Duke And His Fear Of All Things Novel

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creiter
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Duke And His Fear Of All Things Novel

Postby creiter » Sun Oct 14, 2012 11:41 am

Hello all, I know I briefly mentioned Duke's behavior issues in my Introduction thread, but will continue here.

Duke is now exactly 1 and a half years old. I foster dogs through a local rescue in town, and he was my first and only foster failure, I couldn't help but adopt him because his personality was absolutely unbelievable, and as far as a me-and-him companion dog, he was PERFECT (respects me, obeys, listens, cuddles, is patient with ME, wonderfully crate trained, potty trained, etc...). Being a rescue, his past is uncertain, although it is obvious he was not properly socialized and thus fears nearly anything "new" or "strange". I adopted him when he was 8 months old.

Since then, we have gone to a variety of dog classes once a week (multiple obedience classes, tracking, agility). He LOVES class and EXCELS there. He is successfully around 20-40 "new" and "strange" things (people and dogs and equipment) with very little space between him and THEM. This is prime "look at me" training, and has allowed me to master knowing when he is about to react and try to catch his attention again. He does have a few outbursts every class (if a dog gets too close or stares to long he will whimper, which escalates into a bark if I don't interrupt in time, which I then back up so he has no choice but to refocus on me and perform a quick string of commands to get back on track).

I have also purchased numerous books on training, all of them focused on POSITIVE training. We have used clicker training for the most part. I refuse to do any sort of physical force related training with him, so please don't suggest the use of prong collars, etc... I know they are fabulous tools for some dogs, but Duke reacts in fear to any sort of physical punishment, and I do NOT want him to be afraid of me, I want him to trust me and gain mutual respect as we work together as a team. The beginning of his life was filled with failures... he lost his first family, he was stuck in a shelter environment for 4 months, etc... it is time he is set up to SUCCEED!

SO...

Duke's main problems:
1) Fear of CERTAIN types of people (ONLY female, usually brunettes with short hair and higher pitched voices)
2) Barking at everything outside the window (his prejudice about brunettes is dropped, now it can be male, female, blonde, imaginary.......)
3) Loose leash walking (in certain environments... other times he is PERFECT)
4) Inability to walk past people or dogs on walks
5) INCONSOLABLE when sees squirrels or bikes on walks
6) Dog aggression towards NEW dogs who are not introduced in a safe, controlled environment - for example on walks, or (don't shoot me for this one, I have learned!) dog parks (we will never return to a dog park again! Luckily learned this lesson BEFORE anything bad or scary happened!)


For the sake of limiting this post, I am only going to focus on #1... I will make more topics for the additional problems, after addressing this one. I would love your advice. I will outline each problem and what I have done to make steps in his behavior thus far (starting with #1). I am sorry this post will be so huge, but I truly value your knowledge and I am sure others have dogs just like my little turd :)


1) Fear of CERTAIN types of people:
Example - Duke and I were celebrating labor day at a friend's house, this friend has a fenced backyard and a boston terrier who Duke absolutely LOVES. A few other people were over, some of which Duke had met before, some of which he had not. He was doing absolutely great... playing with his BFF Benny (the dog) and occassionally laying down near our feet and puppy dog eyeing anyone for attention. I watch him closely in these situations, as he always shows signs of distress, and there were none. He napped in the sun with his belly up, no fear, no nothing. THEN INTRODUCE THE BRUNETTE. As soon as she entered the door, I knew he would have a reaction, I could see him tense. I immediately started doing a string of commands, and he listened, but would NOT maintain eye contact for very long without checking on her.

After speaking with her about his problems, she agreed to allow Duke to see that she was NOT a bad person, and was told to stand very still, not make eye contact, and totally ignore Duke with her hands in her pockets. Duke approached, and the barking commensed. Based on what I have read, it was not "fear" barking as back legs were not bent, he was standing tall and barking in a "howl" sort of position at her face ("anger" barking, the GET AWAY NOW). I would step in between them, increase some distance, refocus his attention on me and have him perform tricks, and then step aside. Immediately the barking continued. (I realize now we were moving too far too fast, should have increased distance more and given him more time to relax, but please forgive me as I am learning!) I removed Duke and put him in his crate (not punishment, he loves his crate and it is his SAFE zone), allowed him to calm down, and tried again. Repeat about 3-4 times, and Duke quieted down and sniffed her hand and then walked away. REWARDED IMMENSELY for choosing to accept and walk away, and then was NOT forced to interact with her unless he wanted to. (Turns out by the end of the night he hopped up on the couch next to her and plopped down, rolling over with his head in her lap for cuddles and loving)

Similar encounters have happened before like this, but MUCH shorter lived. He barks for about 30 seconds and then quiets. He chooses to stay away from the person and watches them closely for another 30 minutes or so, and then after accepting them seeks their attention as if nothing were wrong.

Duke has never bit anyone. He has insanely good bite inhibition whenever we play. Sometimes he will get a little too excited and bite down for the toy and get my hand instead, and although I immediately think he will break my skin (cuz how could he know it was my hand not the toy), as soon as he feels flesh he stops, retreats, and calms down immediately. He once had a toy that felt a little softer than most plastic toys (like flesh) and refused to bite down on it (I got rid of the toy... I liked that behavior in him and did not want to encourage him to bite it).

But introduce me... I have more anxiety over worrying about Duke than I do any other aspect of my life. He is a FABULOUS dog. He is sweet and loving and intelligent and calm and playful, everything that a pitbull amabassador should be... ALBEIT his fear of all things novel. Because of this fear, I realize he is more likely to bite ONE DAY, which is why I have taken insane steps to manage his behavior. He now loves his muzzle and Halti because they mean treats. We are masters at changing sides of the street on walks to avoid people and dogs. He loves his crate and it is his safe zone, so neither of us feel bad when that is the only solution to avoiding a stressful situation for us.

So, I have the management down. I understand the severity of owning a fearful pitbull, and at times I don't sleep at night I am THAT anxious about wanting to protect Duke and everyone around him and give him the best life possible. It is not his fault that he was not socialized, and even after the short time we have spent together (less than a year) he has grown leaps and bounds just by having me around to trust to keep him safe. I am POSITIVE that Duke will overcome his fears of all things novel, I want to give the time, effort, and when necessary, money, for this to happen. I just need some support and advice to keep up the good fight! (Despite my anxiety, which is just a personal problem I have hahaha, please note that Duke is a fabulous dog, far from the red zone, and excels in many situations other dogs may not).

My main goal right now is to start working on BAT... Behavior Adjustment Training, by Grisha Stewart. Is anyone familiar with the tactic? It encourages dogs to look at a scary person down the street, make the choice to "cut off" that object (look away, yawn, lick lips, relax ears), be rewarded for making that choice by allowing retreat from the scary object. The trials are then repeated closer and closer. This teaches the dog that instead of BARKING to get safe distance, they can CUT OFF interaction and then still be rewarded by avoiding the scary object. The increase in choice increases their faith in safety and their ability to deal with scary situations, allowing them to be braver and get closer and closer.

Any other advice/suggestions? What I am doing wrong? What I am doing right? I am SO lucky to have found this community... some place to just listen who already understands the challenges I am facing. No one else seems to get it, and typically think I worry too much, but I have accepted the weight of loving the breed that the world loves to hate, and I want to make sure Duke and I do it right. I would love for his tale (tail) to be one of rehabilitation, where he can walk past someone on our walks without going nutso tugging and spinning and acting a fool because his threshold was obviously surpassed (something that I never allow to happen anymore thanks to ninja skills haha!).

Thank you for reading this NOVEL. Bet you can't wait for me to post about more of his behavior problems? :P

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MarMar
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Re: Duke And His Fear Of All Things Novel

Postby MarMar » Sun Oct 14, 2012 10:53 pm

Hello!

So funny, before I finished reading your post, I thought to myself "I bet that this dog would be a good candidate for BAT". It may be very helpful for his threshold issues. Do you have a trainer that you are working with? I would really recommend finding a qualified professional who is familiar with BAT as well as counter-conditioning/desensitization and clicker training. I've used BAT and found it quite helpful.

He sounds like he may also be a candidate for stress-management and maybe even a "vacation". You mentioned he barks at the windows? He needs to not be able to see out the window. He may need a break from walks where he reacts to squirrels, bikes etc. I'm not an expert in this, but a professional may be able to put together a "detox" program for you. Remember, if he's continually reacting to things, he'll never have his stress hormones be able to back to normal. He may also not be able to get enough refreshing rest. And you may see his exercise backfiring if he's continually going over threshold (maybe he's not, I'm not sure from your post), making him OVERaroused, instead of rested.

Have you read the BAT book? If you've youtubed BAT videos you may have seen one I made, I'm by no means an expert and don't claim to be, but it's a neat technique :)

Good luck, you sound like an amazingly dedicated and thoughtful owner! What a lucky dog Duke is!

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creiter
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Re: Duke And His Fear Of All Things Novel

Postby creiter » Mon Oct 15, 2012 10:16 am

Hahaha! Yes, as SOON as I started reading BAT I was like... oh dear this is PERFECT for Duke. I have tried desensitization on walks, which is more as soon as we see someone in the distance feed him a billion treats to associate a good feeling and then either walk by eventually or just turn and go a different direction. Which is great when I have food, but doesn't actually give him a FUNCTIONAL reward in the same way BAT does. He learns he has the CHOICE to SAFELY walk away without getting aggressive or pulling on the leash. I love the TEACHING aspect of training and this really seems to teach him something as opposed to buttering up a bad situation with treats and hoping that has more than just a superficial result.

The only problem I have with BAT is the number of people it involves. And, sadly, I am in a town without many friends, and those I do have are already on Duke's "okay" list, so they wouldn't be much help. So as you said, I do need a BAT Trainer to really do this who has helpers to use, I am just having an impossible time finding a BAT trainer in Central Illinois... the closest is Chicago which is a couple of hours away and not really an option. Do you know of any good ways to search for trainers? I have tried Google and other databases with no results. Shlame! :P

Until I find someone to really help make perfect set up situations, I am using our walks to stage them as best as possible. But those are totally random and uncontrolled, and with it getting colder here it is unlikely there will be many people out and about to use.

I think I will definitely try a detox plan... I might research that a bit. Trainers are sooo limited here, it is a huge disappointment haha! I love the people I go to doggie classes with, but they don't offer much one on one. I am worried about him not getting enough exercise, but I must admit that after walks (despite wearing a weighted backpack and walking/jogging for an hour) he does seem more energized than when we left... probably a sign that he was too aroused? Is that a logical conclusion to make?

So I suppose I will try games of tug and fetch and puzzle toys in the house to give him some exercise and wear him out, and block off the window he normally looks out to detox him of all that stress. We will see how that goes. In the meanwhile, I can start researching where to find a BAT trainer within my budget. After his detox we might try very short walks back and forth up a street I know won't have activity, that way it will also be easier to get him inside as soon as he gets over stimulated.

Thank you for listening to me and helping me bounce ideas back and forth! I know how much simple mistakes can set back a dog, and want to avoid them by learning from everyone else's experiences. So thank you thank you!! With the holidays coming up I am constantly in a state of anxiety because it is my first time going through them with Duke, and I know the chances of him being put in those busy situations and being successful is extremely low, and to expect him to make such huge changes by then is unrealistic, so I constant remind myself to BE PATIENT and take it a day at a time, and it will work out eventually :P I feel like I need the training not Duke!

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Mooresmajestic
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Re: Duke And His Fear Of All Things Novel

Postby Mooresmajestic » Mon Oct 15, 2012 11:14 am

creiter wrote: The beginning of his life was filled with failures... he lost his first family, he was stuck in a shelter environment for 4 months, etc...


^ Stop this line of thinking. Put it out of your head and never think of it again. You holding on to the past isn't doing him any favors. He can't move on until you do.

creiter wrote:
Duke's main problems:
1) Fear of CERTAIN types of people (ONLY female, usually brunettes with short hair and higher pitched voices)
2) Barking at everything outside the window (his prejudice about brunettes is dropped, now it can be male, female, blonde, imaginary.......)
3) Loose leash walking (in certain environments... other times he is PERFECT)
4) Inability to walk past people or dogs on walks
5) INCONSOLABLE when sees squirrels or bikes on walks
6) Dog aggression towards NEW dogs who are not introduced in a safe, controlled environment - for example on walks, or (don't shoot me for this one, I have learned!) dog parks (we will never return to a dog park again! Luckily learned this lesson BEFORE anything bad or scary happened!)


1 will touch on later.
2 normal. My Vi will bark if a cricket farts 4 houses down... Just work on a "stop" command.
3, 4, 5 All go together. They just take time.
6 normal. As far as ignoring new dogs on a walk, it just takes time.

creiter wrote: As soon as she entered the door, I knew he would have a reaction, I could see him tense.

Start your distractions now. Don't wait for the person to actually enter the room. Or even remove him from the situation before his fear escalates.
creiter wrote:After speaking with her about his problems, she agreed to allow Duke to see that she was NOT a bad person, and was told to stand very still, not make eye contact, and totally ignore Duke with her hands in her pockets.

This is how every new person should be introduced... although hands open and at their sides would be better.

creiter wrote: I have more anxiety over worrying about Duke than I do any other aspect of my life.

Because of this fear, I realize he is more likely to bite ONE DAY,

and at times I don't sleep at night I am THAT anxious about wanting to protect Duke and everyone around him



creiter wrote:It is not his fault that he was not socialized,


^Less this^

creiter wrote:I am POSITIVE that Duke will overcome his fears of all things novel,

^More this^
"creiter wrote:Any other advice/suggestions? What I am doing wrong? What I am doing right?

Relax!
Go back and read your posts from an "outside" perspective, you actually answer a lot of your own questions.
Give it time!

Another suggestion... Try training "old" behaviors in a "new" language. It will eliminate any old connections with that word or behavior.

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creiter
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Re: Duke And His Fear Of All Things Novel

Postby creiter » Mon Oct 15, 2012 12:30 pm

You pretty much captured me there, Mooresmajestic! :) I am such a worrier, but also extremely positive, I think sometimes I need someone to tell ME to relax! That is part of the reason I want to stay focused on positive training that is FUN, that just works best given Duke and I both have anxiety problems... hahaha!

I am happy, then, to report that Duke and I (thanks to prompting from the SATS theory of training) have been focusing on the "easy" exercise that fosters relaxation. It is really working (for both of us!) and we have only been doing it for a day now. After about a 7 minute session (never thought I'd be massaging my DOG... think one day he'll return the favor?) we heard the neighbor get home and he perked up to listen. We walked together to the window with me still prompting "easy" and speaking in a calm tone... when he made visual contact with the neighbor, as I continued to massage and prompt "easy", I added "neighbor".

He returned his gaze to me, continued to relax, and whenever he glanced back at the commotion outside, I said neighbor. Just naming it while focusing on relaxing resulted in NO reactivity from him, usually he does anything from whimpering/panting/pacing to barking/pawing at the window. What a great step in just a day of focused relaxation! A very good lesson for me, along with your advice :P

Although the overly sympathetic side of me does feel bad for Duke's past, you are correct that I need to leave it in the past, as he sure has. He is a very happy dog! I should also note that I do not treat Duke any different than I would a dog I bought as a puppy... I follow a strict NILIF routine, which includes his daily meals which he must perform tricks for one handful at a time, going outside also requires a sit/stay until I say "okay", etc etc. Spoiling him because I "feel bad" does not help and actually would make things worse. So I keep my sympathy to myself and don't let Duke find out haha! It is fascinating the internal things dogs can sense though, so I know changing my attitude and worry will do a lot to change his own.

Thank you for your words of encouragement and to snap out of it! We will continue to stay positive, especially now that we have this site full of knowledge and advice.

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Mooresmajestic
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Re: Duke And His Fear Of All Things Novel

Postby Mooresmajestic » Mon Oct 15, 2012 1:23 pm

Thank you for not taking me the wrong way and being offended. I know I can come across as a bit harsh since I don't like to sugar coat my words.

You will get there. You have already done more for your dog than most people ever would. Every dog that is put into our lives is there to teach us something. It sounds like his is to teach you to relax a bit. ;)

Another good technique for dealing with fearful situations is the "not my dog" technique.
Keep in mind his limits, and don't let him go over threshold. It sounds like you are doing something similar, but I still want to write it out for you.
Example:
Minor fear of a shopping cart. Dog balks but doesn't totally freak out. (If the dog does freak, start farther away)
You go towards a shopping cart with the intention of using it and the dog balks ("wtf is that? I'm not going by that weird thing!) Stop moving forward and pretend he isn't there, no words, no looking at him, nothing ("not my dog"). When the dog recovers, quietly praise him with a pet or small treat, (this is the only point in the exercise the dog "exists"), continue moving toward the object stopping everytime he gets nervous (ignore the nervous behavior. "not my dog"), praise when he recovers ("there you are! That's my dog"). Repeat until you are both at the cart. Repeat once you start moving the cart. Never push the dog faster than he can process the situation. You don't want to force him to deal with a scary situation, the goal is help him understand the world around him. Forcing the dog to "deal" or "correcting" the fear, can make the fear worse. When the dog understands what is going on, the fear vanishes.
The purpose of this exercise is to help the dog work through the fear himself, without being pushed over his limit by praising the positive steps and ignoring the negative. The bonus to this is the exercise very rarely needs to be repeated with the same object twice, since the dog was able to process the entire thing from start to finish on his own (with encouragement from you of course.)

Hope that all made sense!

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MarMar
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Re: Duke And His Fear Of All Things Novel

Postby MarMar » Mon Oct 15, 2012 7:19 pm

I think I will definitely try a detox plan... I might research that a bit. Trainers are sooo limited here, it is a huge disappointment haha! I love the people I go to doggie classes with, but they don't offer much one on one. I am worried about him not getting enough exercise, but I must admit that after walks (despite wearing a weighted backpack and walking/jogging for an hour) he does seem more energized than when we left... probably a sign that he was too aroused? Is that a logical conclusion to make?

So I suppose I will try games of tug and fetch and puzzle toys in the house to give him some exercise and wear him out, and block off the window he normally looks out to detox him of all that stress. We will see how that goes. In the meanwhile, I can start researching where to find a BAT trainer within my budget. After his detox we might try very short walks back and forth up a street I know won't have activity, that way it will also be easier to get him inside as soon as he gets over stimulated.


I do know how you feel, a couple of years ago I moved from a place where I had a lot of dog friends and worked with some amazing trainers. It hasn't been easy to start over, and I do feel lonely as well!

Some suggestions to find dog trainers:

Pet Professional Guild (a collection of trainers who are force-free)
Karen Pryor Academy Graduates
The Academy For Dog Trainer graduates
Companion Animal Sciences Graduates

http://functionalrewards.com/certificat ... d-a-cbati/

(The first person who comes up is in Illinois but she is close to Chicago, may be worth checking out though!)

As far as keeping him exercised, it can be tricky. I have two reactive dogs. One goes for walks, the other does not. He does not enjoy them (with exceptions) and they are two uncontrolled. However, he is not understimulated and he's not a bit out of shape. I am lucky in that I live in a rural area, so I have a large fenced yard to play ball, flirtpole and agility, and a small hayfield I can walk him in also. We also do a lot of training "trips": we go out to new locations in the car (which is a safe space for him, like a crate on wheels lol) and just play games and work on learning distractions. I also do lessons and workshops when I can.

I'm not saying he can never go for walks again, or that this is not a reasonable goal for you to have! Just that I don't believe they are NECESSARY for a dog's well being, and for some dogs, like Marlo, you have to measure the pros and cons.

Here are some resources you can check out!

Control Unleashed: the original, the Puppy Program, and I just got the Pattern Games DVD which is great!!
Chill Out Fido by Nan Arthur
Karen Pryor's Relaxation Protocol (Seriously, do this!)
Sophia YIn Learn to Earn (A user friendly version of NILIF)

I've also started TTouch with my dogs. Now, I'm a bit skeptical of what is said to be the "science" behind it, BUT I do find that is a nice way to relax with your dog and get them accustomed to being handled all over in a pleasant way.

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creiter
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Re: Duke And His Fear Of All Things Novel

Postby creiter » Mon Oct 15, 2012 7:42 pm

Mooresmajestic wrote:Thank you for not taking me the wrong way and being offended. I know I can come across as a bit harsh since I don't like to sugar coat my words.


I definitely didn't come here for sugar coating!! I want to help improve my dog's life and my ability to be a good owner in hopes of becoming an ambassador for not only our breed, but also for dogs that in past generations were simply put down as hopeless cases. Not that Duke is even close to being one of those cases, but rehabilitation is soooo possible now thanks to all the new positive training and accepting responsibility for the creatures we welcome in to our lives. Please continue to be hard on me, it is what I came here for!!

I love the "not my dog" idea. When he acts like a goon it is going to be verrryyy easy to pretend that's not my dog... hahaha! I think tactics like this are great because it is sometimes hard for me as a human being to have patience when I am trying so hard to no avail. Instead of getting emotional about it, simply ignoring him until he calms down and then rewarding him for choosing to be calm is exactly the kind of strategy I am looking for. THANK YOU!

----

MarMar, WOW, thank you for all those resources! I will definitely be checking them out and hope to find a trainer near me as well as add some books to my growing collection. I have heard of Control Unleashed and was planning on getting that, hadn't heard of the Patterns Game DVD but it already sounds super fun.... :) I am also glad to hear about your own experience with your reactive dogs. I feel like SUCH a bad owner sometimes because it seems like some people think no walk = bad owner, but you are right, to some dogs it isn't something enjoyable for them and just builds the problems. I think Duke will enjoy them again after we get the rest of his life calmed down a bit, especially because we recently started using a back pack which helps IMMENSELY (have you tried that with your own dogs?) Giving him a job to do really changed his entire demeanour. Squirrels and bikes were still huge problems and he was still unable to walk past someone on the same side of the sidewalk, but he walked calmly past barking dogs behind fences and scary men sawing wood and shaking spray cans in their driveways. That is a HUGE GOLD STAR for him!!

Thank you again to everyone... what an amazing community of people and I haven't even been here a week. I am loving all this knowledge, seriously! What dorks Duke and I are!


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