Farlekiin the- Dragonborn
|Barked: Tue Oct 23, '12 8:28pm PST |
|As some of you know, Farley and I have been attending agility classes since April of this year. It has been really good. We've both learned a lot and he is great at it. We both have lots of fun.
Thing is, classes can be hit or miss, depending on the energy in the class, the other dogs, myself, etc. When he is relaxed and able to focus, I feel relaxed and confident and we have a successful class. When he is in high-arousal and over threshold (80% of the time), classes are a nightmare. Farley works best with no other dogs in the agility ring. Obviously, this is pretty much never the case. Not only are there lots of dogs but none of them are ever crated (there is no rule for that) and many are also running free. I know it is my responsibility to control my dog, but he is basically above threshold the moment there are other dogs around in the ring (whether we show up early or not), and since I cannot control the stimulus or environment in the ring, it is VERY hard for him to learn. I know when he is over threshold because he will not accept food from me (normally he will do anything for even the smallest piece of food).
Farley used to be pretty leash reactive and having no luck with "corrective" or "aversive" techniques, I used positive reinforcement and it made a huge difference. He has no issues with this anywhere outside of agility, it is only in the classes.
It's like he cannot handle having other dogs being loud and running around him and stuff. Even from afar, he glares, will not take food or focus on me, and will bark and howl the entire time. When we are running a course, if another dog is too close he will leave the course and go chasing it. I try to quickly give a verbal distraction and call him back, rewarding hugely with food and praise if he does choose to listen. He will listen maybe 50% of the time. The other half of the time it seems to fall on deaf ears.
There is a female GSD in his class that he appears to take issue with. Despite once being leash reactive (which was just barking), he has NEVER shown aggression towards another dog or tried to ever harm another dog. He loves other dogs, is great at the dog park, plays nicely, etc. But for some reason he seems to have it out for this one female GSD. She is calm, very well-behaved, and for some reason he just goes nuts when he sees her. Almost every class, he glares and charges at her, circling and barking at her. I keep him restrained during down time, but several times he has run off the course, charged her and harassed her. I know it isn't fear because she completely ignores him and he is the one seeking out confrontation with her. Even if she is 30 feet away, he is staring at her and will charge after her. When he does this, his tail isn't down or between his legs, but rather in a high-set, very aroused state. If he wanted to physically harm her, he would have had ample opportunity to do so. He just circles her, barking his head off. It's like his brain shuts off. It's very frustrating. I did have someone mention that maybe she could be intact, and that might be causing Farley to be acting so strange, but I figured since he does this almost every class and Farley is a male, it'd make sense for her to bring it up. (Not that it would excuse his behavior-which is unacceptable, of course).
Anyway, tonight's class really put a damper on my confidence. As great as he is at the actual sport itself, we are having a lot of trouble with the environment of the classes and I have tried all sorts of techniques because I am not one to give up that easily (I worked with Farles and his leash reactivity for the better part of a year-and-a-half, but we did it), but I have not noticed a substantial difference in the agility environment. It makes me sad because I used to have GREAT verbal control over Farley and in the classes I have resorted to trying to physically control him because I am lacking the confidence I once had to trust him to listen. I feel very powerless and end up getting frustrated and then I cannot concentrate and I mess up and feel like I have failed Farley.
**ETA** This behavior holds true for Farley regardless of whether he has had a hefty exercise or training session beforehand, whether he has eaten beforehand or not, etc. I have tried different variations and they are not factors in his behavior. I have also tried a dose of Melatonin an hour before the classes and that didn't seem to do anything either.
It's pretty much come down to, either I find private classes without other dogs, or I find classes that are offered in a more controlled setting (crated dogs). Either that or I give up all together.
Sorry for the long post. I'm just feeling sort of demotivated and wondering if anyone has any experience like mine, or any wise words for me. I ordered him a Thundershirt for storms, but I was thinking I might try it in agility too, and see if that helps lessen his reactivity a bit.
Edited by author Tue Oct 23, '12 8:53pm PST
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