Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Turf Wars

Last month, I wrote about our training plan for dealing with the dogs on the other side of the fence. I wish that I could write this month and tell you that we have overcome our struggles and are enjoying our yard. Unfortunately, we haven't made much progress yet.

One of the attempts we've made to make it harder to get her nose under the fence.

But we have been training. A lot.

I mentioned that there would probably be a lot of trial and error--and I wasn't wrong.

First, our training plan went out the window. There's no warning of when the dino-dogs will come out in their yard, so when we were outside relaxing, I usually couldn't get Barley leashed to go back to the basics of our reactive dog training--even if I brought a leash out with us--because she'd notice the dino-dogs before I did and lose her mind. That isn't the best starting point for training, so we'd go back inside and try again later.

Then Barley started running towards the fence as soon as I'd open the door--even when the dogs weren't out. I'd call her to me and reward her from coming away from the fence. Pretty soon, Barley started running at the fence all of the time and then turning to me to see if she'd get a treat. All of the sudden, I heard our agility trainer's words from when Barley was running to check out the windows in class: Don't reward her coming to you after visiting the windows because then she'll learn that she gets a treat for running to the window before coming back to you. You have to reward her for coming to you instead of going to the window. I realized I had to get Barley's attention before she had a chance to go to the fence. Timing really is everything.

We've made a little progress with that. When I let her outside, I call her to me as soon as she gets down the stairs and if she doesn't go to the fence instead, she gets her snack. If she does start to go to the fence, she just gets a quick nope, usually she puts on the breaks and I praise her, and then we try something else. If she runs the fence while I'm reading or doing yard work and I can't stop it with a quick nope, I'll call her to me and pet her and praise her, but she doesn't get a snack. She's starting to spend less time charging towards the fence and more time exploring the rest of the yard or playing with a toy--as long as the dino-dogs aren't out.


When the dino-dogs are out, though, her inner hellhound comes out. If I see them before I open the door, I'll put her on leash and we'll do a little work that way, but more often than not, they come out after we're already out in the yard. A few times, I've seen them before Barley has and we've immediately gone into the basics of our reactive dog training--just without the leash and long lead I'd planned to work with.

Some days, she does better than others. If I have a steady supply of treats, she'll stay in a down and do some of her relaxation work--but the treats have to come every few seconds, so we can't keep that up for long. Every time I've tried to increase the time between rewards, she springs up and races over to the fence and does her snarling routine and tries looking for ways to get through the fence.

We try to take breaks from the relaxation work to give her brain something different to think about, so sometimes we do off-leash heeling exercises around the yard with regular treats. She's doing surprisingly well with that as long as I don't wait too long between the treats. We can do serpentine patterns, diagonals, circles, sits, downs. We can walk towards the fence and she can be on the side of me that's closest to the fence. Then we head back to the patio and go back into relaxation work. I wasn't sure she'd be able to do this off-leash when the dino-dogs were present, but she's impressed me.

We've also done a lot of "it's your choice" work. Our very favorite version is the treats on the paws game and that's the one that takes the most self-control for Barley. We'd worked up to 14 treats on her paws in the past, but when the dino-dogs are out, we have to start from scratch. She can't stay in a down long enough to get that many--she'll give up and abandon the treats to charge the fence. Each time we start with one treat on each paw, just to warm up. We've worked back up to 4 or 5 on each paw regularly, but I can tell it's really hard for her to hold her focus that long, so we're taking our time.



And sometimes she refuses to give you both paws, so you can get 8 on one paw.

I know we've made some progress, but we're nowhere close to where I'd like to be. I'd like to be able to sit outside with a book and not have to stop between every sentence to see if the dino-dogs are out or to give Barley her snack for staying down. I'd like to be able to drink a beer and watch the Pirates games on the back porch and not miss half of an inning because we're doing heeling patterns around the yard. Even when the dino-dogs aren't out, I still can't full relax because I have to be on the lookout so I can attempt to get Barley's attention before they do if they do come out.

"Who says I don't know how to relax?"

Our reactive dog trainer reminded me that this type of freedom is something that is completely new for Barley--she's spent the last 5.5 years of her life on a leash (and who knows what her first year of life was like), so we really are starting over. It took months of training for her to be able to walk by other dogs on a leash without lunging and she still has her moments if the other dog is really wound up. It was a full year of training before we were at the point where we could take the Canine Good Citizen test and pass the portion involving another dog. So, it's unfair for me to expect her to be able to relax off-leash while the dino-dogs grumble and sprint along the other side of the fence after only a month of training. Of course, that doesn't make it any easier to accept that this summer probably won't involve much relaxing in the backyard and it's even harder to feel like all of the work we've done over the years has gone out the window (even though I know that's not true).

Barley will be in boarding with her reactive dog trainer soon, so I'm hoping we have a chance to chat with her about our fence issues and can further develop our game plan. In life before Barley, patience was never my forte--she's helped me get better, but this has been our biggest training challenge in a while and it's hard not to try to rush the process or to feel frustrated.



We're linking up with Rubicon Days, Cascadian Nomads, and Tenacious Little Terrier for for the Positive Pet Training blog hop that starts the first Monday of each month and runs all week.

Powered by Linky Tools
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list...

18 comments:

  1. Have you thought about putting up a tarp or something along that fence line so that the dogs can't see each other through the gaps in the fence? A friend of mine has issues with her dogs fence fighting the neighbor dogs, and while the sheeting doesn't fix the problem completely, it apparently makes dogs on both sides of the fence less reactive and more able to be in the yard without charging the fence.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A tarp is a great idea--I'm just hesitant to hang anything on the actual fence since that side is technically my neighbor's fence and I'd need a whole lot of tarp since that side is over 90 feet long. Luckily, the way the wooden fence is, their views are already obscured--I just need to find a better way to keep her nose from fitting under it than I've come up with so far.

      Delete
  2. We have dogs on two sides of our chain link fence. We have always enjoying running the fence line with our neighbors. Sometimes we bark, but we really just enjoy the running and then take short breaks to sniff each other. We've had them over in our yard to play too which is really fun. Mom feels for us it's better when we can see them and get to know them but that doesn't work for all dogs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barley doesn't know how to play with other dogs. If they were in our yard, she would want to flatten them and she wouldn't be able to focus on anything else if we had a chainlink fence, so we're glad the neighbors chose something with less visibility for their side and we chose a completely solid fence for the other 3 sides of the yard. I'm glad that you girls know how to be good neighbors.

      Delete
  3. Love all the pictures of my baby girl! Your patio furniture looks great, too! She will get the hang of it, and there will be many years of relaxing to look forward to :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know your niece better than to think that the word relax will ever be in her vocabulary ;)

      Delete
  4. I love her smile in the last shot! Good job adapting your training technique with the "Nope." Training is hardest, and most frustrating, when we can't control the environment. Which sadly, is most of the time.

    Hang in there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She is my smiley girl! Nope is one of our most important words--along with yes--but Barley is a dog that thinks everything is a game, so even though I like to keep things positive, she does occasionally need corrections and that's a word that naturally has a different tone of voice to let her know she didn't make a good choice without actually being negative :)

      Delete
  5. I love her smile in that last shot, too!

    This might not be practical--I can't quite see what your yard set up is. But do you think you could set up an ex-pen area around the porch? Then you and Barley could chill out on the porch and she could remain several feet away from the dino dogs. It might be just the right combination of distance, environmental control, and relative freedom (compared to being on leash anyway!) for Barley to bring her hypervigilance down a notch and really relax out there with you. And just open up the ex-pen door when you want everyone to be able to move between the two areas freely.

    I can't remember--have you guys ever done Dr. Overall's Relaxation Protocol?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that idea! Unfortunately, the back of the house has an overhang that Barley likes to slip under, so unless i got several ex-pens and connected them so they could go behind the furniture and all the way it, she'd be able to slip right out towards the other dogs (I actually didn't even think of that until the fence guys told me that we had to move the fence a few feet forward so she couldn't sneak out--thank goodness they were watching out for my girl!). I did wrap a long line around one of the trees in the yard and adjusted it so she can't get all the way to the fence but we can at least work on building up some distance between us.

      And yes! We love the relaxation protocol.

      Delete
    2. Oh no! That would have been so scary! I'm so glad tht the fence guys were thoughtful enough to notice and compensate for that.

      I asked about the RP because I know someone who recently had a similar situation with their teenage herding dog getting overaroused and snarly at the fence with a neighbor, totally losing his recall, etc. One of the things she did to work through it was revisit the RP, working through it first in the house and then out in the yard on the porch. I thought it might give you guys a nice predictable framework for starting the process of reducing reinforcement while Barley settles outside--having that clear, predictable pattern that she knows so well might help her withstand the sheer horror of going a few seconds without treats. ;)

      Delete
  6. I love those photos, that smile in the last one is seriously cute overload.

    I sympathize with your situation, it's hard enough dealing with dogs while out on a walk, I couldn't imagine doing it at home at any given hour of the day. It's a slow process, but it sounds like you guys are on the right track, and most important you're patient and willing to try new techniques if one doesn't work well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She can definitely be super cute when she wants to be--which is usually when she's causing the most trouble ;)

      At this point, walking is a breeze because we've practice it so much that we have plans and backup plans and backup backup plans. There might be some dogs she can't walk by on trails or sidewalks, but she can cross the road or sit beside the trail until she has the space she needs. I know eventually we'll get to that level of comfort in the yard, but you're right--it is a slow process! It's been so long since we started our reactive dog training that I forgot how overwhelming and exhausting it can be to start from scratch--and technically we're not even really starting from scratch ;)

      Delete
  7. We also don't have a yard so it's not something I've really had to deal with. Mr. N came to us with yard experience though. We have lots of experience getting charged at by dogs in yards though. I'm pretty sure Mr. N's attitude is that dog is talking smack about me and you won't let me respond and that's so unfair!
    And yes, training new behavior mod is exhausting! Thanks for joining the hop.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I know it has to be so frustrating to feel like you're going back to square one; especially when you were so excited about your new yard! I've experienced this type of thing with some off leash dogs visiting our yard, and I couldn't even get a handle on getting Luke and Cricket even remotely under control with strange dogs on the other side of the fence. I know you'll persevere and eventually get there. I also wondered if there was a way you could portion off a part of your yard where your patio is, so you could at least enjoy some quiet and relaxing time outdoors. Hang in there!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm sorry your feeling frustrated. My thought is similar yet different from the others. You mentioned your trainer saying something about a lot of freedom, and you mentioned how long it took Barley to walk past other dogs while on leash. I know it's a PITA but what if when she went outside she WAS on a long leash. Long enough to let her move about and enjoy the yard but not enough to get to the fence?

    It was the way you phrased it that made me think that. I mean, it's similar to housebreaking a dog. You can't let it have free rein of the house because then you can't keep an eye on it. Similar to yard breaking.

    Just a thought.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I know it can be difficult and frustrating when there are factors completely out of your control in training situations like this. It sounds like you all are working hard on training through, and I'm sure you'll continue to make progress!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Fences are hard because the dogs know each other is there but cannot really see them.

    Perhaps the kind of training we did with our electric fence would work. When you first get one, you train the dog without the fence being activated. You are training a perimeter. Once trained, this works no matter the temptation on the other side and even without the collar being on. If you want to know how we did it, drop me an email. It was fairly easy.

    ReplyDelete