The book is "Scaredy Dog!" by Ali Brown. No, Gimme hasn't become a fearful dog - I just read a lot of good books and there are gems in all of them... this book is a perfect example. Ali has a quote early in the book that I really like... as a reminder to not fall into bad habits, creating a dependent dog. The quote is:
"The more you help your dog, the stupider you teach him to be."Ali's approach is that it isn't about LLW (saying that's the easy part), rather its about self-control, attention, and ability to ignore distractions. Her approach is that until you can reliably achieve the following six levels of self-control, the dog isn't ready for LLW. The levels are:
- Quiet in the car... which she defined as being able to remain quiet and calm while you let them out of the crate, leash up, and then remain in the car until released.
- Outside the car - attention (reorient to handler) and 1 target.
- Outside the car - 3-5 commands.
- Outside the car - 5-10 commands.
- Ten feet from car - 5 commands.
- Twenty-five feet from car - 10-15 commands.
For me it was an interesting to realize that Gimme can do all levels in some places and none of them in others. In parking lots where we do a lot of training... not a problem. At Ursula's training building... not a problem. At the Fort Lewis training areas or places where we regularly walk... not a chance. Hmmmm - what does that tell you?
It tells me that I've worked much of this in some settings and not at all in others. Yes, Gimme is a challenge in her ability to distract, going from zero to ninety in a nanosecond (thank God we did so much self-control work when she was a puppy). It tells me that I've been lax in some places and have not taught (or even asked) her to think when we first arrive. It wasn't that she couldn't do it, its just that I didn't make it part of our routine - call me lazy. After about a block of walking at the training areas - we've always done a bunch of training interspersed throughout our walk. It occurs to me that Carla was as eager to get on with the walk as Gimme was.
So, I started several weeks ago working on this in those places where it was problematic. Gimme has done very well and is readily transferring her ability to those places where it was a challenge. Yes, she still needs reminders... but its coming along very nicely.
And the beauty of this is... that without changing the way I'm teaching LLW, suddenly she is getting that too. Twice this week I've done 3 miles with her and she's done very well. She needs reminders at first, but very quickly falls into the rhythm.
And a side benefit that just is surprising for me - though maybe it shouldn't be - is that her reactivity has dropped way down too. By engaging her thinking brain before we even leave the car, it's helping her to be in a mental place where she can make better decisions.
There's a place about 2 miles into our walk, where the path is much narrower, with a small grass strip on one side (dropping off into the lake) and a busy city street on the other side. So when we meet dogs, it can be challenging to manage the spacing. There was a couple coming toward us with two small dogs on flexi-leads and no sign of any awareness that they should reel them in. I stepped as close to the drop off as I could and was fishing out the PB Go Toob, when Gimme turned sideways on her own and started sniffing the bushes. The moment the little dogs passed she turned back to the path and was ready to go!
Woohoo... she appropriately chose to ignore the distraction and display calming signals. She has never done anything like that before. I was so proud of her and gave her a huge blob of PB. I'm misty-eyed now just thinking about it. My little girl is growing up...