used to. The Akita doesn’t react to her anymore but she is still fearful but getting better with him. To be fair his owner does a great job at keeping him under control and doesn’t let him react which I respect him for.
So for our second session we were doing off lead training but still being on a long line and with a muzzle on just in case. To be honest I was very nervous of how this was going to go as usually if she was this close she would try to scare them off so I didn’t like to think what she would do if she was given the chance to go up to another dog as she has shown aggressive tendencies before. But being in Aimee’s (the behaviourist) presence made me feel a lot calmer and more confident, one because it was her dogs we were with and two she can read Leesi like a book so knew what was going to happen before it did – whereas I still need work on that (although slowly getting there).
But back to the session, we put her muzzle on and a 10m long line to her normal flat collar and got to work. From there Aimee let out her Springer Spaniel and Black Lab, when seeing them Leesi was very reactive trying to scare them away so Aimee took over to get her calm. After having to wait for a couple of dogs to walk past we then set off, I held the long line about half way to give Leesi some freedom but where I still had control. Now to start off with anytime the others got close she would try to charge them and scare them off, so when she tried that I would then say ‘This way!’ and make her come to me and away from the dogs. She actually caught on very quickly and soon enough the long line was completely on the floor and she was responding to ‘This way!’ on it’s own. Now this command was not to be said in a happy excited voice this was to be said in a confident this is the only choice way and she responded very well to it. There were a couple of instances where I said it too late and she charged the other dogs but Aimee was on the other side with them to block any approach. In the end Leesi was 90% of the time coming when told with her lead on the floor and me not holding it.
We did have to put the black lab away part way through as she was in heat and didn’t appreciate Leesi charging her. So Aimee put her back and brought a ball back with her to which her spaniel was going crazy for. It was a good test for Leesi to see a bouncy dog and have to be around it. She did growl a little but was able to walk past off lead. So the next step was throwing the ball and letting both dogs go for it, it was a good test to see if Leesi was actually aggressive or if it was fear and the fact she didn’t know how to socialise with dogs that she doesn’t know. So we let her go and found that she doesn’t want to attack other dogs but she does like running up to them and knocking them and then running back. To me it’s like she’s doing a game of tag but with a lot of noise and the other dog not knowing it’s tag.
So seeing that she wasn’t actually an aggressive dog Aimee was happy to just let her try to see if she would play with her spaniel, so she continued throwing the ball. Now to start off with she did keep running up and ‘tagging’ the spaniel but after a little while she would run up and that was that she wouldn’t tag she would just stand next to him. It was great to see her playing with him although not fully as she still had her muzzle on it was a great start and let me see that she could play with other dogs. Don’t worry she didn’t care about not being able to pick the ball up, her favourite part of the game is the chase – she doesn’t always like picking up her toys after chasing them she just wants to chase and that’s it.
Leesi was bred with very strong working lines on both side but especially on her father’s side who is a Czech GSD and her mother is a DDR GSD. Aimee believes that because she has such strong working lines and instincts that it comes out in her fear and chase of dogs. You see she is very well behave around all other animals. She didn’t chase sheep (or if she did she was easy to call away from unlike her brother), cows, poultry or horses. However she seems to have put her working ability into her fear of dogs and ‘charging’ them if she got the chance. She normally gets 1-2 hour walks every day depending on the day and she is good with that she will sleep most of the day after that, but to her the home and outside meant different things. Inside the home cats rule the roost and outside the home it’s free for all in a manner of speaking. She knows that she needs to be calm inside the house and energetic outside.
I was very impressed with how well she did with the lesson especially since it was only an hour-long, she went from trying to scare them away and being a bit crazy to playing with them. Now I know that she was not going to act like this with every other dog from then on there was still a lot of work to do but it gave me buckets more confidence in myself and in my dog.
So since then we have been on a long line / off lead training with just us (I had to buy her a long line) and to be fair she did well. She did try to charge a bouncy border collie but was easily distracted away from it. Upon Aimee’s suggestion we brought along a squeaky toy to distract her if she got too in tense looking at another dog. But one thing I will say, if you don’t want rope burns from the long line I suggest you buy horse riding gloves! They are made with that in mind so work well and have a lot of grip on them. (mine are on their way!)
The top picture is from our long line work that we did yesterday. Aimee said that it was best she wear a muzzle during this ‘off lead’ training as although she is not a biter because she’s fearful, another dog might press her buttons in the right way. But with time she won’t need to wear it however, that is further down the line. I was able to have her off lead when we got to the woods although I still kept her muzzle on in case we did come across another dog.
It was a beautiful walk and very calming, Leesi’s favourite thing is being off lead on a walk exploring new places, so it was great that we got to do that yesterday. My dream is to one day be able to go exploring everywhere with her, off lead and without a muzzle and without her being reactive. I know that one day we will get there but it is a long path ahead of us.
Until next time, thank you for reading 😉