A BRAVE Moment in the Life of Zeke

Discussion in 'General Dog Training' started by tx_cowgirl, Mar 18, 2010.

  1. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    For those of you who know about my dogs, I have a BC/ACD who is extremely timid, and I've been working with him since puppyhood when I first brought him home. We've battled separation anxiety and fear aggression. Remnants of his separation anxiety are still very clear, but nonetheless he has improved leaps and bounds since he was a pup. He's tennis ball obsessed and has mastered numerous commands with only his beloved tennis ball, and I have used this obsession to help him become less scared of people. He's also been trained with a Gentle Leader, as ALL other positive methods failed for him---no progress at all, despite numerous attempts and variations of these methods. The GL has done phenomenal things for him, and after about 6-8 months on it he's just about completely weaned off of it.

    Well, a few days ago I took him to my job, a rather large hunting store with many customers and lots of employees who are willing to assist in training help. I take my clients' dogs there a lot because I have many coworkers who are willing to be "test greeters" and distractions, lol. Well me and Z went up there, without Mudflap(my BC girl, who is his security blanket--she's a social butterfly, and if Mud likes someone, then Zeke is much less scared), and I tested him without the GL. Didn't even have it on him, although I did bring it with me. One of my coworkers, a very tall, big, man with a deep deep voice (in other words, someone very intimidating for Zeke), started up a conversation with me(didn't immediately rush Z, which was great) and then asked if he could pet him. I had him kneel, let Z approach him, and then pet him under the chin(as I do all Zeke's greeters), and Zekers did great. He wasn't 100% comfortable, as he never is, but he didn't panic, he didn't leave the situation, he even stepped closer to the person and enjoyed the attention.

    After just a minute or so, my coworker stood up and stepped away from him and we continued talking, and Zeke actually laid down right there, which was huge. Then we continued through the store and I started working on some tricks(with his favorite tennis ball) to help him relax a little. He greeted a couple other people, on his terms, one that I wasn't even trying to get him to greet.

    I also even tested him with the leash dragging, which I have never tried with him before in a public place, without Mudflap. He did great, no problems. Then as we were leaving, a passing coworker reached down and roughly petted the top of his head. I wasn't expecting it and didn't see it coming, and neither did Z, but all he did was cower a little and watch as the coworker walked away. (A sidenote: Z's fear aggression was towards dogs, not people. With people normally he would flee, not fight.)

    We made it through all of these incidents without any panting, quivering, or any other high-stress body language. He was fairly calm and collected throughout our whole store trip. I was proud of him. So...hooray for my (somewhat) brave Zekers!

  2. jackienmutts Honored Member

    Oh, what a great day for Zeke!! Hooray for him!! That IS huge! Having had to work with my own GSD's dog aggression over the course of the last couple years, and having days where it's sometimes one step forward, two steps back, back and forth, etc, I know when you finally have a breakthrough like that, so many don't understand how you feel. You want to go scream it from a roof top!!

    Sounds like he did wonderfully, no Mudflap to fall back on or look to for guidance (how should I feel about this??) - he had to handle everything on his own, make his own decisions, react, and go with the situations. That was great that your one coworker met, greeted, and petted him per your instructions, that was perfect - but then, life happens. The next one came along and petted him on the head - but hey, nothing happened and they left and it was all ok, wow, not so bad after all. Hmm... Oh, that's great!

    Hooray for both of you (you get credit too)!!! :msnparty::dogtongue2:
  3. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Yes a great day for Zeke. ^^ I just wanted to give him a big hug, but didn't, since I didn't want to reassure him that that was something to be scared of and he was right to be scared. Even if it was better than normal, I didn't want to send the message that being scared at all was the right thing to do.

    He'll never be as social as Mudflap, but he is starting to learn that some people may have tennis balls, so it's good to check all people out just in case. After all, he might get a game of fetch out of the deal! He's improved a lot. He never used to approach people, at all, of his own volition....but now he greets many people, although warily. He's getting there!
  4. posie New Member

    WOW good job Zeke :D u must b very proud of him one of my dogs have this problem 2 but shes slowly getting over it :D
  5. jasperaliceuk Experienced Member

    That's terrific.

    I have a nervy dog too who will lunge and bark at strangers if they make a sudden move towards him - if they have a dog with them this doesn't happen, although he may duck and move away.

    I use a ball too - or should I say he uses it to quell his fears. If I am in the park with him he will actively run up to complete strangers and throw the ball at them to play!

    How do you use the Gentle Leader to help? - I used one with my previous dog for pulling but my current dog walks really well on leash.

  6. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    My initial reason for using the GL was because NO humane method imaginable worked for him, at all. Not even a little. So, how do I use the GL to help him...it's kind of hard to explain. Basically, since he wasn't leash trained, he didn't have a clear understanding of who was the alpha. Everything I did to establish myself as alpha(NILIF and similar methods, NOT dominating by scruffing, alpha rolling, and other such methods) was washed away every time we went for a walk. Without a clear alpha, he didn't have a clear view of who was his safety net. With the leash training established(the final piece of the puzzle), he understood that I was alpha--I would keep him safe, I would not lead him into unsafe situations, and he could trust me whole-heartedly with any situation that he encountered. If I took him there, it must be okay.

    Now of course, the GL didn't magically make him a confident social butterfly. But, he didn't freak out or panic or get really stressed in public places anymore. When we first started really working on his fears, without Mudflap, he would usually pant very heavily for a good 20 minutes or so--in a very low traffic area, with less traffic and noise than my HOUSE has. Now, we can go into a medium traffic area without him panicking. He isn't thrilled to be there, but he's not tense, he's not panting heavily, he's not shaking. He is certainly a velcro dog, but not too scared. NOW, bring out the tennis ball and the world couldn't possibly be any better. The tennis ball is the cure-all for all things scary and unknown.

    Order of security nets:
    1) Tennis ball
    2)Me/Mud---the two of us come very close in ranking. Mudflap, being a social butterfly, loves everything and everyone. And if Mud thinks something is okay, well then it's okay to be somewhat interested in it.

    Nothing tops the tennis ball though. Now he's learning that anyone could possibly have a tennis ball, so it's worth a shot to check out everyone. Even if they are a little scary, the possibility of having a tennis ball for him washes away the fears.

    So, if that doesn't answer your question....basically, without the GL, he'd be free to take himself into scary situations(by not letting me lead, and find the safe situations), escape situations at will rather than checking them out or staying in a safe zone to begin with, or react to situations aggressively(in his case, this would be towards dogs). The GL allows me to keep him in safe zones, therefore helping him believe that I keep him safe. As I fade the GL, that understanding is further set in stone because the training tool is gone, and the safety is associated with only me. So in conclusion, if he's with me, he's safe. Now eventually, I will want to fade myself out some so he understands many people are safe--if he encounters someone at the vet's office without me, they are okay and aren't going to harm him. Zeke will never, ever be a confident social butterfly like Mudflap...but he can certainly learn to be less stressed and less frightened, therefore making him a happier dog.
  7. jasperaliceuk Experienced Member

    Thanks for that, certainly something to think about.

  8. tigerlily46514 Honored Member


    I can so appreciate it, the way JackieNMutts can, of having what LOOKS like, to any passerby, 'no big deal' but in your heart, you KNOW it was a big deal. I know JUST WHAT YOU BOTH MEAN!!

    I am finally going to try the Gentle Leader for Buddy's dog aggression issues. Buddy CAN learn--ONE DOG AT A TIME---to be okay, (usually) but it takes time, and much much effort on my part, and does not neccessarily translate to helping him realize NEXT new dog he's never seen before is NOT a threat.
    It's "One dog at a time" for the rest of his life....*sigh*. And, Buddy is a lil worse with unknown dogs lately, i THINK because i have not been training him/teaching him anything. He's gone wild.
    My Buddy HAS TO be learning something HAS TO use his mind, or else. :dogmad:

    So, i'm back here to get inspired to teach Buddy new things again, and, i am going to try a GL leash, so i don't end up BEHIND buddy lunging at unknown dogs.

    Tx, i'm amazed that Zekers was able to wean off the GL???? WOW. WHAT AN ACCOMPLISHMENT, i'm so proud of both of you!!! KUDOS!! WELL DONE!!!
  9. jackienmutts Honored Member

    tx_cowgirl, not trying to hijack your thread ... Tigerlily, where have you been??? Good to see you back!!! :dogtongue2:
  10. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    I've missed you guys!!! I have been a bad pet guardian, went lazy, and stopped teaching Buddy anything............and, as a result---> buddy has apparently started practicing for a new reality show, "Border Collies Gone Wild"!! SO I'M BACK!!!

    Jackie how are you!!?? I think of you now and then, reminding myself the other day, when Buddy was performing his famous "Cujo" imitation at some visiting relatives' dog, and they asked, "why would you want a dog like that?"

    i reminded myself
    of your words: (i think it was you)
    Well, he's my dog, he needs ME, and i need HIM!

    and right now, Buddy needs ME to get inspired to resume dog tricks or training, so i came to my beloved DogTrickAcademy website, to get inspired!!!

    Sorry for thread derail Tx!! Your story inspires me for Buddy, although Buddy has different issue than Zeke, still, it's nice to see a dog overcome a tough isse.
  11. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    HAHA are you kidding....it seems I am the queen of derailing threads....I get sidetracked easily and go off on other dog-related subjects a lot, SO no apologies needed from either of you. ^^

    I've laid off on my dogs too, shame on me. When I worked with Z yesterday in Petsmart he burned out really quick. BUT....2 MORE BIG IMPROVEMENTS!!!!!

    MOST of our trip in the store was completely WITHOUT the GL. I did walk him in with it, but took it off after about 10 minutes maybe. He did AWESOME. Whoo-hoo. Not only that, but I had a very young girl and her mom walk up and ask if she could pet him(THANK GOD, a competant parent and a well-behaved kid who didn't rush him. YAY!). Normally this never happens, because he's usually wearing his GL(and so many people think it's a muzzle. :dogdry: Ugh. Anywho, at home he normally is crazy high strung with kids. Evidentally in public they are a little frightening. He did well, although he wasn't thrilled. I had her pet him under the chin, and he didn't try to get away. He was a little unsure of her, but he didn't leave and she even got a little bit of a tailwag out of him. I was so excited I gave him a big hug when she left. :D
  12. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    AW!!! THAT'S SO CUTE!!:msnohyes:

    Buddy-----never being around kids---had bad habit of wanting to lick their faces. He LOVES kids, just loves 'em, BUT, he had very very bad manners, :dogsad:always wanted to jump up on them and lick their face. He never does that with adults, just kids.

    Ha, i enlisted a few kids in the hood, that whenever they see me and Buddy, to pull over and i'd give the kid a dogtreat, to use if he'd help me train Buddy that kids are NOT cupcakes.
    So each kid would park his bike, and then hold the treat inside their fist, and have Buddy approach. (he's on leash)

    The kid would only give Buddy the treat IF Buddy sat politely in front of them.
    Everytime Buddy started to jump and kiss them, i pulled Buddy back off. And then Buddy would try again.

    Took about a dozen times,:msngiggle: but, Buddy finally learned, he has to sit nicely, even for kids.
    Was cute to see how proud the kids got when Buddy finally learned it, THEY felt proud!:msngrin:

    Still today, the neighborhood kids, if they see Buddy, still like to pull over and have Buddy 'practice' meeting kids!! :msngiggle: I think the kids felt important helping Buddy 'learn' to not lick kids.

    Eventually, Buddy got to meet some toddlers, (on leash) and he didn't lick them, either!! YAY!!! I wasn't sure if Buddy would realize, toddlers are same thing as kids,= not to be licked. :dogtongue:
    He's never been around a baby yet, not really, he's seen some from his spot on the floor, being held by standing adults, and the whites of his eyes show, like, "What the heck is that thing??" :dogblink:haha!! I love to see his face, just total amazement to see such a funny looking lil creature as a baby.

    If the chance ever comes for him to smell a baby, i think he'd be fine, but, who wants a dog sniffing their baby, i didn't want dogs i didn't know:dognowink: all close to my babies when i had babies!!
  13. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    I wish I had thought to give the kid the tennis ball, GEEZ too bad I can't think on my feet. He probably would've loved her. Ah well. :dogrolleyes: Good experience nonetheless.
  14. jackienmutts Honored Member

    Zeke is really doing well - he sure has come a long way! True, giving the little girl the tennis ball probably would have been icing on the cake, but you sure can't think of everything all the time - and hind sight is always 20/20, isn't it? If only we had do-overs in 'real life', huh?

    Tell Zeke we're proud of him here, too!! Four paws up!:dogtongue2:
  15. sweetcanela Experienced Member

    I know how you feel..i been very bad put things down...but this site has always been the back of my head even when i was studying dental hygiene...so now i am back and going to see what i can learn to teach...
  16. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    He has come a very long way. I'm so proud of him. ^^ I am talking to an agility trainer here, and we will probably be starting that in the next couple months or so. I would still really like to do flyball with him, because he would be awesome, but I don't have the time or the money to travel 6 hours away just for the classes, much less the competitions. I've searched and searched and searched for flyball clubs, and not a single one of them is closer than 6 hours away. :dogsad: But, I think he'll love agility too.
    I think this will help him a lot too, because if he can enjoy agility as much as I think he will, he'll learn to be oblivious to all the "scary" things around him.
  17. jackienmutts Honored Member

    Have you ever looked into Nosework? They now offer it at our facility and it's terrific! Finances have kept me from taking a class:dogsad:right now, but I've gotten to go to a few seminars, and one of my dogs has gotten to go as a 'demo' dog at one of the training seminars, so I've seen a lot, and it's just wonderful. Watching the dogs get so focused and into their own little world (of their nose) is awesome. It's supposed to be really helpful at building confidence, they've seen dogs just bloom in Nosework, dogs that were really fearful and shy (much worse than Zeke) have taken classes and just blossomed. May be worth looking in to? I can't wait to take a class when I can - it's definitely on my list, and everyone I've talked to at our facility who's taken a class LOVES it, and just keeps signing up for more, now they're doing auto searches, adding all kinds of stuff - guess it's addicting.
  18. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    I've considered teaching Z to follow a blood trail(for hunting purposes), but before doing that of course he will need to have a very, very good recall among other behaviors that need some work. (Btw, I'm a bowhunter, not a gun hunter....so no, I'm not thinking of using my super-timid boy for this and torturing him with the sounds of gunfire, lol.)

    But yeah, his recall needs advanced, and so do some other behaviors before I start anything like that. To answer your question though, no I haven't looked into Nosework. But I'll do some searching!

    Zeke would just be in HEAVEN with flyball, and he's a speed demon...I know he could do great with it. Me and a trainer friend of mine keep talking about starting a club here, but neither of us have had the time to do anything about it. There's definitely an interest for it here, so finding students and teams would be no problem at all. But, having the time and facilities to start a club is posing a problem.

    There's a lot of things I want to do with both Z and Mudflap, but working and going to school full time....time and money are things that aren't always in supply. :dogwacko:

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