Friday night Kirby and I had our first rally class. It actually went pretty well, considering that Kirby is dog reactive. I got there a little bit early in hopes of talking to the instructor, Sharon. She gave me some pointers on how to handle Kirby with the other dogs, the important thing for me was that she was okay with Kirby being dog reactive. She has had them in her class before and probably wants to help the dogs as much as their owners. So what did she tell me?
First, Kirby and I have to work on the "watch" command. (This is where I say "watch" and Kirby is to look at my face, not whatever else has caught his eye.) Not only will this help with other dogs, but will also help with rally and Kirby paying attention to me. I worked with Kirby on this while in class, he did pretty good, but we have quite a ways to go with it. At one point I couldn't even get his attention. He was watching dogs, not snarling at them, just INTENTLY watching and was just ignoring my command to "watch" me.
Second, was my body position with Kirby. I have read about this. She said leaders dont' lean over their dog. She said you can bend over a little bit to give him a treat, but when you are saying "watch" she said you are standing up, not leaning over. Also, to praise him like a crazy lady before giving him the treat (I added the crazy lady part), because I won't have treats on me everytime.
Sharon said I may want to consider using a Halti head collar on Kirby. She had a lady in a class that did this with her cocker spaniel who was dog reactive and had wonderful results. She said it will come in handy when you need to redirect his eyes to look at you. I did some reading on it, and felt comfortable with getting one. So I was at an adoption event yesterday at a pet store and I picked one up. Has anyone used one? If you have any suggestions I would appreciate it.
By the end of the class, Sharon said Kirby was doing really good. I was able to talk to another lady whose dog was also dog reactive. She was only 3-4 feet away with her dog and Kirby just sat by my side while we talked (AWESOME!). Her dog was also just content to sit there too.
Her class is pretty interesting. She has course that is set up every class in one part of the center and the other part has new commands that you can learn. You get to go through the course with her at least 3 times and she walks you through the new commands. Then you are on your own to practice them. When you are on the course, it is only you and your dog and her. She gives excellent pointers on how to get the dogs to do the commands. I think it's going to be a good class for Kirby. We practice at our own pace, and sometimes I just make him sit or down and we practice the "watch" command. We also go through all his "tricks" while we are there. Sharon gave me that idea, she said doing this will help him to realize that he is safe there. All the dogs ignore his snarling, so he's not getting launched at or anything and all the dogs are on leashes, so he doesn't have to worry about getting attacked again. I'm hoping that this will help to build his confidence up (mine too)!
What's interesting is that I am learning what all the signs mean (there are tons of them!) and Kirby is trying to figure out what I want him to do. Yes, we are building our relationship, I can't wait to see how we are as a team by the end of fall!
So here is a picture of the new rally student:
Again, if you have any suggestions with Halti collars (good and bad) I would appreciate hearing them.
PS: Harbor Humane Society had 104 dog and cat adoptions in February! WOO HOO!!!