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Social Walk Update

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Emmastace, Apr 10, 2011.


  1. Emmastace

    Emmastace PetForums VIP

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    Hi
    I just thought I would give you all an update on the Social Walk classes that I have been taking Mia to. They are like ordinary training classes but they are out in the open in normal walk situations with all the usual distractions that you would encounter on a walk. They are designed for dogs with poor social skills so there are only three dogs in each group and each dog and owner has their own trainer with them who observes the dogs reactions throughout the session and can also tell the owner where they are doing well or missing things etc etc.
    As we are only on the second week the dogs are never any closer than 200 yards'ish and it is all orchestrated very closely so that the dogs don't go out of their comfort zone with each other. The dogs in each group have been matched too. I think the idea is that as the weeks go on the groups will start to merge to gradually introduce more dogs to each other when they are ready for it until they are all happy with all sorts of dogs.
    In Mia's group there is a GSD, a Goldie and of course Mia (a GSP). They are all around 2 years old and although they have different problems they all have difficulties with meeting other dogs and the owners are finding walking them an unpleasant experience.
    So far we have practiced loose lead walking, recall, going through gates and walking past chickens, donkeys and horses. The area we have walked in is farm land with other distractions like pheasant, rabbits and there is also a bird scarer going off close by.
    This week we stopped half way through the session and were shown some T-touch calming exercises.
    All three of the dogs in Mia's group were taken to the usual training classes, the other two from puppies (Mia is a rescue so was 16 months before she went) but for whatever reason need extra help when it comes to the outside world with all that goes on out there.
    I have found these classes really helpful for several reasons. E.g having a third person that is a trainer/behaviourist with me the whole time means that she has been able to point out exactly when I am getting things right and also when my timing is off or I am confusing Mia by using conflicting instructions etc. She has also pointed out lots more body language from Mia that I couldn't interpret before. I am learning to relax and just concentrate on Mia when other dogs are around because I had got myself in the state where I was giving off poor signals to Mia whenever we saw another dog.
    At the moment I am feeling really positive and will see how the next few weeks and months go.
     
  2. kat&molly

    kat&molly PetForums VIP

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    That sounds brilliant, must be as good for the owners to have the back up as well. You dont say how Mia is coping with it though?
     
  3. Emmastace

    Emmastace PetForums VIP

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    Mia is doing really well and I have been a little surprised, in a nice way, by how she has reacted.
    The main reasons for taking her are to try and get to the bottom of why she has held a handful of dogs by the scruff without any apparent warning. To get her used to other dogs and learn some doggy sign language which she appears to have missed out on because of her history. To try and desensitise her to all the stuff that overstimulates her outside. And to learn how to help her and get some training in when she is in a situation where she is hyped.
    The first session was an hour and a quarter but a chunk of that was used in explaining to the owners how to get from the parking place to the spots they needed to be in the fields so as not to get the dogs too close, and then physically getting them there.
    Mia was assigned the main behaviourist as her problems are more complex, her fear-aggression is at a much lower level than the other two dogs but she is much more socially naive in all other ways. She is also much more reactive to the environment than they are.
    On the first session Mia went out first and we crossed one field to a place where we were out of sight of the others. The second followed and went to their position before the last was introduced. Mia was not bothered by the other dogs being in sight but then she isn't usually worried by dogs at that distance. She did glance over a few times when they first arrived but seemed to ignore them once she realised they were not going to come close. She didn't take her eyes off the trainer though. Because we were with the main one (a fabulous lady) who had to go off a couple of times to tell the other trainers something, whenever she walked off Mia just wanted to watch everything she did and every move she made until she came back to us. I found it hard to keep her focus on the task we were doing at those times.
    Mia was exhausted after the first session as where the other two dogs. This week we only did 45 minutes and they were still all very tired at the end of it.
    The biggest leap forward was when we first arrived this week. As I drove into the farmyard where we park I nearly ran over the GSD that had escaped from the car and had dashed out into the drive as I turned in. As he was already out of the car and Mia had seen him it was decided to leave him out (when he was back on lead) and let me walk Mia past him at a distance of about 50 yards. As I got her out of the car Mia displayed obvious calming signals to the GSD (he is much more overtly dog-aggressive than her). She was turning her head, lip licking, turned slightly side on to him. I have never seen her do that so obviously before. She didn't show the anxiety I expected as we walked past him either. Usually she would have when we were about 50 yards from a dog that was barking and lunging. She did look back when he was behind us but we turned a corner at that point so she couldn't see him and she was fine.
    Just the fact that she made the right signals to him was a big thing.
    Mia seemed calmer this time and the T-touch session half way through helped there as well. She didn't seem so hyped this week even though one of the farm yard cats walked out in front of her as we left the farm at the beginning of the session. Normally seeing a cat would mean that she spent the rest of the time trying to get back to where she saw it and it would be like wrestling a bear trying to control her but she seemed to dismiss it within a few seconds.
    Because the sessions are so well organised and the trainer is so good Mia isn't given the opportunity to get too anxious and as soon as it looks like she might be the trainer shows me how to distract her and get her back down again.
    I think what I am saying is that Mia is coping with the classes really well. After all, every day, on every walk, I put her in situations that are stressful for her because she is on a lead and doesn't have the choice to remove herself from all those situations she is uncomfortable with. These sessions are to desensitise her so that she copes better but also teaching me to recognise when she is stressed and give me the tools to help her when she is. As this is all done in normal walk environments it is helping both of us much more than an indoor class would.
    I have realised that I have made many mistakes with her. Because of her particular problems I have made things worse by taking her on long 2 to 3 hour walks thinking she needed the exercise. This was all too much for her to cope with and I need to get her comfortable and coping first and sort out fitness later.

    I just want to add that these sessions are only £12. It might seem a lot compared to puppy classes but I am in effect getting one2one training and behaviour advise. It is worth a lot more than £12 in my opinion.
     
    #3 Emmastace, Apr 10, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2011
  4. kat&molly

    kat&molly PetForums VIP

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    I think it sounds like shes doing well, I'm sure you'll get there. That price is good-I was paying 12 euros for Molls puppy classes.
     
  5. Dogless

    Dogless PetForums VIP

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    Sound like great classes; glad Mia is progressing well.
     
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