Tuesday, October 6, 2009
A structured counterconditioning program
I haven't mentioned much about Shado's ongoing 'counterconditioning' program - where he learns to walk on a leash without exhibiting aggression towards other dogs when we see (or hear) them.
"Counterconditioning is a means of having the pet demonstrate a behavior that is incompatible to the original, unwanted response. (i.e.: having Shado eating a treat while seeing a strange dog is incompatible to him barking or lunging at that dog)" is what we are working with. But wait, back up a step... "-teach Shado a “look” or “focus” command, in which he is to make eye contact with you. This is important for getting and diverting his attention from other dogs.". This all comes from a written plan from one of our vets, Dr. Moffatt.
Shado knows the 'focus' command. But does he want to focus when it is time to? Not always... Even if he is rewarded with food for doing so, he'd rather check out the approaching/fenced dog. Can you hear my sigh?
"We eventually want his response to be “Oh good, there is another dog, that means good things happen!” Ya think?
Shado wants so badly to be a good dog. He wants to be hugged and petted and praised. He is very sensitive. He gets along fine with our other dogs, and if he is over annoyed, he gives himself a 'time out' by hanging back. But he wants that 'other' dog OUT OF THE PICTURE.
Every time I work with him, I am encouraged but also frustrated. Oh wait, I am describing Shado's response, too. He always ends a walk encouraged but has suffered frustration getting there. I will never give up on him! I'll just sigh another time and re-read Dr. Moffatt's formula.
Today Toby has a tummy ache, I think. He didn't eat any breakfast, but he did go for a run and then to the dog park. All that play must have worn him out more... he didn't want a treat when the other dogs got theirs. He's sleeping on the couch... but his little face always has its sweetness.