Friday, June 10, 2016

Back to Basics

Barley has endeared herself to most of the human neighbors in our new neighborhood. She's also done a fantastic job of dealing with the many, many dogs we see on our walks. (It's a good thing my GPS watch doesn't talk or it would probably ask if I'm drunk since we crisscross the street so many times!) 

Our new fence has created a need for us to return to the basics, though. Three sides of our fence are 6-foot tall vinyl panels, so Barley can't see out and other dogs can't see in. This was a very strategic decision--I knew that if Barley saw the little dog a couple houses down staring at her from behind its chain link fence, she'd lose all focus on whatever we were doing in the yard (relaxing, agility training, fetch) and she might even consider jumping the fence to get to it--and once she knew she could jump her fence, there'd be nothing to keep her from jumping its fence. I've never been particularly graceful, so a future that might involve jumping over 4-foot chain link fences to grab my dog wasn't all that appealing to me. A solid fence seemed to make the most sense for Barley's needs.

The fourth side of the fence, though, belongs to our other neighbors who have two very large (and very sweet) rottweilers. The girls have been very friendly with me when I've met them without Barley, but when Barley and I go out, it sounds like we live next to Jurassic Park (which my sister pointed out for us)--there's grunting, snuffling, snorting, and a variety of other prehistoric sounds mixed in with the occasional bark. The fence is a shadowbox fence, so they can see each other from certain angles, but not well. The fence is also several inches off the ground (according to the fence company, some people think it's easier to use a weedeater that way, but they assure me that's not true), so until I figure out how to block that off on our side, there's room for a pointy Barley nose to fit under the fence.

On leash or tethered to a tree, Barley paid very little attention to them. I could furminate her (which always requires frequent treating anyway) or give her a Kong filled with goodies and we could spend plenty of time in the yard. When I'd take her out for potty breaks, she might glance their way, but a quick "leave it" would be all she needed.

Someone's barking? I didn't notice.

But I was fairly certain off-leash would be a bigger issue. After all, she can walk perfectly beside her cousin on leash, but the second the leash comes off, she wants to eat him.

I made sure that Barley's first fence experience was positive by waiting until the dogs next-door went inside before letting her out to explore.

Barley has a fence!! #dogs #bordercollie #fetch

A video posted by Beth (@eedevore) on


Later that day, the dogs came out while we were in the yard and as soon as they barked, Barley was locked in on their side of the fence and snapping at them. She was uninterested in me or treats, so we had to go back inside so I could come up with our plan for training through this.

We'll be going back to the basics of her reactive dog training when the neighbors are out. There will be plenty of work done on-leash to reestablish that I'm still in charge even if there are dino-dogs on the other side of the fence. Most of this will be different versions of the "it's your choice" game--so expect to see lots of pictures of Barley in the yard on a leash with treats on her paws in the near future. (We also have to do this for agility anyway since she's been choosing to ignore me and go where she wants more and more lately, so going back to basics will have lots of benefits.) We'll be revisiting our relaxation protocol and mat work in the yard to help remind her that it's ok to relax in the yard--even if you think a t-rex is about to crash through the fence. We'll also be working on different heeling patterns, especially ones that take us near that side of the fence and reinforce the decision to turn away from it.

We'll start all of this on her 6-foot leash that was use for all of our walks, but eventually as she becomes more confident and consistent in the behaviors we need, we'll move to her 10-foot long lead to get a little more distance work in. Some day, hopefully, we'll be able to work up to doing all of this off-leash in the yard.

Until then, we'll be checking out the window before opening the back door and then taking advantage of every opportunity we have with no dino-dogs outside to romp and play and enjoy our newly fenced yard.

Hey look! No Leash!

We're linking up with Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier, and Rubicon Days for the Positive Pet Training blog hop that starts the first Monday of each month and runs all week. For some reason, the code isn't cooperating tonight, be sure to check out all of the other great blogs participating by visiting the hosts' pages (and I'll keep trying to get it to work here!) to see what other training goals everyone's working on!


20 comments:

  1. I'm looking forward to what you share. We will be getting a new neighbor soon and the dogs won't be allowed to wander in the woods between properties anymore. We don't know if they'll like dogs or if they'll have dogs. We do know that the property isn't fenced (our dogs have a fenced yard on our property).

    First things first, I need a super long lead for our dogs. I'll be following your experience for tips, because I haven't a clue.

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    1. I'll definitely share our experiences! I think it will be a lot of trial and error. These things worked well for being able to walk by other dogs or sit near them in agility class, but having a fence where there are two dogs that aren't also being managed and have no one out there telling them to stop barking or running the fence line makes this brand new territory for us--so I'm hoping that our current "toolbox" works! Otherwise, it will be time for another phone call to our reactive dog trainer ;)

      Be careful with the long lead! I had a bad experience with our 50-ft. line and my fingers, which is why we now have a fence about a year earlier than I had planned! I might recommend some good, thick gloves or something along those lines!

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  2. Focusing around other dogs is so so hard. Mr. N can work around food, toys and other people just fine but dogs are his Achilles' heel. I was very proud of him the other day when we were taking photos (he had to come when I called and wait to jump off a ledge) with an other dog swimming off-leash in the distance and he did it!

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    1. Yay, Mr. N! That's excellent. Barley's pretty reliable about working on leash when other dogs are around as long as they don't approach her and she's usually pretty good in agility class when all of her classmates are on leash when she's off and have people reminding them not to bark, so hopefully some of that will provide a good foundation moving forward!

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  3. Your plan sounds great. Well-thought-out and lots of tools in your toolkit. Looking forward to hearing how it goes!

    Much to my surprise, when new neighbors with two dogs moved in next door (fence already in place), our reactive girl, whence we expected problems to arise, quickly acclimated; our very social boy taught himself it was SO FUN to charge the fence barking, to get them aroused. Oops. We got to know our neighbors (in a good way) and with some focused training we're over the hump.

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    1. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes, too! I'm glad your girl adjusted quickly! My neighbors are nice, but they are rarely out in the yard with their dogs--and even when Barley's calm and on a leash, they like to run along the fence and make noise (although they'll pause momentarily if I say "Hi Girls!"), so I'm hoping that Barley will adjust even if it is just me working on it.

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  4. Sounds like a good plan! I'm thankfully reactivity isn't an issue for us, but I remember how awesome it was the first time we had a yard. So much freedom!

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    1. Barley has yet to really embrace the freedom except when the other dogs are out--when I open the door, she sits at the bottom of the steps and waits for me. She'll only run around the yard if I start running around first. Maybe one day she'll realize that she can go anywhere she wants in the yard ;)

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  5. I'm so excited for you....your yard looks great! It sounds like you have a great plan in place, and I'm sure you'll get Barley used to those dogs. After all, even the concept of that space to run loose is new for her.
    We are lucky not to have neighbors that share our fence, but we've had a neighbor's two dogs come visit more than once and Cricket and Luke don't like it one bit! The problem is I don't know when they'll show up and by the time I know they're here, it's too let to settle them down and work with them. I can't even figure out if they're mad or if they want to play with them!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. Timing is everything! Usually, the dogs show up when I'm in the middle of something like putting together lawn furniture and can't train and do that task. Now, we're waiting for the opportunity to see them in the yard and go out and train :)

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  6. Laughing at your GPS thinking you're drunk. How many times have you crossed the street to avoid someone, and then that person crosses, so you have to cross back?

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    1. So many times! Sometimes it's like playing chicken, too--we see a dog coming our way, but there's a lawnmower right across the street, so we keep walking, and hope we can cross before we all get too close :)

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  7. Your yard looks fabulous, and it sounds like you know just how to handle Barley's new issues with being off-leash in the yard. It's tough having a dog with issues, in terms of staying ahead of the game. (I have Shyla who has different issues, but issues nonetheless). I hope that you can get Barley more relaxed without too much work.

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    1. Thank you! It is hard to stay one step ahead of them sometimes. Luckily, after 5 years of working together, I've gotten very good at reading her and have been able to intercept her and get her back inside when she's heard the dogs coming out before I have when I haven't had a chance to work with her :)

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  8. This sounds like a solid plan! I can't wait to hear how things progress!

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    1. Thank you! We'll be sure to keep everyone posted.

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  9. I think sometimes going back to basics is the absolute best thing we can do!

    As for the gap under the fence, my thoughts would be bricks. You can simply place them against the opening, or maybe 2 x 4's?

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    1. I've got a few ideas on addressing the gaps, but I'm waiting for my mom to visit again because she's much better at executing ideas so they are aesthetically pleasing than I am ;)

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  10. Sounds like you have a good plan. Barley reminds me a bit of Storm. I am certain she would be glued to the fence once she figured out there was something on the other side of it. She has been a difficult dog to train because you can teach her something, like leave the fence line alone, and she will be fine for 2-3 weeks and then you will be teaching her the same thing all over again. It has been that way for all her 9 years. She is a very independent dog and has a mind of her own.

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    1. It definitely sounds like Barley and Storm have some similarities. Most things, Barley learns and is good with the occasional reinforcement, but things she really really really wants like other dogs or squirrels occasionally go out the window--and if the neighbors ever get another dog or have one visit, she'd forget everything she learned about the fence all over again!

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