This was written a handful of weeks ago…. Back at the beginning of June. I was debating whether to post the Reactivity Chronicles, or whether to keep them just for myself. However, as I have been writing them, I have noticed a change in my mindset and feelings around Odin’s reactivity. I hope this helps some other reactive dog parents.
This was the last week of rain, and I will be greatly missing it. I hate being wet and cold, but I love that when I take Odin out on walks, that we will be the only ones out. Most people opt out of walking their dogs in the rain. However, for us, rain is the perfect condition. Now that summer is quickly approaching, more and more people are starting to take their dogs out.
During the winter/spring, I am able to let my guard down while walking Odin. It is very unlikely that we will run into another dog. I think I got too comfortable with this and was not ready when I took Odin out for a walk earlier this week. We passed three dogs and all of them Odin got severely reactive towards. I think he too had gotten comfortable with not seeing other dogs while out on walks. It was as if he had forgotten all of the progress we had made last summer and fall. It felt like we were starting back at square one.
I was very lucky that this was the same week we started up our Reactivity class. It was nice to be able to practice with Odin in a parking lot with another dog in a controlled environment. This made us more prepared for future walks.
During our next walk, we got lucky enough to be on one side of a four-lane road and another dog was across the street heading the same direction as us. This was perfect for a training opportunity as I wanted to start slow with Odin and the distance between the two dogs was ideal. There was no concern about Odin going over threshold, yet the dog was just close enough to hold his interest. We jogged up and back, keeping Odin parallel to the dog across the street (the owner must have been super confused as to what we were doing). We practiced focus work and relaxing while the dog was across the street. He did incredibly well. Then, another dog turned the corner up ahead and the dog and his owner started walking ahead of us in the same direction. This was perfect! The difficulty was increased a smidge, and he was still able to focus and heel and not react. As a reward, we ended the walk at the dog park where he ran around with his friends.
It sucks that we took so many steps backwards, but it was nice to see that we were not starting from scratch.
After writing this, I thought it might be a good idea to start making a habit of writing about our walks. Writing about our walks makes me look back and reflect on things that we need to work on and helps me to see the improvements he has made. Sometimes we are so focused on the negatives and challenges we face, and forget to celebrate the small victories and successes we have. I have been writing these for about 2 weeks now, and I feel infinitely better about Odin’s reactivity and our daily walks. These entries give me hope and help me to see the good days, when the bad ones become overwhelming.
So here, I start the Reactive Chronicles:
Huzzah! Odin made it past two dogs at once! It was with the help of chicken breast meat, but whatever, one small step at a time. Since summer started we are starting to see more people out in the morning due to the weather. Today it was easily 70 degrees out at 6 am when I took Odin out for his walk. I am needing to take him out in the mornings as it is not cooling down fast enough in the evenings (96 degrees at 8 pm).
The two dogs this morning were the two annoying black labs that live in a corner house backing up to the open space. The dogs themselves aren’t annoying, it’s more their situation that is. They have a metal bar fence. So the two dogs can see everyone and thing that walks past their house. They are not thrilled about passersby’s and throw a barking fit when they see anyone/thing coming. When they were approaching, I was expecting the two dogs to see Odin and start barking (which creates an instant reaction from Odin). However, they didn’t even seem to notice Odin. Odin did great while they passed and we moved around in an odd pattern to keep him both interested in me and prevent him from focusing too hard on the other dogs. Chicken has become a godsend for his reactivity (but a damper on my wallet).
Almost, he almost made it past the other dog across the street this morning without reacting. When the dog was approaching in front of us (a medium sized, 35 lb. terrier) I got prepped, armed with lots of chicken in my hand. I told him to “look” he did. He saw the other dog and quickly looked back to me. I gave him a treat and we started walking again. Every two steps, I would ask him to look, he would look back at me, “Yes!” and treats. Once the dog across the street got behind a car across the street, out of view, I got greedy, I was too slow with the treating and didn’t treat while the dog was behind the car. The dog made it past the car and Odin whined and then reacted “WOOF! WOOF!” But it was only a couple of barks before he calmed down and focused on me. Not too shabby. Next time I will need to be faster with the treating. The young blonde girl across the street smiled at me and gave an expression of it’s all good” on her face. I greatly appreciate when other handlers are understanding of the situation. It makes everything easier and like everything is going to be okay.