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Leash Reactivity

December 10th 2011 3:57 am
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Over the past two years, Charlie has become leash reactive - largely in part because of me. He stopped going to doggy daycares, stopped having the extremely long walks and dog park romps he was used to, lived with larger, more reactive dogs and I grew quite lazy with his training - shame on me!

For the past six months, he and I have been working towards getting him from reacting 10/10 times, to 0/10 times. Through the use of positive reinforcement, building up his threshold and helping to create an understanding between both of us, he's been progressing fantastically.

I started off majorly with the help of a halti because he is such a puller and it can be very hard to get his attention(being a Beagle, after all!), when we're outside without it. First, I desensitized him to the halti, naturally, inside, then desensitized him to wearing it outside. Started off with short walks and lots of treats when he was relaxed while wearing it and building up the lengths of the walks. He became fine with the halti within about a weeks time.

Then we began to find where his threshold distance was(it was over a hundred feet and across the street!). Using this, we maintained a distance where he could see and pay attention to the other dog, but would easily redirect still and wasn't reacting badly to the sight of the dog. If he reacted, we moved back under threshold until he fell back at my side and stopped reacting. Reward for calm behavior - back under threshold if he wasn't calm.

With working on his leash reactivity, we began to work on LLW as well. If he pulled forward, I started walking backwards away from whatever he was pulling towards(poles, bushes, etc with dog smell), until he'd fall back at my side, then I'd ask for a "walk nice" and if he remained loose leash, he got to go to the object of his attention, if he pulled again, backwards we'd go again until he finally managed to stay loose leash to the object he was focused on.

We also began making walks about obedience fun. Random "sit!" with a halt, and then a run and halt, maybe a "down!" here and there. My main goals being to teach him to pay attention to me, and to learn patience as well.

Where Charlie used to react 10/10 times, he now only reacts 3/10 times, which is absolutely amazing. His threshold distance is now the distance of a two-lane street only, across that street from sidewalk to sidewalk, whereas it used to be a hundred feet down AND across the street.

I have successfully walked past a yard that has a yellow lab who ALWAYS fence runs and growls, tense and all, at dogs going by his chainlink fence. Charlie has ALWAYS reacted to this dog. Last time we walked by this dog, Charlie's hackles rose, and he was tense, but within two feet of this fence, he did not react at all. He looked, he grew tense, but he continued walking and sniffing along the walk, for the most part, trying to ignore the rude behavior of the dog on the other side of the fence. He did not react. GOOD BOY! One of my proudest moments of him.

We'll continue to work on his leash reactivity and hopefully, he will get to a point where he can ignore the rude behavior of other dogs and calmly pass by those that are calm as well.


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