Behaviorist.

Discussion in 'Tibetan Mastiff' started by broccolini, May 26, 2014.

  1. broccolini

    broccolini Well-Known Member

    The behaviorist was awesome.

    She started out with a lot of questions about Athena's behavior and history. We talked about what I had already tried and what her response was. I think I've posted about most of that so I'll try not to repeat myself.

    She recommended either a head harness or a D&T no pull harness if we felt like we needed more control. The D&T harness doesn't go over the shoulders so it doesn't mess with their gait like the Easy Walk type. She said if we used a head harness, we should always have another leash attached to her collar so she couldn't hurt herself if she lunged at something.

    We took Athena out with a front clip harness because we have one. She also gave us a wide, padded collar to use instead of our martingale. Instead of trying to have more structure on walks, we walked her on a 10ft lead and just followed her around keeping the leash loose. We walked with two leashes for a while so she could show me how to use the harness to turn her and how to make sure I released pressure on the collar as soon as she started to turn. This would give us more control, but Athena walks well enough that we switched to just the collar.

    Athena is okay with dogs on the opposite side of the street, so we were using that as her threshold distance. If we saw a trigger(dog), we did a slow stop and left the leash loose. As long as she was calm, she was allowed to watch the other dog because that is rewarding to her. Once she disengaged and started doing other things, like sit, turn her head or start sniffing, we called her over and praised her or just moved on. She said we could try to add treats at that step if she was ever willing to take them. It was also a good time to work on 'come.'

    If she kept trying to move closer or pulling, I moved her back by pulling her to the side. That way, she could still see the dog. We moved back until she paid attention to me and then I let her leash loose again. As long as she was calm, she got to stay. Otherwise, we backed up until we found the right distance.

    All of this worked great and was just building on what I had started doing with her, because everything else stressed her out and made it worse. We saw several dogs in our neighborhood and were able to have calm reactions to all of them. She was so much more relaxed and happy. We are supposed to keep doing this and her bubble should grow smaller. If it doesn't work, she will have us try something completely different. I think we are on the right track though.

    We took Athena to a more crowded area where the dogs were closer. She only barked and lunged at one dog but only after that dog did it first. Overall, Athena did really well. We were proactive about getting her to a safe distance before other dogs got close and she was able to just sit and watch them without incident.

    She said we weren't doing anything wrong, and Athena's behavior wasn't based in fear at all. She was also expecting Athena to be a lot worse and said that she wasn't that bad.

    She gave us some advice on loose leash walking too. We had been durning the other direction but she said that was annoying and jerked on the dog too much. I was skeptical of the wide collar but the behaviorist showed me how to do a nice, slow stop instead of a sharp stop. This makes a lot of sense and I feel dumb for not thinking of it myself. It gives Athena the chance to realize that the pressure leads to stopping instead of making her figure out exactly how long the leash is. We are back to the stop and wait for her to release tension on the collar before moving on. I had been waiting for her to look at me. It's been working well.

    I don't think she'll need a harness, but we ordered one with "Do Not Pet" tags anyway. Because she does need the "Do Not Pet" sign. We are both tired of people trying to touch her head.

    Overall, I think the behaviorist was well worth the money. She had some great tips and insight and it was nice to have her confirm what I'd been seeing in my dog. Just about everything we are supposed to do is not what most training advice says to do. Nothing relies on treats or force. It's all pretty self-rewarding and effective.

    If anyone has any specific questions, feel free to ask.
     
  2. ruthcatrin

    ruthcatrin Well-Known Member

    Subtle difference on the "stop and have her look at me" and the "stop untill she releases tension" but where you were seeing general improvement with allowing her to watch I can see where that might work better than the "turn in a different direction".
     
  3. ruthcatrin

    ruthcatrin Well-Known Member

    Now the next question is will it work without the behaviorist there?

    Oh, and pictures of the collar?
     
  4. broccolini

    broccolini Well-Known Member

    That was just for teaching her not to pull. It was different than the long lead walks for working on her reactivity.
     
  5. broccolini

    broccolini Well-Known Member

    I had her out twice today and we saw a lot of dogs without having a negative reaction to any of them. The closest we came was when we had to go by two labs who were laying on the sidewalk by themselves. We were about ten feet away but they were so mellow and well behaved that I decided to walk by them. Athena was way more interested in them but she didn't bark.

    I'll get pictures of the collar. It's about two inches wide and padded. The clasp is giant and awesome.
     
  6. ruthcatrin

    ruthcatrin Well-Known Member

    Yah, but pulling in general tends to be an "excited" or "over focused" type problem.


    Sweet
     
  7. Catia

    Catia Well-Known Member

    This is great that you liked the behaviorist & that Athena is going to get to 'watch' the other dogs. It also sounds like you are both on the same page & she's not giving you some hokey crap.

    I think the 'watching' is a 'need' & by allowing her to do so, it allows Athena to feel she is doing her 'job'. I know with Tessa, she can 'watch' all day long-& she does get stressed when I do not allow it. It was there with her from day one & NOTHING I tried changed it, so I just started to go with it.

    From a dog psychology perspective, maybe the allowing her to watch allows her to assess the perceived 'threat' & better determine that no action is necessary, which is in turn what allows her to calm herself (self soothing & rewarding). It gives her the job she needs.
    I drew my conclusion from reading & being told here TM's generally only react when they feel they need to, since they conserve energy until they need it-the livestock guardian tendency. Nothing else worked, so I had to trust something...& it seemed to make sense.
    So my basis for this is that if she sees a pooch/person/situation, but isn't able to have enough observation & then the view is blocked, she cannot determine if the other dog/person/situation is in fact a threat, so she reacts--to the 'unknown' at that point.

    I am really going to be paying attention to how you do the work with getting Athena to focus on you in these situations, because I do need to get better focus from Tessa. I think she is old enough now to have better understanding, & when I was trying before, I think maybe she was too young & didn't have enough experiences yet for her to feel comfortable/confident focusing on me outside of the house--it worked inside the house/yard. This part is just a guess, but I'm gonna roll with it.
     
  8. Sadies Mom

    Sadies Mom Well-Known Member

    This all geat news. And it sounds like you are calmer as well. All great things to make the walk enjoyable. Keep up the good work and keep us posted on Athenas progress.
     
  9. broccolini

    broccolini Well-Known Member

    Yes. And this is what I've suspected was going on. The problem was that I didn't know how to deal with it. Forcing her to not do it was never going to work. Desensitizing her with the normal rewards was not going to work. I also wanted to make sure that letting her focus on the dogs was not going to make it worse. It also seems rude to the other dogs because her staring at them is kind of threatening for them. So.

    But I can see already that she calms down quicker and she's not staring at them as intently. The behaviorist said that for some dogs like this she recommends deferential training which sounds like NILIF. She said that Athena didn't need that and her behavior was really specific to dogs approaching her or showing up too close unexpectedly.(or barking at her first) I also liked that she seemed to have realistic expectations for Athena. She said she might never be okay walking by dogs coming at her when they got too close but that she expects me to be able to sit her on the sidewalk and let the dogs pass without incident.
     
  10. Cyndnelson

    Cyndnelson Well-Known Member

    I'm having a hard time picturing your description. Is it possible to do a video? I was thinking about doing one myself with the phone on one of our walks and posting it to get some perspective.

    We've hired a behaviourist for Ceaser as well, and it really helped us get an outside perspective. Kudos for being proactive!
     
  11. broccolini

    broccolini Well-Known Member

    This is the collar we are using. The black one is the one the behaviorist gave us. It's 1.5" wide and padded.
    The patterned one is D'Argo's. It was the closest thing we could find.

    View attachment 42742 View attachment 42743
     
  12. Doggyhelpplease

    Doggyhelpplease Well-Known Member

    Is it hard like leather (Athenas) or more like those cloth ones?
     
  13. broccolini

    broccolini Well-Known Member

    It's kind of like seat belt material.
     
  14. Catia

    Catia Well-Known Member

    So what is the purpose of the collar being wider? Is it more control due to size/thickness? Is it more comfortable?

    My dog walker must've had an incident w/Tessa getting loose-(that I've never found out about)cuz he was making her collar & harness wayyy too tight.
    She abhorred collars & harnesses until I stopped the walker. I told him it was too tight but he didn't listen.
    I always loosened it 2 inches at least before walking her, never had control problems & only had her back out of her harness once.

    Now she is starting to actually react positively to 'wanna go for a walk--where's your necklace?' Tessa reacting means she will walk to the door with a happy look & look up at her collar & not back away from it.
    Her's is that double seat belt type material, & about an inch wide-- but what you've got in that pic looks better suited for her neck size & frontal strength & probably comfort factor too.

    LOL made in Canada? just saw the maple leaf. Did you order it online?
     
  15. broccolini

    broccolini Well-Known Member

    It's more comfortable and harder to slip over their head. You usually see Greyhounds in this type of collar because their heads are so small.

    I thought that she would pull more on it because it wouldn't hurt (like an agitation collar) but she's actually much better with it. And happier. :)

    She's starting to stop with really light pressure. And with the longer leash and more freedom, she checks back with me more. The behaviorist said that she actually pays a lot of attention to me when we walk but now she does it so obviously that even I notice.

    The long leash walks are part of the counter-conditioning exercises, not a long term thing. I guess the freedom to move around where she wants is supposed to be calming for her.
     
  16. ruthcatrin

    ruthcatrin Well-Known Member

    The wider collar is less damaging to the throat if they do pull too. The only reason I've not used one with Apollo is cause his ruff gets in the way, and this time of year it would mat like hell under that wider collar, even on a short walk.
     
  17. DennasMom

    DennasMom Well-Known Member

    Yeah!
    Great news, and good insight on the benefits of a big collar versus a "correction-type" collar... nice to know that Athena can "hear" you now, and pays attention more, too. :)
     
  18. broccolini

    broccolini Well-Known Member

  19. Cyndnelson

    Cyndnelson Well-Known Member

    So is that collar just for walks or is it an all-the-time collar? I noticed the Made in Canada leaf too - yay Canuck pride!
     
  20. broccolini

    broccolini Well-Known Member

    They only wear collars when we walk. I don't leave them on because they play hard and I don't want anyone getting stuck in a collar. o_O
     

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