Thursday, February 13, 2014

#WOOFSupport: What It's Like to Walk in My Paws

As many of you know, I recently came out as a Whirling Dervish of a Barker while on leash (read the full story of my Leash Reactivity HERE).   You could say I am (a bit) leash reactive.

 When I was a young pup, and even a teenage dog, I never had any problems meeting other dogs while on leash.  I was a well-socialized, friendly guy.  But all that changed when two incidents occurred:

1)  a neighbor dog, who I knew, came running out of its house unsupervised, greeted me and then turned on me for no apparent reason.  It tried to bite me and that scared me a bit.  And,

2) another neighbor dog, a large Boxer, came strolling onto my property off-leash without its human after the first incident.  I barked my head off and scared the Boxer away but angered the neighbor who yelled at Ma to "control" me.

Since those two incidents, walking in my paws has not been the same.  I bark like an angry, crazy maniac at most dogs that are walking by while spinning like a whirling dervish at the end of my leash.  This happens mostly with big dogs but little dogs can be subjected to my wrath as well.  You just never know. 

I met Bentley while on leash only months ago and was fine.

What It's Like for Me
Scary.  I am afraid the other dog will want to hurt me.  I know if I react like this the other dogs will leave me alone. 

Frustrating.  For Ma.  I bet she wishes she had an angel walking at the other end of the leash.

Exhausting.  I expend so much energy when I react, I am THAT crazy.  It makes going for long walks difficult, especially in the warmer weather, because I just flat out wear myself out.

Embarrassing.  Let's face it, the reactivity can be embarrassing for me and for Ma.  People think I am unsocialized, untrained and mean, which is not true at all.  I am trained and in other circumstances, I follow commands very well.  They may think Ma is an uneducated pet parent...and she is not.  But try telling that to someone when I am kicking up such a fuss.

A New Way to Walk
Since my January post, we have been doing some training while walking on leash.  My friends at 2Brown Dawgs  gave us a good idea that worked for Storm; focusing on heeling

We started reinforcing the "Heel" command and added the command "Look".  Together, these are helping me focus more on Ma than on what is around me.  It is working well when walking alone (no distractions) or with my friend Bentley (who now also does "Look" when Ma says it - he is a smart puppy).  It is hit-or-miss when we start approaching other dogs.


We have also taken a few cues from Dr. Sophia Yin, who Ma wishes she could channel for a day because Dr. Yin seems to work miracles with leash reactive dogs!  The first thing Dr. Yin says is that you MUST provide a treat immediately (like within 2 seconds) of a followed command.  Easier said than done when the dog is small like me, but Ma is getting better - quicker - every day.

The second is her zig-zag walking; making 90 degree turns while a dog is heeling.  This is supposed to help by keeping the dog completely focused on the handler.  Dr. Yin says it is good for approaching and passing another dog because I would have to keep my focus on Ma.

There are other training techniques used by Dr. Yin that we would like to add but for right now, Ma thinks it's best to focus on just a few so we do not get overloaded.

What It's Like Walking in My Paws NOW
Sometimes it is MORE Frustrating!  I have been able to ignore the smaller dogs in the neighborhood most of the time but the big dogs still make me into a whirling dervish.  Ma says it is frustrating to make 2 steps forward and then 1 step back.  The training process is slow which can be frustrating too.  We try to celebrate the little successes as much as we can.


Still Embarrassing, Scary and Exhausting.  You know, when I react like a mad dog.  Ma has given up trying to explain to other owners because most just don't want to hear it; they think it is just an excuse for poor behavior.

But, we will soldier on!  One of these days, that whirling dervish will be just a memory.  I just know it!


This is the WOOF Support Blog Hop, where reactive dogs and their owners can come together to share similar experiences.  Are you a reactive/fearful dog or its owner?  Then please join us and share your story.  The Blog Hop is open through Sunday, February 16th on my blog as well as on my co-hosts Roxy The Traveling Dog and Wag 'n Woof Pets blogs.









72 comments:

  1. We are very proud of the progress you've made Oz...it's not easy butt you & your mom sound as if you are committed and that is just as important.
    We dig your friend Bentley, what pawsome ears he has!
    Wally & Sammy

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    1. Oh thank you. Sometimes we still get frustrated though. It may be a long journey. BOL! Bentley's ears are a hoot! He hears everything including the commands that are meant for me.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your story and for hosting this blog hop. Leash reactivity is so haaaard. Who can blame you poor pups? It's not natural to have to be on a leash all the time. My Leo has terrible barrier frustration, which is very scary for the people on the receiving end, because he's a big, scary German shepherd. I just have to make sure he feels safe... and hope that results in the people around him feeling safe.

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    1. Thank you for joining us. It's nice to know we aren't "the only ones". It is very hard...and can be very frustrating. We try to keep looking forward.

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  3. Hi Oz
    It sounds like your making great progress and you should be very proud of yourself :) Milo & Jet

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    1. Thanks pals. Your support means a lot.

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  4. I got crazy at other dogs too - specially big ones. Some big dogs tried to attack me and since den, I's been kinda crazy. Good job on da progress - it are not easy.

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    1. Oh dear dawg...you poor thing. I am glad you are okay aside from going crazy now. It's not easy, you are right!

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  5. I think I would just not worry about trying to explain to other people either. Who cares what they think anyways. You guys know how it is. Sounds like you are making some good progress. I'm sure the process isn't easy. Shiner is stubborn and difficult to train herself, not that you are or anything. But I know how hard it can be to teach new stuff!

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    1. Yeah, we have given up trying to explain anything to people. We just keep walking. I am not stubborn when it comes to learning a new command, however when you want to enforce it in a specific situation, that is another story sometimes. :-)

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  6. We think you just soldier on and eventually everything will be all right. I too can be a bit naughty on the lead so we say no worries. Have a tremendous Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

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    1. Now Molly, I would never have guessed that you would be "naughty". BOL

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  7. Thanks for hosting this hop, Oz! Frustrating and leash reactive definitely go hand-in hand. Brychwyn and I have been working on his leash reactivity for two years and while the reactivity itself has improved, the frustration, embarrassment and celebrating the tiny increments never changes! And it is ALWAYS 100% worth it!
    ~Bethany

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    1. You are welcome, Bethany! We need to remind ourselves how worth it it is especially when we get frustrated.

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  8. With all the training and work you're doing to overcome this, I'm sure it will soon be just a memory. Besides, who can blame you... I'd be scared if a former friend attacked me, too!

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    1. Crazy dogs...crazy people...what is the world coming to? BOL

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  9. It is certainly understandable that you feel this way, Oz, after what happened. I think you are on the right track and that progress may be slow sometimes, but you will get there!
    I have never worked on "heel" with Cricket and that might help her also (it might make her walk better on a leash overall too). We were going to use the "look" command also, but since her brother's name is "Luke" I was afraid it might get confusing, so we use "watch me". Same thing, and I think it's a great place for all of us to start.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. Jan, we are finding that the "heel" command is very helpful. Combine that with the zig-zagging from Dr. Yin and I am almost forced to pay attention to Ma (than to anything else) most of the time. However, it seems it is never 100%....yet!

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  10. it is funny how certain things can trigger a dog behaviors....even as older dogs. But then we people are the same - it bad inncident can leave us worried too. Time and patience.

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    1. Time and patience...you are so right.

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  11. Oz, that's wonderful, what a success! I agree for the zig-zag thingy, it really works. As we tried it the village laughed at us, but at the end it was a good lesson for me.

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    1. You did it too?! Great! I'm not the only one walking around with a crazy person! BOL

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  12. We are SO very PROUD of your improvement. We are sorry that you had those bad experiences butt happy that you are putting them behind you. WAY to GO, OZ Way to GO.

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    1. Aw, thanks pals. I still have a long way to go.

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  13. Keep practicing Oz, I know you can do it, seriously, you can do it!

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  14. We will have to try the LOOK command. That could help me. Small steps, are better than no steps at all. Hee hee, I thought I was the whirling dervish. I think that needs to be our mascot.

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    1. Oh yes, try it and see if it helps you too. BOL Now I am going to be looking for whirling dervish art work.

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  15. Cinderella did the same thing. We don't know what set her off, but she went from being calm to very leash reactive. Momma did something a bit like the focused heeling, but for us it was a focused SIT. When she saw the other dog approaching, Momma would tell Cinderella to sit and start giving her treats. She'd have a treat she could break into itty bitty pieces and just kept giving Cinderella piece after piece after piece until the other doggy passed. Cinderella was so focused on her treats, she never even noticed the other dog! After she got good at that, Momma started spacing the treat intervals out longer and longer. Now Cinderella can walk right past most other dogs without barking at all. If she does, Momma just has her sit and look up at her, and it works! It was a lot of long, hard work, but it was worth it.

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    1. Yes, the focused sit works for some. It doesn't for me...I feel like it is my opportunity to wait for the POUNCE!

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  16. Oh Oz :-) You are doing a PAwsome job and keep it up. Totally understand how frustrating to explain to other dog owners. Don't worry too much about them ... you got your MA who will always protect you. Golden Woofs

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    1. Thank you, Sugar. That means a lot coming from you!

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  17. Poor Oz! I'm so sorry that your bad experiences have had this effect on you, but it's totally understandable!

    What I do with Delilah whenever possible is get her off the path (a good distance) and have her sit, then I feed her treats and pet her all the while assuring her she is okay. We do this until the other dog passes.

    It is tough for the dog and also tough for the handler (Ma) because we feel like people are judging us (and they are) plus we tense up expecting what will happen with our dog. It's lots of training and patience. But you will get there.

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    1. Ma could not agree more with feeling like people are judging her and tensing up with expectation. We both are a work in progress.

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  18. You keep keeping on, Friend! You are a tough pup with a strong mom!

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    1. AND supportive friends! Thanks Murray.

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  19. Oz, I can understand how those events would impact your behavior...better to act like a crazy maniac and keep those other dogs away then get eaten by them! Glad your ma is working with you diligently on it, I bet you'll make good progress. My ma used the zig-zag walk with me too and she says it worked miracles...now i just walk next to her like a polite gentleman...most of the time ;)

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    1. Oh, Ma cannot wait for the day that I walk like a polite gentleman, Jack!

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  20. I embarrass my sapiens a good amount too. Will keep working on it like you are Oz!

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    1. BOL! We can work on it together, Ruckus.

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    2. Thanks...hahah teamwork is the only way to get through this. Hopefully our sapiens will be patient with us!

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  21. I just prefer to be left alone to track critters, so if another dog wants to bug me I often snap. I thought about entering your hop today, but I just had too many things going on this week. Maybe next month I can make it work.

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    1. Oh Emma, I cannot even picture sweet YOU snapping. Join us whenever you can, Emma. We are flexible.

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  22. Oz that must have been very scary to have an unfriendly dog ambush your sweet self. Bless your heart
    Hugs madi your bfff. PS I would never ever do that to you.

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    1. Oh sweet Madi, I know you wouldn't.

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  23. We think you are making tremendous progress Oz!!
    Smileys!
    Dory, Jakey, Arty & Bilbo

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  24. Stay with it Oz, you will get there. Hers a though, a sign for Mom. "Excuse my pup, he was attacked by a big dog"

    The Mad Scots

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  25. It sounds like you're making some progress. I'm glad the heel command helped you. I should work on that more anyway. You don't need to be embarrassed. That neighbor who told you to control your dog was ignorant. Even though we think of our dogs as perfect family members, few are 100% perfect. Someone recently pointed out to me that dogs trained to be service dogs go through rigorous training, and many of those still flunk out. If that is the case for dogs bred and raised to behave most of the time, then you can see why it is not so easy for the average dog.

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    1. Thank you for saying that. We are making progress s-l-o-w-l-y but it is progress nonetheless!

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  26. I hear you, Oz! It is embarrassing. And we get the evil eye sometimes from neighbors too. I want to yell "Have a little compassion! She was attacked!" but I can't be yelling like a crazy woman every time we go out on our walks. Will try to join the hop, but not sure I'll have time. So much stuff going on! Thanks for sharing your story!

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    1. Oh Jackie, I bet Ma wishes she could yell like a crazy woman too at all those stupid people but she doesn't. We just carry on, trying our new training techniques and hoping for the best!

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  27. Oz this is our totally unprofessional take on this: watch for signals from other dogs they could be doing something to make you react that way. Also, mom makes sure I am always at her side not in front but you did say you are heeling. Love Dolly

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  28. I'm sorry you got scared and had to act like a crazy dog but so proud that you are working very hard to correct this. I was afraid your mom was going to have to change your name to Taz.

    Aroo to you,
    Sully

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    1. BOL Sully! I could be the Tasmanian Devil at the end of the leash.

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  29. Great post oz. I'm SD sorry those dogs made you so reactive. Sounds like you and mom are doing well with training and working past those issues. Slow but sure you will get there. Hang in there.

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    1. Thanks Miss JoAnn. Slowly but surely is correct...though we wish it was faster sometimes.

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  30. Hi Oz! It sounds like you're making great progress. Those are great tips too. Slow and steady my pal!
    Your pals,
    Diane and Rocco

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    1. I'm trying, Miss Diane and Rocco. We have our paws crossed over here.

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  31. Ding Dong dropping by to wish you a very Happy Valentine's Day Oz. I do the 90 degree turns when I am misbehaving. Works for me.
    Sweet William The Scot

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    1. Yes, those work for me most times as well, Sir William. I hope you and your Lee had a fabulous Valentine's Day!

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  32. Oh excellent job on working on your leash reactivity and I am so happy to have helped. You know sometimes in training it is two steps forward and one step backward. I can picture your mom trying to bend over and feed immediate treats...lol..I remember doing it with our dogs as puppies and it was hard! I wonder if a training class with other dogs would help too? We did a bunch of those with Storm and eventually she was much better on lead. Of course now she wants to visit other dogs and that is no good either...lol. Since I am late and today is Valentine's Day...Happy Valentine's Day!

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    1. Thank YOU! And yes, Ma sometimes fumbles the treat because I am so low. BOL She is getting better though. Hmmm, yes, we may have to add a class in soon...a small class. I fear too many dogs would be too overstimulating at this point.

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  33. I'm so glad you shared your story!!!
    Thank you! I will be linking up with you guys this weekend for your hop. Can't wait!
    Happy Valentines Day
    ♥♥husky love n hugz♥♥

    Frum yout pals at love is being owned by a husky

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    1. Thanks! I look forward to seeing your post in the hop.

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  34. Oh Oz, I feel your frustration! It can be really embarrassing when strangers who don't know a thing about you are judgemental too. I once had a lady stop me with me with my dog Billy just to inform me that I obviously hadn't socialised him properly. I couldn't stop thinking about it for the rest of the day. These things can be damaging if we let them, but we shouldn't. We're all doing the best we can with what we know, and learning along the way.

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  35. You sound a lot like me Oz, we're lucky in having loving humans who are willing to help us work through are problems, good luck with your progress.

    Sheba.

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  36. Thank you so much for hosting this hop! Thank you for sharing your story. So wonderful for everyone with a reactive dog to know they are not alone.

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  37. All linked up to share our story!
    Thanks for a wonderful hop Oz!!!
    ((Husky hugz))
    Frum our pack at love is being owned by a husky

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  38. Oh Oz, you'll get there in the end. Some of us big doggies look scary but we're not really :-)

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Thank you for stopping by and leaving a pawprint. I enjoy reading each and every one!
Cairn cuddles,
Oz the Terrier