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Day #17 of Conditioning Month – Am I getting anywhere?

August 6, 2013

dog_pyramid_by_ksuksa_raykova-d4rgh1jCan you detect my feelings of despondency?

Ok, look, I do understand how difficult this is bound to be. Nacho is a damaged dawg, and that’s not going to get fixed overnight, but he has been with us for something like a month now, and I am struggling to see significant improvements. Well maybe that’s not entirely true…

Over the last few days I’ve been really trying to get some intensive training done here. That isn’t easy when you’ve got two dogs and one person!

Jasper isn’t in bad shape training-wise, as long as he’s not confused by the signals. I guess the challenge we never envisaged when we were training him though, was that we might need him to really specifically understand which instructions were for him and which were for other dogs. I thought we were doing ok with him, because quite often when I tell him to do something, he does it. The problem I’ve now discovered is that he obeys instructions that come out of my mouth, not instructions that are directed at him. So I’m trying to do a bit of joint training now, with each dog getting his own instructions. It’s not easy on your own. Maybe I should be looking to train Nacho in isolation for a while, but that really isn’t an option at the moment – just because we don’t have space and don’t have anywhere to isolate the two dogs where they can’t continue to distract one another.

Another one of the big issues I’m having with Nacho is that he will obey commands when we’re training, but when we’re in a situation that is identifiable as “not training” he will ignore me. Ok, I get the answer on this one. I have to vary the training contexts and I have to have treats in my pockets all the time so he can get the reward for doing the right thing wherever he might be. I get it, and I’m trying to do it…

We’re still working on trust a lot with Nacho. He still doesn’t like to get close to me when I’m standing up – like if I call him to me, he will come, and he will sit, but he’ll be about 3 feet away. Getting him to come the last yard is tough. He leans forward for the treat, whereas I’m trying to encourage him to come in close and get it.

He is still pretty much petrified of other people though, whereas I know he’ll stick close to me even if I drop his lead.

Some days I think we’re making progress, some days I think we’re getting nowhere…

At least the feeding side of things has improved. Nacho used to pick like a sparrow when he first arrived, and would pull little pieces of food out of his bowl to nibble at. He never ate a whole meal, and Jasper was loving getting leftovers all the time. Now he gets close to the end of his meal every time, and frequently leaves nothing behind for the other guy (which doesn’t go down well). But Nacho still follows me everywhere looking for treats and scraps. Even immediately after eating his dinner, if I go anywhere near the utility room where the treats are, he chases me down and gets real excited. I suspect this harks back to his previous home where we think he only got fed scraps, and hence looks for every opportunity to grab anything that is going at any time…because he might not see anything else for a while.

I get the feeling that there’s still some disagreement/confusion between the two dogs about who is the highest in the pecking order. It’s clear that they both know that I’m the boss, and I pretty much call the shots, but I’m beginning to think that some of Nacho’s behavioral traits are because he’s stressing out about the responsibility of being higher up the ranks than Jasper.

I’ve been placing Nacho as the lead dog most of the time, simply because he’s the eldest, and does have some character traits I’d quite like Jasper to get the hang of when he gets older, but Nacho gets very agitated when we come across some other dogs out on the walk. He whines and whimpers and just seems really like he doesn’t know what to do. If he gets close in with other dogs, he almost invariably gets close (wagging) has a sniff then snarls at the other guy. I’m thinking perhaps he thinks he’s supposed to be protecting somebody (me or Jasper perhaps). I’m not dog whisperer, but I’m trying to piece together what’s going on in his head so I can try to counteract it.

With Jasper I’m not sure that he really cares where he is in the pecking order…I’m not even sure Jasper realises that there IS a pecking order!

It’s complicated, and tiring, and to be honest a little stressful. Only a few more days of Ramadan to get through and at least then there’ll be a few more places to go recreationally to get away from it all (you don’t miss Starbucks until you can’t go there). Once the whether starts to cool down there are also a few places we can take the dogs for a walk that are not just around here. Jasper would love the beach…but I don’t think there are any nearby right now that you can smuggle a dog onto…

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From → Dog Psychology

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