January 22

A bunch of signals

Boogie was very “talkative” today. He saw a dog behind a fence and offered a lip-lick (which I clicked and rewarded). Then later I asked for a SIT and he wouldn’t do it. Instead he yawned at me. A little later I called him off the sidewalk (someone was approaching) … he didn’t want to move and did a SHAKE-OFF instead. I am clicking as many of these signals as I can.

September 26

More BAT & calming signals

We saw a neighbor and her big ol’ mellow dog on the sidewalk.

Boogie’s hairs were standing up as we passed and he was just about to let out a growl when I called him “BOOGIE!” and he did a whiplash turn away from the dog and came running towards me. Yes and treat. The other dog who was lying down on the grass next to his owner, did not even flinch (super mellow) so I decided to practice some BAT.

I led Boogie towards the dog, and I could see that Boogie was still tense. Then he blinked. GOOD BOY! I led him further away from the dog and gave him a treat.

We went back again. Boogie blinked, then turned and looked at me. GOOD BOY! And we moved away again.

Repeat. Boogie started sniffing the grass around the dog. He was totally ignoring the dog. GOOD BOY, BOOGIE! And away we went.

I led him back towards the dog again. Boogie pulled forwards on the leash - he was definitely interested but his body language was still not friendly (leaning forwards stiffly) even though I saw that he was blinking at the dog (who turned his head away). I waited. Boogie turned his head away and came towards me. YES! GOOD BOY BOOGIE! And I led him away.

We repeated this back and forth process for a total of about 5-6 times, each time I let Boogie get a little bit closer. The last few times he pulled towards the dog but I could  still see some tension in his posture, like he was interested but he wasn’t sure… I waited for him to relax. And then he stood there and let out a BIG YAWN. First time he’s done this in front of a big dog!

YES! GOOD BOY, BOOGIE! I led him away for the last time, gave him a treat and he was SO HAPPY to be running along after me as we headed home. He was probably thinking: "Thank god, mom. I really didn’t want to go meet that dog one more time"

September 5

"Go To Mat"

We are onto Session 10. So far, I have:

  • Clicked only speedy responses (under 5 seconds) CHECK.
  • Moved the cushion to 3 new positions. CHECK.
  • Added a cue “On your cushion!” - 70% success rate.
  • Changed my pose - sometimes sitting, sometimes standing. CHECK

Boogie loves this game so much he won’t get off the cushion when the game is over!

When I put the cushion away on the chair, he goes and stands/sits next to the chair and stares at me. While I was sitting on the couch doing other stuff, he laid down at my feet (staring up at me) as if to say: "There’s no cushion but look at me look at me look at me" After a while he puts his head down for a few seconds but I can see that he is still looking at me… "See mom? My head is down. See?"

As soon as he sees me shift in my seat (“ah, she must be reaching to get me a treat”) his head pops back up. He also knows to look away to test if he will get a treat. His head snaps back to focus on me as soon as I make a move. I feel like I am the one being trained! Boogie’s concentration is intense.

September 3

Relax on a Mat - session 4

This lasted about 30 minutes because I was waiting and waiting for Boogie to do something different. (Is 30 minutes way too long?)

But we did get something new today! Boogie not only laid down in his bed, he also put his head down.

The tricky thing was that whenever he put his head down and I gave him a treat, his head would immediately pop back up and his eyes would open wide.

2 minutes later, his head would go down again. More treats. Head back up.

Another few minutes later, head down. Treat. Head back up.

After a few more trials like these, he rested his head again with eyes wide open, watching, waiting, hoping… while I pretended to read my book.

It’s like we are both stuck. I am waiting for him to do something (close eyes, look away, snort-sigh). He is waiting for me to do something (hand over a treat), and we could stay in these positions forever!

Training relaxation

I am doing two training games with Boogie.

1. RELAX ON A MAT  (Session 3)

Using Boogie’s bed and placing this on the floor next to my bed. No clicker or cues for this game. I am to relax, take deep breaths, do other stuff and act like I am ignoring him while observing him out the corner of my eye.

We got to STAGE 4 yesterday! Boogie laid down in his bed. Not yet “relaxed” - he was still staring up at me - but he gave me several opportunities to click head turns away from me.

At the end of each session I pick up the bed and put it up on the chair.

Last night I walked into my bedroom to find Boogie lying on the bed on top of the chair :)

2. GO TO MAT (Session 4)

This is so much fun! I LOVE seeing Boogie *think* about what to do. This morning was Session 4. I clicked and treated him for standing on the cushion (4 times), then for sitting on the cushion (4 times), then I waited for him to lie down and he did! I gave him a jackpot treat. He then laid down on the cushion for about 6 click n treats. I delivered the treat off the cushion so that he had to get back on.

I find Boogie’s response time to be a little inconsistent. Sometimes he is a bit slow.

Example: He would pick up his treat… stand next to the cushion staring at me… then stand on the cushion, then sit… then lie down. Almost like he didn’t really want to lie down on the cushion and was checking to see if he could get away with not having to lie down. There were a few times when he would wait off the cushion (for 3-4 seconds) before getting back on the cushion.

Anyway, it’s so cool to see him lie down on the cushion on his own with no cues. At some point I will be adding a cue but the behavior is not even 80% reliable yet…

August 24

Calming signals

Taking note of good choices…

Out for our morning walk, a Frenchie came out of nowhere and was only several feet away from us. Frenchie looked at Boogie; Boogie looked at Frenchie. Frenchie looked quite stiff. Then Boogie did a “stress-shake” and turned away.

Good Boy, Boogie!

A little later we saw my neighbor’s large dog. The neighbor saw us and led her dog away from our path. Boogie’s hairs were standing up as he pulled forwards with an aggressive posture. I stopped and waited. The other dog had moved away (owner led her away) and was now lying down on the grass chewing on a bone/toy. When Boogie turned to look at me, I said Good Boy! And led him away. But he wanted to go back towards the big dog who was still lying down.

I let Boogie move in closer. He looked at the dog (the other dog ignored him), then Boogie sniffed the grass, peed on the grass, and turned away from the dog… followed me home.

August 15

Border Collie

It was night time (when Boogie is more sensitive)…the border collie was standing about 20 feet in front of us with a bunch of people, but I misjudged…20 feet was too close and this was a BIG DOG. Boogie froze, stared and then burst into barks and growls. I quickly led him away.

The collie’s owner called out that her dog Lucy is super friendly. I did my usual spiel: Boogie is reactive, he’s in training, we are going to stay right here because he is not ready to meet Lucy, he needs more time, so maybe someday in the future the dogs could meet, but definitely not tonight… etc. etc. etc.

I led Boogie back several feet (both dogs were looking at each other… Lucy was loose, Boogie was tense) and we did a few trials of BAT. It wasn’t easy because it was night time and there were people on the street getting in and out of cars, and Boogie was perhaps triggered by too many things.

Boogie stared stiffly at Lucy while I waited for a calming signal. The best I got from him was a turning away to look at me.I think it was more of a "Mom, I am checking in with you" head turn, than a calming signal head turn to Lucy.

For each functional reward, I led Boogie further and further away from Lucy but I could tell that he even though he was fascinated by her he didn’t trust her.

Lucy was doing lots of head turns, body turns, sits, playbows, barks etc. Boogie just stared, then turned to me.

Eventually, Lucy and her mom walked away.

A guy pushing a bicycle passed us and Boogie’s hackles went up and he pulled towards the guy.

I guess that session didn’t go so well. I think maybe because Boogie had already reacted towards Lucy… there wasn’t enough distance to begin with…

August 14

Boogie makes a new friend

This morning Boogie and I saw a hyper little Boston on the other side of the street, pulling on his leash towards us. Boogie’s hairs were standing up as he looked at the other dog. I stopped and waited; I let him LOOK.

The lady on the other side of the street also stood still to look at Boogie. (This is what we crazy Boston Terrier people do :) We are compelled to check out other Bostons when we see them)

I called out to her that Boogie is in training…. I can’t let the dogs interact right now. She was fine with that.

I led Boogie slightly back from the street, away from the lady and dog

He continued staring at the other Boston, this time his hackles were no longer raised. (extra distance = under threshold) The other Boston was also sitting down facing Boogie, because his mom had asked him to.

I think I called his name or made a sound. Boogie kept looking at the other dog , and then he turned away from the dog and came to me. I said GOOD BOY! led him away and gave him a treat.

I thought why not try some more B.A.T. so I led Boogie back to our original spot.  Boogie looked at the other dog for a couple of seconds and then he was done and he turned away and came to me again. Good Boy! Treat, and we continued on our walk.

A few minutes later, we ran into the same lady and her Boston again, and we both agreed to get the dogs a little closer … but not let them interact. Let’s see what happens.

The lady and her little boston crossed the street towards us. Boogie saw him and for the THIRD TIME, looked, turned away, came towards me and stayed at my feet. I said Good Boy, led him away slightly and gave him a treat. Then I took a step forward towards the other dog. Boogie didn’t appear tense so I didn’t feel stressed.

I told the lady that it was OK for the dogs to meet (sniff butts) but I called Boogie back to me very quickly… and  he came away from the dog instantly and went off to sniff a bush. (= calming signal) And then he approached the dog again and did a few play bows. :)

We got a good photo of the boys staring up at the treat in my hand.

Owly Images

P.S. Yes, B.A.T. works!!!!

July 24

Another reactive dog

It’s a shame that I am going overseas in a few days… I will miss Boogie so much and I always worry that he might forget or neglect the stuff that he has learned because I can’t expect other people to be as *perceptive* as I am with his body language. Not to brag, but after all, Boogie is MY dog and I know him really well and I can read the subtle signs that others may not be so familiar with.

Today once again, we passed a reactive dog. This one was behind a fence and lunged at us very suddenly, barking and growling. (I didn’t see him there or I would have walked in an arc or crossed the street). Boogie barked back as I led him away and stopped at a distance. Boogie stared at the dog, then he turned to look at me blinking (GOOD BOY, BOOGIE!) and I wanted to lead him away (functional reward = distance) but he preferred to sniff the grass instead so I let him do that. I thought we’d try some BAT with that dog by leading him one step closer toward the fence, but Boogie looked at me again and went back to sniffing the grass.

I was so impressed. I didn’t have any treats on me, which made the whole experience even more rewarding for me. Moments like these I feel like Boogie has really LEARNED to make good choices and not only because he expects to be fed.

July 21

Some observations

The day after Boogie’s playdate with Rosie, while we were out walking we passed a few reactive dogs. I was quite amazed that Boogie didn’t react to any of them. One was very hyper… a puppy. Boogie looked at him and interestingly, his body was relaxed (Almost in a curve, not stiff and forward-facing). The puppy started running, and Boogie started running too. He wanted to play!

And then that pup and owner moved away and another dog showed up. Boogie looked at the dog and his entire posture was still relaxed. I am so glad that we had that play date with Rosie. She is a good influence on him.

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Usually when a bus passes us, Boogie leaps backwards from the curb. He has always been scared of buses or trucks.

This afternoon when a bus turned the corner and passed in front of us, I expected Boogie to take a step back in fear. Instead he stayed there and did a BIG YAWN (Calming signal!!! yay) A simple change of behavior, but it made me so happy.