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Discussion Starter #21
A recent development we need to work on: Tomo is sometimes suspicious of me walking up to him and definitely when I close the door when we're both in a room. He will also stop drinking from the water bowl in the bathroom and back out really quickly when I finish washing my hands (even though he can choose to drink from a bowl in a different room).

I already feed him high value treats when I'm grooming his feet or checking for burrs, cleaning his ears, or when we get ready for a bath, but I suppose it's not enough desensitization. I will prepare better treats and do mock grooming/cleaning, and also do some chews time with a closed door.
 

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Discussion Starter #22 (Edited)
Tomo turned 2 this past weekend!!

We went on a hike that criss-crosses a creek and ended at a small waterfall, so Tomo had a great time jumping into the creek to swim at every opportunity and met all the friendly dogs.

I had a much less fun time since he was so excited he pulled all the time and it was impossible to calm him down until we were hiking back out. In retrospect, I suppose I should just give up on the commands and just let us both enjoy it....

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Discussion Starter #23
I was too tired after the hike and the drive home to celebrate much after, but I made a “cake” the next day. It’s made of raw bison patties plus yogurt.

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Discussion Starter #25
Celebrating some successes this week!

We had a great morning walk today. A dog was on the sidewalk across the street when we first came out of the house, and Tomo was alert but did not negatively respond, and redirected his attention to me quickly when I called his name and gave him a treat. Had great loose leash when walking, and also was willing to redirect his attention to me when we saw a couple of other dogs.

This week I've been more careful in not having leash pressure when we see a dog (I've been reading articles by Suzanne Clothier and re-reading this leash aggression article a lot). If we see a dog, I loosen the leash and remind him to sit. If he tries to go forward, I'll give him a little room on the leash and re-prompt. Although he's still staring and quite alert, he seems to be calmer and have more mental space to listen.

Yesterday in the park on the long line we met 2 dogs who were more reactive, the owners and I signaled to each other the agreement to widen the distance between the dogs and where we were each going. And then we met 2 other dogs who wanted to meet, but we gave both of them time to calm down a bit before greeting. All of these interactions went really well (he gave appropriate calming signals and space after the initial greeting, before getting back to the other dog again) and Tomo had a great time.

I think these positive interactions -- including the agreement to respect the space another dog needs -- really build up his confidence and fluency in dog-dog relationships that's more nuanced than puppy playtimes, and also gives me more enjoyment in our time and human-dog relationship :)

I will continue to try hard to learn Tomo's communication and what he needs to be successful.
 

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Discussion Starter #26
In addition to Suzanne Clothier articles, my other recent read is On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas. The photos-heavy guide is really helpful for me to learn dog language. Tomo is a pretty confident dog, but it's really helpful for me to learn how to spot it, how I can try to signal to him to calm down, and how to improve my communication.
 

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Discussion Starter #27 (Edited)
In our class this week, we worked on Across (come to heeling position by going behind me no matter where he is) and Switch (from heeling position, walk in front of me and then heel on the other side). Quite fun and a good trick to do to switch his positions if I want to move Tomo. This will be very handy particularly if we are training in stores. And fun to show little kids to get them to like dogs!

Today we worked a bit on this on our walk, we did it in a neighbor's driveway while we let another neighbor have more space on the sidewalk and pass. (The seniors in my neighborhood really appreciate not having to pass by people if they can).

The main thing I have to pay attention to is when we're at home and Tomo thinks he doesn't have enough space to maneuver and do his turn, so I have to make sure I'm away from furniture or the kitchen island.
 

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Discussion Starter #28 (Edited)
Oh yesterday on our park romp, Tomo was reactive to another dog (stared, pulled against the leash, and growled/lunged when I pulled him away) -- but this was right after class (when he's more tired mentally after being asked to do new things for an hour), the other owner wasn't great at restraining his dog (who was pulling and obviously not under control), I don't think it's fair to expect Tomo to act with calmness all the time when this is a situation that is harder.

He did great with other dog encounters -- we met a puppy that he's played with before, and also saw a few other dogs at a distance (and one dog was happily playing fetch and running). He would look at the dogs and I would mark and treat for looking, or if he was a bit calmer I'll wait until he looks away or back at me. I'm very happy with how this part of training is progressing, and I feel like me decreasing leash pressure as much as I could was key!

However, there's still circumstances (like what we did yesterday) when he is already so focused on the other dog that he doesn't have emotional space for listening, he just stands and stares and resists all efforts of me trying to move him. So I still have to work on U-turns or other fun distractions that could be better alternative responses that moves him towards me rather than freezing or pulling.

One distraction I tried is balls or squeaky tug toys that he normally loves, but when he's in this mode he resists any food (even if high value) and toys since he's already over threshold.
 

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Discussion Starter #29 (Edited)
We met up this weekend with 2 other dogs from our Zoom training class, they are both 1 year old females so it was nice and easy for Tomo. It was nice to work our dogs in the presence of others dogs also in training, although it was too hot for Tomo so we mostly worked on calm down stays while he watched the other dogs, birds, traffic, etc. Then they had some fun play time. A couple of times while the 2 younger pups played, I had Tomo on his long line, and I was very impressed with his self-control (possibly because it was too hot, lol, but I'll take it).

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Awww. Sweet photo. It's nice y'all could meet up. It doesn't take much heat-wise. Logan has been taking agility, but it's outdoors and it heats up fast here once it starts. I'm hoping I can find some agility training when we are up in the mountains during the summer and have cooler temps.
 

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Discussion Starter #31
Yeah, Tomo's favorite weather seems to be when it's super foggy and windy in the winter when it's the low 40s here. I'm all bundled up and he loves sniffing as he's leaning into the wind at the top of the hill :)

We were chatting about where/when to meet up again next weekend, and they wanted to do a dog beach. I suggested going there in the morning for less traffic/dogs so it should be cooler, plus he'll get to swim.
 

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Discussion Starter #32 (Edited)
Yesterday we had a scary incident in the park:

We were doing our usual sniffing walk with a long line. We had just paused to let an unleashed Australian shepherd go by (his owner was calling him impatiently to leave the park). Then an unleashed Rottweiler came down the hill, followed by his owner behind. They both walked quite fast and Tomo already noticed so it would be hard to avoid any interaction, so I asked Tomo for a sit. He didn't (he has a hard time doing this if the dog is already close) but also didn't do a hard stare. He went up to greet (I loosened the leash to avoid tension) and the other dog quickly closed the distance.

They touched noses briefly, and then the other dog curled his lips back and attacked Tomo. I tried pull the leash to lead Tomo out, but the long line was tangled between them. There was a second when they were both in front of me but the other dog was closer, and I didn't want to grab a strange dog. Then the owner managed to grab his dog and I also finally got my hands on Tomo's harness, and we both dragged them away. The owner leashed his dog immediately and we both checked our dogs for injuries. Tomo had 2 grazes on his head and a wet ruff, and I wanted to escape immediately, so I didn't pursue it farther. (At home I noticed 2 more cuts on his muzzle that bled a little, about an inch long.)

He was understandably riled up so we moved to the grass for some down stay first. He calmed down after a few minutes of walking and sniffing, and then seemed his usual self. We came upon a lost chihuahua and Tomo was a little overly friendly -- probably because the dog was nervous. We waited for a few minutes, then thankfully the owner ran up. We also met a Shiba and they had a polite greeting before moving on.

It's quite common here to have dogs off-leash in non-dog play areas, as it's common courtesy to have your dog leashed if they are not under voice control. At places like dog beaches, the leash is a signal to let others owners know if your dog should not be approached by their dogs. So it was not a red flag that this dog was off leash and would be potential trouble. The dog did not give any warning signs that I could see, and before the attack I thought he looked mildly interested in greeting.
 

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Discussion Starter #33
Some thoughts about the other dog:

This might be me cherry-picking details to bolster my previous theory, but the Rottweiler did not give any warning signals other than the lip curl just before the attack. When we encounter dogs who Tomo reacts to, the owners are often strong tall males who seem confident that they can handle their own dogs. The dogs are very obedient and calm, and don't have obvious body language (I cannot tell if they are friendly, happy, anxious, etc).

Other than trying to avoid these owners and dogs -- and it is extremely hard to avoid them because they walk fast and don't read my signals that I'm trying to avoid them -- I am not sure what else I could do to avoid the situation. I suppose I can shout out "Stop! He's not friendly!" so they give us more space??

I've previously considered carrying mace or a stick (also for my personal safety), but not sure if I could have used them in this situation when they are already fighting together. I could have tossed the contents of my treat bag at them, but that would only have worked if I could have intervened earlier.

Neutering and other male dogs:

I asked my trainer about her thoughts on neutering, and she said that she would actually not spay or neuter her dogs based on current research. She has said before that Tomo is a pretty dominant male dog, and he reacts really strongly to female puppies when they were starting their heat. He gets along great with females, puppies, and seniors, and not so great with males.

Other dogs in the neighborhood or at park who don't get along with him (bark/growl at each other and posture) are all males in their prime. A golden on our block is 2-3 years older, and they got along just fine when he was a puppy, but starting around 1 year old they started barking and lunging at each other.

Tomo does have a very strong metallic smell. My husband suggested that I research dog colognes to see if there are products similar to cat calming pheromones and maybe lessen his "maleness" smell... :unsure:

Future experiences and training:

We are out 3x a day everyday, and although I feel so bad about the incident, I also don't want to overcorrect (like having a firm rule not to meet any dogs) as it'll set up an impossible situation and Tomo doesn't get to enjoy his life. He gets such joy playing with his dog friends and making new dog friends.

I plan to continue our training so he develops more neutral, calming behaviors so other dogs receive him better, decreasing the distance and intensity of his reactivity, and follow me automatically if I ask him to leave with me (this is important too because there are coyotes in the park and we have encountered them several times already this year).

I could work on my command to the other owner if I don't want our dogs to meet so they restrain their dog, alter their path, or gives us more time.

I'm meeting up with our dog training group this afternoon and Sunday, and will see if they have any suggestions too.
 

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Discussion Starter #34 (Edited)
Training update:

In addition to tricks and shaping we're doing for class, we still working hard at reactivity and behaviors that would improve his dog quality of life:

Down stays at the park:
This is anywhere from 20 sec to a few minutes during and at the end of our walks. Sometimes I have a hand towel as a mat, sometimes not. He's getting much better about quickly settling, taking a break to drink water, look more quickly away at things that catch his attention, enjoy a chew, etc.

Dog reactivity:
We are on looking at dogs, sitting, loose leash. He gets treats for looking calmly, looking away or back at me, and for leaving with me. He's much better about sitting and being more calm. It's still hard to listen if the dog is close, directly coming our way, or playing fetch or running hard, but overall he's so much better than a month ago.

I plan to continue this outside, and also work more on the Watch command from Patricia McConnell when we're at home and in less distracting environments.

U turns / This way:
We are continuing to work on "this way!" for forks in the road. Will work on random direction walking more often.
 

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Discussion Starter #35
Tonight I wanted to let Tomo meet up with one of the new training dog buddies, which was set at a dog park at 6:30pm. I agreed to go because it is later in the afternoon and it is cold again today, so there should be less dogs.

I wanted to set us up for success, so I stuffed my training pouch with lots of chicken jerky, and we went to Golden Gate Park for 30 minutes first. He seemed a little nervous even though we were in a different (but adjacent) section of the park than yesterday, wonder if he was remembering yesterday's incident.

At Stern Grove, Tomo really wanted to meet dogs, but I kept the long line on and only allowed him to greet dogs who showed friendliness and came to greet first, and were walked by attentive owners. He had a lot of fun and played fetch for half an hour -- my training buddy had a smaller Chuck It and was amazed at how Tomo brought back the ball every time, so she kept throwing for him. 😂 I think she thought I was a little too strict to deny him certain dog interactions, but to me it's better to keep him safe from running after another dog and getting into trouble. No unsupervised/unreachable dog interactions...
 

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I would not be comfortable with large unfamiliar dogs just running up to my dog off leash. So much physical damage can happen so quickly if there is a fight and long lasting psychological damage can occur also.

For us, at 16 months, Logan can be put into a sit and let a dog walk by on the other side of the road. If the dog is being unruly, I create distance. He doesn't just sit doing a prolonged stare at the dog as the longer the stare, the more aroused they get. He's getting better about offering a look at me when he sees another dog. When he was still getting over aroused to the point he wasn't able to listen, I immediately turned and created distance. I'd give a firm this way to turn him and keep going whether he was still distracted or not. I found moving more quickly to get his attention and talking to him helped to get him moving with me.

It looks like you and Tomo are having a lot of fun together. It's great you are working with him so much.
 

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Discussion Starter #37
I would not be comfortable with large unfamiliar dogs just running up to my dog off leash. So much physical damage can happen so quickly if there is a fight and long lasting psychological damage can occur also.

For us, at 16 months, Logan can be put into a sit and let a dog walk by on the other side of the road. If the dog is being unruly, I create distance. He doesn't just sit doing a prolonged stare at the dog as the longer the stare, the more aroused they get. He's getting better about offering a look at me when he sees another dog. When he was still getting over aroused to the point he wasn't able to listen, I immediately turned and created distance. I'd give a firm this way to turn him and keep going whether he was still distracted or not. I found moving more quickly to get his attention and talking to him helped to get him moving with me.

It looks like you and Tomo are having a lot of fun together. It's great you are working with him so much.
Thank you for the feedback. Yes, I think letting me vet the dog and owner is key. I’ll keep working on Watch with him.
 

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Discussion Starter #38
Yesterday we walked around the field and marina near work (despite working from home still, I go back regularly to feed the community cats there). It was a bit windy and very few people were walking about, and we did not meet any dogs. So we played fetch off-leash (dragging the long line) for a while, and Tomo was so attentive and so good most of the time. He just seems to thoroughly enjoy being out and being my partner when we're together alone outside. Like in a happy zen place.

Since he's so good about being calm there and I need to feed the cats all week, my plan is to spend a bit more time out there, so we can work on recalls and distance position changes on top of our usual sniffing walk.
 

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Discussion Starter #39 (Edited)
This week as our walks are around work (low dog traffic area and more open space), we worked on checking in off leash (dragging his leash), did calm down stays, and played lots of fetch (in another month or so the foxtails will come in so we gotta play while we can!). He was great at checking in often and giving me a lot of attention as there's not much traffic and dog smells competing for attention, although I had to haul him by his harness away from the remains of a dead animal... But that's typical dog stuff, and I am super pleased about our work this week.

We did a bit of distance position changes (sit and down while he's on the long line), but as we haven't been practicing this at home it's understandably rusty while we're out.

Tomorrow our family will do a long walk together, so tonight I made homemade sourdough waffles for extra motivation treats -- it's super easy to stuff a couple in my pouch and quickly pinch off pieces while walking. I'll also try to remember to bring a Babybel cheese. I typically have different types of training treats and a Whimzee chew for variety, reward level, and calm stays for the chew, but for more challenging situations I like to bring human food.

I'm going to take a month break from our Zoom classes, and brush up on some commands/tricks. He likes doing fun tricks when he thinks we're alone, so I used that today to lure him away from an approaching dog in the neighborhood. Things to work on next week:
  • position changes at a distance
  • peekaboo
  • across/switch for heel position changes
  • I never managed to get a good bow, and I read somewhere that a reliable bow is great as a dog greeting to diffuse tension as it's invitation for play and better than a neutral sit
 
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