Chanty is making good progress with his foster, Becky, and her pack. He has been learning how to play with the other dogs in the home, and he is becoming less reactive to strangers when he’s on a walk. He does still bark and lunge at strange dogs, and he is still a bit reactive towards me. But, last night, Chanty made some really big strides during our lesson.
For the first part of the session, my dog, Glimmer, was brought in to help Chanty learn to use his nose first rather than auto-react. The yard fence was used as a barrier between them and we walked them past each other and beside each other. When Chanty started to show a little curiosity, he was allowed to come a little closer to Glimmer. Becky did an excellent job of monitoring his body language and listening for the soft, low growl that comes just before he lunges. Each time he presented that behavior, Becky immediately moved him away. We practiced this exercise for about 15 minutes before moving him out of the yard and onto the street. We know he is territorial, but the exercise is designed to help him learn to look to his handler rather than react. I also invited Becky to remove Chanty’s muzzle, as he seemed to be much more reactive while wearing it.
Out of the yard, Becky walked Chanty on the sidewalk and I walked Glimmer in the middle of the road. We did several turns where Becky and I were barriers between the two dogs. The next part of the exercise, we changed our positions and had the two dogs walk beside each other – at a distance. Chanty did attempt to get close to Glimmer several times, but Becky immediately redirected him and moved ahead of us, and Chanty did not react.
We practiced this exercise for about 20 minutes. Each time, we closed the distance just a little, until we were about three feet apart and Chanty was able to ignore Glimmer’s presence. When he tried to get close to her, we stopped moving and Becky immediately moved him out of attack range. Then, we would talk for a minute and ignore him completely. He couldn’t go anywhere – the leash was kept short – and we were just standing there… He had to use his nose. Which is one of the foundation goals of helping him learn to trust and feel more confident.
The final portion of the session was a surprise to Becky. We were going to trade leashes so she would be with Glimmer, and I would handle Chanty. This was a big test, because Chanty does not allow anyone but Becky to handle his leash. He has lunged and nipped at everyone who’s tried, so this exercise was as much a test of Becky’s ability to relax and trust as it was for Chanty.
Slowly and carefully, while Chanty was busy chewing on the grass, the trade was made. Because of how we were standing, the only direction Chanty could go was forward – within inches of Glimmer. Within seconds of me taking his leash, Chanty sensed a change in the energy, and he turned around to see what was going on. I immediately and quickly backed up and guided him forward, right past Glimmer, denying him even the smallest chance of attacking her. When he realized she was with Becky, he became quite insistent about getting back. Instead, I moved further away. The further away I can get him, the better the chances become to connect with him and start building trust with him.
Working Chanty on the leash was a lot like working a skittish horse. I had to give him distance through the leash in order to show him that I understand what he’s going through, that nothing bad is happening to him, and that I’m not giving up; that I’m there for him when he’s ready to reach out to me.
Chanty did give me eye contact – several times. But it was not the reactive, targeting eye contact he’s given before. Instead, he was asking for guidance, seeking direction. He still kept trying to get to Becky – and I still can’t touch him – but he did not try to bite me, he didn’t bark or lunge at me…. Nothing. There was no reactivity from him towards me at all.
Overall, Chanty made tremendous progress in this third session. I am very pleased with how well he’s doing so far. The next session is not set, yet, but stay tuned to the Facebook page for updates.
Have a great day, and remember to stay calm and lead on…