Sunday, July 25, 2010

Should reactive dogs be allowed at trials?

The AKC recently released its Rally Advisory Committee Recommendations on proposed changes to the rules and exercises of the sport. Now, I don’t currently do AKC rally, but I do belong to a general rally obedience email list, and these changes have been one of the prominent topics of discussion lately.

I’ve been skimming most of these posts- they don’t really apply to me, after all- but one thread did catch my eye. It started out discussing the committee’s recommendation for a new class (Rally Master) in which there are group stays, but ended up being about reactive dogs. Some people were worried that rally has become the sport for “unsocialized, reactive, or aggressive dogs,” and strongly felt that such dogs shouldn’t be allowed at trials.

While I agree with the people criticizing the presence of dogs who are acting poorly at a trial, I disagree with those who completely dismiss all reactive dogs, simply because they are reactive. Don’t get me wrong- bad behavior has no place at a trial. It is not fair to anyone involved. It is not fair to the other dogs and owners who are on the receiving end of snarky behavior. It is not fair to the dog itself, who is clearly over-stressed. And it’s not fair to the handler, who will be embarrassed, ostracized or just won’t have fun.

But some people were upset with those who simply describe their dogs as reactive, or with people who leave their dogs in the car between runs because the dog has difficulty with prolonged exposure to a trial environment. I really think such criticism is unfair, because if you’re trialing a reactive dog, you need to protect your dog. Beyond that, though, just because a dog is reactive does not automatically mean it is going to behave badly. In fact, I have taken Maisy to trials where people looked at me with disbelief when I said she was reactive- that’s how relaxed and happy she was.

I’ve said before that our current terminology just isn’t very good, and in this case, I suspect that those critics- the ones who say no reactive dogs should be allowed at trials- understand reactivity differently than I do. Where others seem to see reactivity as a problem that is fixed in stone for life, I see it as something changeable. After all, when it comes down to it, reactive behavior is just that- behavior. And behavior can be modified.

Surely part of the problem is that the label of “reactive” really doesn’t get at the root cause of the behavior. Is it due to genetics? Is it due to poor socialization as a puppy? Is it due to a bad experience? It might be just one of these, it might be a combination, or it might be something else entirely. But I think it makes a difference when it comes to predicting future outcomes.

Many reactive dogs can recover to a normal (or at least near-normal) state. A dog who learned reactive behavior as a response to a traumatic incident can overcome its anxiety through careful counter-conditioning. A dog who missed out on critical socialization as a puppy can make up for it as an adult (although it is slow-going, and will never be as good as it could have been).

Even dogs who have a questionable genetic background- dogs like my Maisy, for example- can make huge strides in improving their reactive behavior. They may not recover fully, but they can learn to keep it together well enough that they can successfully attend a trial. They may need modifications to the usual routine- they may need shorter days or to rest in the car- but they can do it.

Even so, I don’t think this is the case for all reactive dogs. For some, the damage is just too deep, the behavior is too ingrained. Some will always be right on the edge, always in danger of falling off the wagon, so to speak. Some of these dogs will never be able to manage a trial environment, and for those dogs, I believe it is inappropriate to enter them in trials, no matter how talented they are.

So, those of us with reactive dogs need take a critical look at our dogs. We need to be honest with ourselves about where our dog is at, both in general, and on any given day. We may need to forfeit entry fees on days where our dogs just can’t pull themselves together. We may even need to retire them entirely.

After all, when it comes to working with reactive dogs (and maybe the normal ones, too), the process is more important the result. I am certainly aware of the fact that, despite my dreams of championship titles, we may never attain them. Regardless of how far we go, whether Maisy retires tomorrow or whether she gets an OTCH, in the end, I will know that we have done our best together.


Urban canines said...

With many english horse back riding schooling shows, there has been a long tradition of putting a green ribbon for a young horse or a red ribbon for a horse that kicks in their tail. Too bad reactive dogs can't have something similar.

Sam said...

I have a lot of feelings on this issue. I'm trying to find a way to record them in to one coherent post.

1) RE: the "unsocialized, reactive or aggressive dogs:" I don't see any problem with these dogs being at a trial as long as they are under control, and I'm not really sure why any one else should care, either. There is a big difference between a dog snarling at the end of its leash and a dog-aggressive dog who has learned to control his impulses. My dog has both socialization and reactivity issues, but I choose her trials carefully and watch her behavior extremely closely. (It's pretty much impossible to talk to me when I'm with Marge at a trial because of how focused I am on her.) She's not aggressive, but I don't think it really matters either way if they dog is under control. After all, AKC breed standards for certain breeds do say that animal aggression is permissible. So we should breed dogs with dog-aggressive tendencies and then not allow them in to performance events, even if they are well behaved? Doesn't sound right to me.

2) RE: proposed group stays. Kind of in keeping with my ideas about reactive dogs at trials, I don't think that there is any place for group stays at Rally trials. If you want to do Obedience, train Obedience. I feel like adding things like stays, stand for exam, etc. puts unnecessary burdens on those who train in Rally to AVOID these things that they'd see in obedience.

3) I totally agree with your entire post. Banning "reactive dogs" from trials wouldn't make sense, especially given that the behavior is rooted in anxiety and can be worked upon. Handlers shouldn't enter dogs if they aren't ready, and may even need to pull their dogs out if they're having a bad day or something. But to lump all dogs together and equate "reactive" with "disobedient" or "untrained" is stupid and unfair.

Crystal said...

Urban Canines (I'm sorry I'm totally blanking on your name)- I know sometimes people put a red bandana on reactive dogs... but that, of course, is not allowed in the performance ring. Which is fine, because Maisy hates wearing things anyway. :)

Sam- I think you've said what I was trying to say quite well. "Reactive" does not necessarily mean "out of control" but it seems some people believe that. I suppose the likelihood of Maisy going out of control is higher than a non-reactive dog, but even so, she can and does self-interrupt. If she doesn't, she'll listen to me. (And then I hustle her butt outside.)

Reactivity really isn't a curse or a forever thing... I tend to think of reactivity kind of like cancer- something that can go into remission, and the longer you don't see it, the better chance you won't ever see it again, but which is always kind of lurking as a hidden threat. I dunno. It's not a great analogy, but there you go.

Some people (not the official recommendations, just list members) suggested that a dog should have to have its CGC to enter, figuring that would weed out the reactive dogs. Yeah, guess which reactive dog in my house has her CGC?

As for group stays... I would hate to see those in rally. The committee is only suggesting them as part of one (new, high level) class, so it wouldn't be required. But, those of us with small dogs recognize that there's a lot of danger in a group stay... even if a dog isn't aggressive, a small dog can get injured by a big dog's playing.

And the stand for exam used to be a bonus exercise in APDT. I was really glad when they made it a "stand for distraction" instead.

Sam said...

You know, in many ways, I would prefer a trained reactive dog being at a trial over a friendly dog with an oblivious owner. I am SO diligent about where my dog's nose is at trials, as I'm sure you are, too. A lot of times I have to move MY scared dog because someone is chatting away and their dog is going over to greet everyone. Sometimes it's hard for people who have never had dogs with these types of issues to see the other side of the coin, and they let their dogs act rudely. Know what I mean?

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

I can understand how you feel personally attacked by those comments. But to be honest, I can totally agree with a lot of it. Of course my issue is with specific dogs, not with "reactive" in general. A stereotype is just that. Maisy is a perfect example of a reactive dog who really holds no danger to anyone at a trial except for herself. A lot of reactive dogs are like her, probabally most. However what people see aren't the dogs they don't even know are reactive because handlers like you do such a great job. What people see are the dogs who are throwing huge displays anytime a dog walks anywhere near them, let alone looks at them. The dogs making scenes in their crates, the dogs lunging at the end of the leash every 2 seconds, etc. These are the dogs we fear are becoming more and more at every trial. They are in a minority but they draw huge attention to themselves and those are the ones who create this stereotype that you are trying to combat against.

I personally love all the little obedience exercises being proposed in rally. Rally was originally supposed to be a stepping stone for obedience, and while it is certainly becoming a great spot in its own right, I would love for it to become more challenging at upper levels. Of course the stays are always controversial and my personal opinion is that I have promised my dogs I will protect them no matter what. I can't do that when I am out of their sight, and might not be able to do that even when I'm just across the ring from them. I hate that I'm sacrificing that promise to them in the obedience ring.

Crystal said...

Oh, Sam, I so know what you mean. At the last trial I was at, a (very nice, well-intentioned) woman brought her (much bigger) dog over, exclaiming, "Oh, my dog just LOVES little dogs!" and before I could stop her, the dog was on top of mine. *sigh*

Laura- Yes, I guess I do take it a bit personally. For the most part, I know it's not about me- Maisy isn't making a huge scene after all. And if she was, I'd leave. Dogs making a scene have no place at a trial.

But someone was saying that if you describe your dog as reactive, you shouldn't be there, or that if you keep your dog in the car because it's too stressful inside, your dog shouldn't be there. That really frustrated me, because I *do* keep Maisy in the car, when the weather permits. It's kinder to her, and really no one else's business where I crate her. So, yeah, I guess I took that comment personally. :)

I don't care too much about the proposed changes- we don't do AKC rally, after all- but I would prefer to keep the sports distinct. No matter how it began, it's clearly evolved into something different. And even without obedience stuff in it, I think it works as a stepping stone. I never thought I'd do obedience, but now I'm working towards it.

As for groups... with out-of-sight stays, the only way I will ever do them with Maisy is if I have someone outside the ring (like my husband) that would be willing to jump a ring gate and save her if needed. (And yes, I do realize that would probably be frowned upon.) But I don't think we'll ever do them, because I can't imagine taking the risk with her. With a different dog, yes, but not her.

Joanna said...

I thought of you when I saw that discussion. And then I promptly deleted the e-mails, because people were being too judgemental and silly. :P

Raegan said...

I get really upset when people start talking about regulating things they have no way to enforce.

The whole issue is ridiculous. If you don't trust your dog to do an exercise for any reason, you don't have any business entering that trial yet. Your dog isn't ready. It doesn't matter if he'll bark and lunge instead of performing, or run off to visit, or just sit there and stare at you. You're not ready, so stay out of the ring until you are. A reactive dog might have a longer path to the ring, but to say he never can until he's no longer reactive at all is ridiculous.

Crystal said...

Here's what I've learned about dog people Joanna: we all have about 20billion different opinions (each), about 19billion of which are silly. :)

Raegan, I completely agree. I think Maisy could do an honor (and she has done one at run-throughs), but because I'm not *sure* yet, we won't do one. I'm going to need a number of solid honors in practice before I'll feel comfortable taking her to a trial to do one. It wouldn't be fair for me to be wrong, and for her to do something silly to the working dog.

Katie said...

Yeah, I wouldn't let yourself get upset about what other people are saying. I see all measure of reactive dogs at rally trials, and for the most part, it's fine. As long as handlers of all dogs are being responsible and respectful, there shouldn't be a problem, and when there is a problem, the concern should be with the handler and not the dog. There are certainly reactive and aggressive dogs competing at high levels of traditional obedience.

I think it's interesting that they're proposing dropping the Honor exercise in favor of a (really miserable sounding) stay. I haven't entered the Excellent class because of the Honor (the stay part is fine, it's the running the course with a dog in the ring that I worry about, though she's never ever left me to go to the dog in practice).

I would likely not enter the Masters class with Luce if there was a group stay involved.

AKC wants so much for their rally program to feed into traditional obedience, but I'm not sure I really see it happening. The mindset between the people I see doing rally and the people I see doing obedience are frequently so different. The *tone* at rally trials is frequently so different than obedience. That's why I like rally so much. If they want to change that, then I'm more than happy to give my money to APDT.

Crystal said...

Katie, I'm not really upset about it, exactly. Annoyed, maybe. Frustrated. I just don't like the broad generalizations. Okay, I'll admit, I felt criticized because I do some of the things people didn't like... but that's just life. There will always be someone who doesn't like the way I do something! :)

I've always felt very welcome at APDT trials. The last trial I went to actually addressed the fact that there were reactive dogs present, and gave specific instructions on etiquette (don't greet dogs without asking, don't warm-up near the ring, etc.).

The stay they want to replace the honor with doesn't sound so bad to me- isn't it just putting the dog in a stay, and walking about 10 feet away to get the leash at the end of the course? That seems very practical, quicker than an honor, and safer, too. What about it sounds miserable to you? (I'm genuinely curious here, in case that sounds like sarcasm.)

M.T. said...

I don't know how you do it Crystal, but you've done it again! so eloquently written on a very hot button topic (to some people anyway)! I have tons and tons of opinions on this, but i think i'll spare the keyboard lol. Most of the good points have been covered by you and comments from others, i just wanted to make sure i thank you for another good post prompting thought and discussion!

Dawn said...

OK, I want you to know that I do not agree that reactive dogs shouldnt get to do rally, because I do think they should get to be there. I have a dog who are somewhat reactive, so I do understand.
BUT..I will say I see more out of control, snapping, leash pulling, lunging, snarking and growling around rally rings than I am comfortable with. You dont see that around traditional obedience. At the last APDT trial, Magic who is pretty unflappable was laying in his chair, I was standing right next to him watching the ring, when a person let there dog approach behind us, growling. I had to tell the person to back off, or they wouldnt have. While gate stewarding at a local AKC trial I have seen dogs approaching the ring to enter, and the dog leaving raise hackles at them (or vise versa). Both of these bad behaviored dogs owners commented that the dogs were "just excited, new to this" Does this mean those people shouldnt be there, no, but should my dog, or any other be threatened by these dogs?
We have all seen really green dogs go into rally and Q- are they truly trained, no often not. Many dogs are coaxed through that novice course, tight lead, begging all the way. You probably see that in AKC more than APDT though.
Those situations are a far cry different from the people who manage thier reactive dog appropriately, like you and Maisy. Its not that I dont think everyone should get to play, but darn, if my dog is in danger because of a dog that isnt properly managed then I do get upset. I would like to see rally toughened up enough so that people are actually prepared a bit more when they do step into the ring.
Thats all I would like to see, more people like you who actually do manage there dogs, whether the dogs are friendly or not.

Katie, meeka and maizey said...

Admittedly I comment from a less than novice in the trial area, but gaining experience daily how to help a reactive pup live a full life. . .

But is this a case of "blame the trainer not the dog"? Our reactive pups can only function as well as we help them too, so if anyone has to be banned maybe it should be the handlers instead of dog who is just doing what she hasn't been taught not to do?

Dawn commented, "Both of these bad behaviored dogs owners. . ." While I agree the type of behavior described should not be allowed anywhere isn't it the humans who are really being "bad behaviored" first by putting their dog, reactive or not, in a situation that triggers them over the top, second by excusing their behavior instead of addressing and correcting it?

Sue Ailsby said one time, "Blame the trainer, you have the beginning of a way to solve the problem. Blame the dog, you're just stuck with a stupid

I don't love the word stupid, but the principle is sound and perhaps comes down to real core of "banning" any group-if you blame the dogs who is going to enforce that? You can't enforce a ban on ALL reactive dogs anymore than you could enforce a ban on ALL people who don't train their dogs enough to handle that situation. Rather than banning our pups why don't we focus on educating both dogs and humans?

Well, in the education department you have done a great job again crystal!

Oh and as for it being wrong to leave your dog in the car between times at trials? That is just silly! It could only be wrong if knowing your dogs limitations and protecting her is wrong. IMO that can never be wrong.

Crystal said...

MT- Thanks! I appreciate your comment. It's always nice to be positively reinforced for writing. :)

Dawn- Honestly, I'd say that a dog who is growling, has its hackles raised, etc. should NOT be there. Now, if it were a single, brief instance, and the handler was able to get the dog under control, that's understandable... although that handler would then be on alert, and would need to remove the dog at a second instance. If the handler couldn't get the dog under control, they ought to leave.

There is also the chance that this is the first time the person has seen such behavior out of the dog. I'll never forget the first time Maisy started lunging and growling at another dog- it took me completely by surprise. Prior to that, I didn't realize she was reactive. I was lucky that there was someone who (tactfully) told me what that was about, so I could begin to address it. I'd suspect some people don't realize what that behavior signifies.

Really, the bottom line is that a trial is not a dog park, and like you say, all the dogs, reactive or not, should be managed well so they aren't interfering with others.

Katie- I LOVE that Sue Ailsby quote. That's fabulous. I do think it's up to the handler to manage their reactive dog, no matter where they are. Sometimes, that means leaving the situation.

The problem is that, to a certain degree, reactivity is unpredictable. I've figured out how to stack the deck in Maisy's and my favor, but there are times that she gets stressed by something I don't expect. That's okay- that's life, after all!- but at a trial, it may mean that I need to forfeit the entry fees in order to protect her.

andrea said...

fascinating - seeing as how I hang in my little agility only world I was oblivious to this

I have lived with and loved 'reactive' dogs by pretty well any definition of the term over the years.

Sally is over the top at times - not really what I think of as reactive but I certainly pay attention to her when we are out at a trial site. And lord save anybody who gets in her face when she's in a crate.

Brody is probably one of the least reactive dogs I've ever met and I crate him in the car when it's suitable - he's happier - and rests better and for me all of this is about having fun with the dog so whatever I can do to give hi a good day is A 1 by me.

I can't imagine how'd they enforce reactive dogs being banned - any dog can react to anything ...

I TOTALLY concur with no place for agression especially since Sally's attack - that was the scariest thing that I have ever seen at a trial - and given it was my dog and she was screaming like the chessie was killing her(which the dog was essentially trying to do) if nobody has to go through that ever EVER again I'll be happy.

Liz said...

Nice post Crystal.

I wasnt on any of your email lists, so obviously dont know the details of the conversation, but after thinking on this, I still am missing the point. The AKC already has aggressive dog rules in place which should be strictly enforced. Outside of that, it seems to be splitting hairs to me. How exactly would they label a dog "reactive"?

I don't blame you for getting your hackles up a bit (hah). As the owner of a mildly reactive dog I have the same issues. I agree with Sam in that we have had far more run ins with carelss/oblivious people letting their overly-friendly dog blast into our personal space, than us having incidents where my dog asserts himself inappropriately. I think that people with reactive dogs (at least those of us who have been around the block and are working on our issues) tend to be hyper-aware of our surroundings and in constant management mode, as opposed to those who have more "acceptable issues" such as dogs who demand to visit everyone in their path or zoom around the ring uncontrollably for 10 minutes.

Which is "okay," and which isnt?

Again, what really gets me about the proposition is how would they determine "who" is reactive? The CGC is a start, yet--like everyone else--reactive dogs have good days and bad days. If its a bad day and the dog fails the test, does that mean you're out forever? How long til you retest? How would they ensure the testing was "fair"? Would they only test "suspected" reactive dogs, or would all dogs have to pass the test? There seems no good way to do it with any sort of fairness. Not to mention the added cost and time and organization of executing the test.

My dog could pass the CGC--honestly it would depend on his mood that day and the "greeter" dog. If it was a mellow small dog, we'd pass with flying colors. If it was a large dog that looked at him sideways, he might have a meltdown. So does that mean I shouldn't be able to compete in agility or rally?

I think that its easy for those who have never had a reactive dog to pass judgment. Once you've lived it, you just have to well, live with it. Many of us are perfectly okay with managing our dogs constantly while simultaneously trying to better that dog's life experience. As long as we are not interrupting any one else's party, I have a hard time seeing the problem.

Crystal said...

To be clear, no one is SERIOUSLY suggesting that reactive dogs be banned. That is, the Rally Advisory Committee is not suggesting that, and the AKC is not suggesting that. It was simply a comment by a few list members stating their own personal opinions. I wrote about it because I thought it would be interesting and provoke conversation (and it did!).

I also think it's a valid topic. Can dogs with issues safely do this kind of stuff? I think they can, hence the blog, but I do think there are some ground rules (dog under control, handler scratches if need be, etc.). I also think that reactive dogs have to work harder to be successful- they just need to learn more skills. I'll be writing about both of these things in the future.

Andrea, I'm glad I'm not alone in car-crating (when the weather permits, of course! It's pretty common in my area, so I was surprised that that action was singled out as not okay by someone. Also, I'm so sorry your dog got attacked- was that at a trial? How terrifying!

Liz, I'm with you. As long as Maisy is under control and not affecting anyone else (in or out of the ring), then why does her label matter? And while friendly dogs are the bane of our existence, I do think they're part of the trial going experience. If I choose to take Maisy to a trial, she and I both have to be prepared for over-exuberant dogs. I don't expect nor ask for special accommodations beyond "where's the quietest spot to crate?" Not that I think you do, of course, just a general statement! :)

(PS- I deleted your double posts.)

Sara (and Layla) said...

What a fascinating post (and comments!)

I agree with most of what has been said about reactive dogs at trials, but wanted to comment on group stays. It's not an issue that effects me personally, since I view AKC with the same enthusiasm usually reserved for the stuff I pull out of the sink after the garbarge disposal clogs. But it does effect my students, and it's a scary issue.

Group stays terrify me. I think my heart rate shoots up just thinking about them. The problem isn't my own dog. I'm not going to enter my dog until I'm positive that a bomb could go off in the ring behind her, and she'd happily hold her stay.

But I can't influence the other dogs entered, and I WILL NOT put my dog at risk. We have a local trainer who uses e-collars to teach group stays. If a dog moves, they get zapped. If they move more, they get zapped harder. If they were to redirect on another dog, they would get zapped even harder. This trainer advertises "off leash control" and shows lovely pictures of groups of dogs holding stays together to potential clients. I don't want my dog in the ring on the day that his dog realizes the shock collar is off....

Bea said...

Too often the focus is on the dog and not the handler. Agility, rally, obedience, classes, the dog park...anywhere dogs and handlers come together, the potential exits for something unpleasant to occur. What we need is a magic litmus test for the handlers: do they know and understand their dog? Do they know what to do if their dog behaves inappropriately? Do they know what to do if some other dog behaves inappropriately? If all handlers had your knowledge of and commitment to their dogs that you have, Crystal, we wouldn't need to have these discussions! Unfortunately, I'll bet everyone commenting on this blog entry has seen first hand many instances of problems caused by handler behaviour. The real question should be "How can we educate more dog handlers?" I wonder what would dog sports look like if handlers had to pass a test before participating...

Crystal said...

Sara, I feel the same way about groups. For a different dog, I might not worry as much. After all, I think the issues with groups are relatively rare, and for a dog who is pretty stable, the risk is pretty low. But with a soft, small, anxious/fearful/reactive dog... it is NOT worth the risk. I'm glad CDSP is available for us. :)

Bea, I agree. I'll be writing on this more in the future. (I already have a notepad covered in incoherent thoughts on the matter... hopefully I can find some cohesion!) But, I do think that all handlers- and not just those with reactive dogs- need to pay attention to their dogs, understand what the dog is saying, and know how to respond to that. Just that would make dog sports a lot safer.

As for educating handlers... Reading the rules is one thing, but there is a lot of unspoken etiquette that is hard to learn! It's not always obvious, especially when you're new and nervous.

Katie, Meeka and Maizey said...

Here Here! to Bea's comment. Start by educating the handler and let it trickle down. This should really be not just in trial situations, but in every day life. As you say crystal, "I do think that all handlers- and not just those with reactive dogs- need to pay attention to their dogs. . ."

So do we take time to tell that person with the exuberant big dog to back away and *why*? When a friend/ acquaintance asks about a trial/dog park etiquette do we take time to explain? (Maybe this is human training, I know I wouldn't mind if someone popped a piece of chocolate in my mouth every time I was right!LOL)

This is even more important for those of us w/ reactive pups. Protecting them is most important and maybe the educating of handlers is a proactive way to do that.

Katie said...

I am terrified of group stays, too. I pretty much trust Luce at this point to not break, provided another dog doesn't get all up in her face. We've proofed her against a lot of distractions, but not that, because it's impossible. It's been suggested that I enter her in Novice B instead, since the handlers will be more experienced, but I just can't bring myself to do it. There's too much at stake for a dog like mine (dog aggressive *and* a pit bull). I can't make the title be worth the risk.

Crystal said...

Uh-oh, responding to 2 Katies at once...

Katie and Maizey: It is so hard to educate sometimes. Sometimes, my hands are full with Maisy. Sometimes, the person is resistant to what I'm saying (either the message, or the way I say it). Sometimes... well, sometimes it works. I guess part of my goal with blogging is to educate people, but really, I'm preaching to the choir.

Katie and Luce: I hear you. The road is so much tougher with a pit bull. Not because of the breed, but because of the perception of the breed.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I found you through a comment on Ruffly Speaking (gotta love Joanna's blog!). I am so excited to sit down and read your blog about Maisy. I have a reactive puppy. I am often dismayed and embarrassed and at a loss for what to do. He never put a foot out of place and then one day in obedience class he decided he didn't like one particular dog, and then the next week it was 2 dogs, and then the next week it was all dogs that he didn't live with. It happened that fast and with no particular trigger. Now I have worked enough with him to know I have to be on my guard in close quarters and around high energy and rude dogs, but it still feels more like putting out fires than actually improving. I can't wait to have the chance to read through all of your previous entries and see what's worked for you and Maisy!!

Katie, Meeka and Maizey said...

Crystal, I hear you with already having your hands full w/ educating Maisy! Sometimes I feel I have my hands full with just educating me!LOL A wise woman constantly tells me, "little by little you go far" (ok, its my mom, but she is wise!:)) I'd say if we all do a little, starting with ourselves maybe it will 'go far'. Just look how much we have learned from you!

Meeka says, thank you, thank you than you for this statement, "Not because of the breed, but because of the perception of the breed." it is so true of both pitties and rotties.

andrea said...

crystal you said

"Andrea, I'm glad I'm not alone in car-crating (when the weather permits, of course! It's pretty common in my area, so I was surprised that that action was singled out as not okay by someone. Also, I'm so sorry your dog got attacked- was that at a trial? How terrifying!"\

Sally was 18 months old at her first aac trial waiting onleash quietly at ring side when a dog left the ring looking for a victim - we were on deck and doing quiet hand touches in our own space so I didn't even see the dog coming. She grabbed Sally who started screaming. A bystander grabbed the other dog who got away and came back for more - Sally slipped out of her harness and took off for the safety of her crate the dog nailed her a thrid time. The whole building stopped everything as Sally was screaming the most erie scream. I don't think there was a person in the dome who didn't hear her. She had abrasions and contusions but is (luckily for us all) an incredibly resilant dog so she bounced back mostly. I haven't actually been back to that site since though - not sure i am that resilant.
The dog was banned from aac competitions.

Crystal said...

Bona Dea (Erin, right?)- That is very similar to how Maisy's reactivity started. Although she'd always been a slightly nervous puppy, she'd done just fine through three levels of obedience and her CGC. Then, when she was almost 2, we started taking classes again. She was just fine for a couple of weeks, and then she started to slowing freak out (lunge, bark) at other dogs. I had no idea what was going on! But I was lucky to have a great instructor who told me what reactivity was and hooked me up with a class. Most of our training has been done through the games presented in the "Control Unleashed" book by Leslie McDevitt. If you haven't read it yet, I would highly recommend it. :)

Andrea- oh my. That description is even worse than I imagined. Sally is obviously a VERY resilient dog. I don't blame you for not going back to that site. I don't think I could.

Anonymous said...

Crystal, it's so nice to have someone who understands! I feel like most people look at Brando and think, "That is a bad dog," and he really isn't. I actually do have Control Unleashed and have tried some of the methods, but haven't had any huge lightbulb moments. Are there any particular ones that work best for you and Maisy? I've focused really hard on the "there's a dog in your face" game and am getting somewhere, but once we've crossed that threshold, forget it. If there is something super exciting going on, I've lost him and there doesn't seem to be a thing I can do to get him back. Would love to know the specific things that work for you. (He's only 9 months old, sigh)... and yes, It's Erin. Sorry, I forgot to sign my name! I forget this account doesn't include it!

Crystal said...


My favorite Control Unleashed game is, without a doubt, Look At That. In fact, that one has been so invaluable to us that I sometimes forget there are other games, lol.

I just today learned that Maisy and I have a working spot at an official Control Unleashed seminar. This means there will be TONS of posts at the end of August and beginning of September on what we learn.

Katie, Meeka and Maizey said...

crystal do you have any favorite posts about LAT? My Maizey has perfected the "MOM I looked at that and BARKED now where's my treat?" game. I'm sure mostly due to my lack of experience in teaching LAT.

This is not reactive barking, at this point it's hardly even pretend reacting and more just a game. Today she decided she should play the look at that and bark game with some pigs on the TV. She thought it was great fun (which always cracks me up;)) but I would like to use that tool to help her so if you have any posts I'd love to here it! Thanks!

Crystal said...

Katie, I don't have any, but I'll try to write something up... maybe next week?

Katie, Meeka and Maizey said...

Thanks Crystsal! I'm sure it will be another fascinating read!

Laura McGowan said...

I have a "reactive" dog who is a rally master. Yes, if your dog jumps at him while he is entering the ring, he might bark. He might jump back. This is not unnatural dog behavior. Although it is unsettling to many rally dogs. Rally entrants who are with non-reactive dogs need to be aware that there behavior could be provoking. Do you let your dog sprawl out in the walkways of the arena? Do you put your dog on off-leash stays? Do you let your dog wander off from you on a long leash? All of these situations can be unsettling to a reactive dog. Owners of reactive dogs are working hard to make sure their dogs are kept in line. Are you doing all you can to make sure your dog isn't creating a situation that could provoke a reactive dog?

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