Friday, 7 September 2012

Behaviour Updates

Jazmyn is now almost 10 months old… Her overall obedience/behaviours in the house are improving.  She is still crated while we are away from the house and at night, for her safety and the safety of our belongings.  She is still an active chewer & can be mouthy, so it’s a safer option for everyone/everything.  She can go a short period of time without supervision, depending on the situation.  She understands the difference between leaving through the front door and the door to the main floor.  If we go upstairs without her, she will sit/lay down on the landing and wait for us to come back.  She will often do this with the front door as well, but not as often and she gets that’s a more permanent form of leaving.  While we’re home, we close off doors and have a gate up, but other than that, she generally has free roam of our basement apartment.

We’re bad…and Jazmyn is welcome on the couch/bed, with the STRICT understanding that you get off when told.  She doesn’t horse around on the couch, but rather gets comfy in her favourite spot, or snuggles with us.  This is another huge change.  2 months ago, Jazmyn did not cuddle.  Now, she loves to come and lay down beside us while we watch a movie or hang out.  The other night we were lying in bed watching a movie, and she slept for 3 hours! This was a first, and a nice sign of what may be to come as she matures (usually, it’s a mouthy play fest).

The primary issues that we want to tackle with Jazmyn are:
  • Her Reactivity towards dogs (on walks, seeing them from the front porch, etc) and how we can learn to handle/manage her better
  • Barking at people as they enter our home (via front door, backyard gate, etc)
  • General obedience & respect towards us as her handlers
Thought I'd also share her new collar!  It's a little bit punk rock like her "mom" & "dad" and a little bit diva/princess like she can be (afterall, she WAS named after a Disney princess lol)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Behaviour Assessment

I had posted previously about completing two private training sessions with Jazmyn at SuperDogs Central.  While the theory of what we were working on was correct, my husband and I didn’t feel it was the right place for us.  Jazmyn would get extremely aggitated/stressed/worked up even as we entered the parking lot.  It was too high energy of a location for her to really calm down and begin work on her reactivity.  It was also “positive only” training, and while I agree with it if it is a right fit for your dog, I knew we would need a more balanced approach.

This leads us to our new trainer, Mike Clay (Country Lane Pet Resort), and I’m glad we made the switch.  I had been researching trainers in our area, and had also talked to a few friends, and people on the GSD forum that provided recommendations for us to go and see him.  I really liked that while he offered private training opportunities; he also owns and operates a boarding facility within 10-15 minutes from our house.  He is extremely familiar with german shepherds, and that alone gave me a lot of confidence.  A lot of trainers don’t feel comfortable with the breed, understand their behaviours or are not familiar with their tendancies.

And so, at 7 months old, we started with a Behaviour Assessment on Jazmyn.  As a whole, Jazmyn has a few issues that cause her reactivity:  fear, anxiousness/hectic nature and handling from us that doesn’t totally match her behaviours.  We are aware we need to learn to handle/manage her better.  To get a better idea, here are some snippets from the assessment:

  • “Jazmyn's reactivity is strong in nature. This is something that is of concern to me if not managed properly as it can escalate, leading to more serious issues.”
  • “She has established a relatively strong desire to perform that pattern of behaviour and now it has to be undone which you will need to work hard to do. Combine this with a dog that does not show much of a "bond" with the handlers and it presents even more of a challenge. THIS IS NOT DUE TO A LACK OF EFFORT ON THE PART OF THE HANDLER, but is quite common in this strain of dogs.”

The plan:

“Overall, what we need is to alter your handling, management and training regiment. This may include utilizing highly stimulating exercises to teach her to come in and out of a state of high stimulation. Focus is a good thing to build, it must be built to an obsessive level, then we alter it slightly. We can manipulate food as well, but this may be more of a challenge to keep her focussed. Most importantly, this has to be done in stages and we cannot expect to make huge progress each lesson.”

Paul and I walked away from the assessment feeling really positive.  Jazmyn was a hot mess initially when we got out of the car at Mike’s.  After about 2-3 hours there, she calmed and was able to take her attention away from Mike’s dogs.  What we learned, is that we need time, and lots of it!!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Cottage Fun

At the beginning of August, we spent 6 days at our best friend's cottage, and Jazmyn (of course) came along with us!  It was a big event for Jazmyn...longest trip in the car, first time overnight away from our house, and of course, first time swimming!!

Not going to lie, I was nervous.  She used to get carsick as a pup, so the 3.5 hour drive was daunting!  However, she made the trip like a champion!  I think we're pretty safe to say that carsickness is a thing in her past, but we still take precautions to prevent it.  She fell asleep within 20 minutes, and was very well behaved in the SUV.

We brought along EVERYTHING that she may need for the week at the cottage.  Food, toys, first aid, more toys, bones/antlers, emergency info, her bed, her crate, etc.... The car was PACKED with mostly things for Jaz.  It was our first large trip with her and we wanted to be prepared lol.

Within 20 minutes of arriving at the cottage....this happened...
and she spent the rest of the weekend in the water, every second that we'd let her.  She fully learned to swim within about 30 minutes, and now is officially a water addict.

As most know, Jazmyn is quite dog reactive, so she spent her week on a 30 foot leash to prevent anything from happening that could be avoided.  Dogs run loose on their own properties and this was our piece of mind.  Since she loved the water more than she loved barking at dogs, while we were swimming & on the dock, it was pretty easy to keep her reactions under control.  On the porch was a different story, as she could see the dogs running free next door.  Overall, she did well in terms of her reactivity.

Her behaviour in the cottage was AWESOME!  She listened to commands, followed everyone around and just in general was respective of a home that wasn't hers.  We had her crate with us, so sleeping was a non-issue.  This week was also a turning point for Jazmyn, where her cuddly side began to show.  She wanted nothing more than to be with us all of the time, and spent hours snuggling on the couch during movies at night.  It was awesome (and such a change from her usually mouthy self).

Enjoy the photos!

It's Been a While...Photos!

It has been quite some time since I have updated the blog!  Life has sort of gotten in the way and I've been spending time away from the computer.

Jazmyn is almost 10 months old!!  Here are some updated photos between my last point and the beginning of August...

The fur is getting longer!

My Husband ("Dad") and Jaz

Happy Canada Day!!! (also her first time wearing a bandana)

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Private Lesson #2 & Socialization

She's almost 6 months old!!  I absolutely adore this girl <3

Private Lesson #2
This past Sunday we had our second private lesson.  It was MUCH more challenging for Jazmyn.  Instead of being inside the training hall, we had our lesson outdoors (agility trials were going on inside).  This mean she was exposed to cars pulling in and out of the driveway, the dogs barking in the daycare/boarding, owners & dogs walking by as well as the trainer and her dog. 

Jazmyn was almost impossible to control in the beginning.  She was extremely excited to see the trainer, and would not listen to either of us until she got her greeting.  She really didn’t even notice the trainer’s dog until after her people greeting.  Let the barking begin.  Walking away did nothing.  Our trainer showed us how to get her into a sit, hold her collar, and use a calming touch to bring Jazmyn back down to a calmer level versus a Level 10.  After that, it went better.

However, a man and his GSD decided they’d like to be helpful towards our session.  At first they were watching from a distance, but kept moving closer.  Jazmyn completely lost interest in the trainer’s dog and was focused on the GSD.  It was going well initially, and we were working on our walking away and she was responding.  However, unlike the trainer’s dog, the man’s GSD wasn’t 100% non-reactive.  It began to whine, which ramped up Jazmyn’s reactions.  Our trainer had him remove the GSD, but the man was welcome to watch.  As soon as the GSD left, it was much easier to gain Jazmyn’s focus with just the 1 dog around.

After she was getting the walking away method, we began to use the same method but behind a moving dog.  We’d walk towards the trainer & her dog, and when Jazmyn was calm we’d follow them as they moved forwards.  The end goal was to have her calmly walking behind another dog, but focusing on me for direction.  Much more difficult given the environment, but she was able to complete the task successfully a few times.

We allowed Jazmyn to go for an intro sniff, and really, she’s not even interested in meeting the other dog, it’s almost just the excitement to get there.  She gave a quick sniff but was done, and her interest in the dog after each approach decreased.  She really just wants to go where she wants to go, and the leash prevents her from doing so.

We have a lot of practicing to do on our own, and its helping on our daily walks.  Paul had a walk one morning this week that was VERY successful, only 2 minor reactions:
  • Jazmyn ignored barking dogs in the distance
  • 2 people were talking on their driveway and Jazmyn didn't react.  The lady commented on Jazmyn's appearance, and Paul brought her over for an introduction.  She was hesitant about meeting the man, and looked to Paul for direction.  She got over it in a few seconds and went in for a very nice greeting and received treats from them.
  • Had a great loose leash walk towards the elementary school
  • Exposure to cars in the kiss&ride at the school, kids getting off two school buses
  • Construction workers were on the other side of the street, past the school, she heard & saw them, but no reaction
We have learned that Jazmyn is nervous of large, running vehicles, including our SUV.  She does not like to approach with the engines running.  Paul had to walk past a running construction truck and she reacted.  He had her sit, and they went past the truck 2-3 times until she completely ignored it.  We are practicing having her go in and out of our SUV, as well as pass it, while it is running.  Will take some time but she'll get there.

She also has a pretty strong reaction to kids on skateboards.  They move fast & random, so I can see how this would excite her.  Exposure is the key and hopefully the nice weather brings out more kids and we can work on this further.

Jazmyn now LOVES the water, including the hose.  What a mess lol

Slow Progress...But Progress! - Private Lesson #1

It's been a few weeks since I updated last, and a lot of things have been happening in our house!  I am a proud Auntie again to a beautiful little girl, but because of her birth things in our place have been a little chaotic.  Jazmyn hasn't gotten enough exercise, but now that my sister-in-law is all settled at home, things are going back to normal and we're amping up Jazmyn's training and exercise schedule.

We withdrew Jaz from group obedience classes and have begun our private training sessions.  We've completed 2 so far and I think they're going to help long-term.  

Private Lesson #1
Jazmyn always knows when we're heading to SuperDogs, it's like she can just sense it from the country roads we have to take.  Usually, she begins to act up in the car and is reactive right on the drive in.  This time, she was much better! We've been working a lot to reduce her stress in the car and overall she was much calmer.  She offered a nice sit and a calm reaction before Paul let her out.  Of course, once out she can hear the dogs barking in the daycare, but she was much more focused on getting to the front door of the reception.

She gets so excited to meet new people that she pulls quite hard.  She MUST sit or lay down before receiving an "Okay" to greet.

We got into the training hall and we asked if we could drop the leash just to let Jazmyn explore and get comfortable. This worked like a charm.  Within 30 seconds she'd established where she was and came right back.  There were dogs on the other side of the dividing wall, she barked a few times, but being off leash didn't create a reaction as normal, it was more of an "I'm here too!" kind of bark.  Another dog was on the other side of the door, and they sniffed under the door, no barking, we called her back and she came no issue.

The main exercise that we're working on with Jazmyn is teaching her that her barking & lunging DOES NOT allow her to move towards whatever she is fixated on.  We all agree that her barking & reaction is excitement, so we need to curb it and get her focused on us.  We started working on the movement without another dog present.  We'd walk with a loose leash, Jazmyn focusing on us.  The second that she showed the body language of a reaction, or an actual reaction, we'd sharply turn the other direction (without tightening on the leash), forcing her to follow us.  At first, she'd attempt to keep moving in her own direction, but very quickly, she understood that she had to follow, and if she did, she'd be rewarded.  Once she was following, the goal was to then turn back towards her fixation, yet have her remain focused on us and progressing with no reaction.  The second another reaction, turn away again.

Now it was time for the real test.  The trainer brought in her Malinois and put her in a down stay (she was really focused & non-reactive).  We started right away walking the opposite direction with Jaz.  We'd have to put her into a sit occasionally to get her focus 100%.  After about 15 minutes of turning & walking, she "Got" it.  We walked up calmly behind the Malinois, no reaction, and put Jazmyn into a sit about 6 feet away or so.  Once focused, we gave her the "okay" to say hello and then we'd quickly walk away.  Jazmyn was only allowed to sniff the Mal for a second, and received no sniff back.  It was purely to teach her that nothing bad would happen upon a nice greeting.  We repeated this about 5-7 times, with each approaching becoming smoother and smoother.

Overall a great first session, that left us hopeful for the future!

Monday, 9 April 2012

An Eventful & Hopeful Weekend (Part 2)

Saturday April 7th
We had a quiet Saturday, went for a walk, played for hours in the backyard and then Paul & I had my mom’s family dinner.  Left Jazmyn behind & crated for the evening.  Definitely not as eventful as Friday, but it was still a good day and she was well behaved.

Sunday April 8th
Jazmyn had another big day yesterday!  We met up with my sister, her fiancĂ©, my mom & stepdad and Paisley for another play session at the field.  This time we didn’t try as hard to engage Jazmyn as they were approaching to see how she  would behave.  She saw them approaching & the tail began wagging and she ran up to say hellos & the chase game began right away.  She looked really happy to see Paisley and they were off.  Not a single bark.

They romped around for a bit as we said hello to my family and we called the dogs back.  We used the chuck-it again for far tosses and the same as the day before, Paisley chased the ball and Jazmyn chased Paisley.  It was a very good play session!  It was nice to see Jazmyn more relaxed and confident, although she needs to stop herding tails as it’s going to get her in trouble!  The 2 pups got tuckered out and were laying down in the grass within 5 feet of each other.  A huge success and a glimpse at what our summer in the backyard by the pool could be like.  Many more play sessions & walks to come and it’s exciting to be able to have the pups together.

She had an excellent recall all day, and even helps bring Paisley back when they go too far.  Jazmyn hears “COME” and knows it’s serious as we don’t use it often. When she’d come charging back, Paisley would follow. Although once, Jazmyn came on her own and sat nicely beside us while Pais was still running off in the distance.  I was extremely proud of my pup, even if I couldn’t show it.

Sad note:  We left Jazmyn’s brand new Easter present behind at the park L My In-Laws got her a Kong Frisbee, and we were having such a good time, that we picked up the soccer ball but left the Frisbee in the grass.  Paul went back to get it but it was gone (2 weimaraners came in just as we were leaving, so they probably found it)

Jazmyn crashed and then it was time for Easter Dinner at our house.  Wasn’t a big event this year, but Paul’s sister, her hubby and our 2 year-old niece came over.  Jazmyn and Abby (my niece) have been separated for the last while as my brother-in-law feared Jazmyn was too rambunctious and that Abby would get hurt.  That rule no longer stands as he finally saw (he’d never really paid attention before) how much work we were putting into Jazmyn.  Her recall is excellent and she listens well to commands.  Sure she gets exited, but she’s 5 months old!  We of course kept Jazmyn on a leash around Abby, but she was a doll.  Jazmyn came out in the yard off-leash while Abby was swimming in the hot tub.  She didn’t bark, etc, but was very curious about the “little person” LOL.  Abby was VERY excited to see Jazmyn, she loves her.  Abby threw balls for her, and after coming out of the tub, wanted to give Jazmyn treats.  We leashed up Jazmyn, and she laid down and patiently waited for Abby to drop treats.  She was a very good girl, and we were glad that our in-laws could see her change in behaviour.  She still jumps up on the adults, but a firm “off” puts her back on her bum lol.  She did nip Abby’s sweater once, but nothing more (She’s teething so heavily – 5 teeth lost in a week).

Needless to say, but 8:30pm the pup was pooped and was asking to go to bed LOL She’ll sit outside the bedroom door and whine to get in (her crate is in there).  She walked on it and plopped herself down.