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  • Writer's pictureMcKenna Caskey

Fynn | Redbone Coonhound | Aliso Viejo, CA| In-Training


Meet Fynn! He is an 11-month-old Redbone Coonhound coming to OffLeash SoCal from Aliso Viejo, CA. Fynn has joined our Two-Week Board & Train Program to work on his general obedience, consistency with following commands with other people and around distractions, reactivity towards other animals (overly excitable and unfocused), pulling heavily on the leash, jumping up on people, greeting strangers inappropriately, separation anxiety, & home manners.


He came to OLSC knowing a few basic cues, however it is difficult for him to reliably offer them.


Fynn is a large, powerful, young dog but is very friendly and sweet. He becomes very distracted and won't listen in the presence of other dogs while on a walk, and needs work on his manners both in the home and out in public. Our goal is to help Fynn become a calm, manageable, and obedient dog, who is a pleasure to have at home and a good citizen amongst his community.

 

Pupdate 2/26/2023


Fynn and I took a bit of time getting to know each other and seeing what training he currently knows at the park after his parents dropped him off. He would sit, and sometimes lay down, however he would not hold his cues for any length of time. He was super distracted and focused on anything other than me. 


Once a baseline was established for his training and consistency thus far, I put Fynn on a prong collar and introduced leash-pressure & heel. When Fynn would pull ahead, I would change directions abruptly and Fynn would receive a correction when hitting the end of the leash. It took a few repetitions before Fynn began to check in with me more, and he got better at recognizing when I was turning. 


Fynn was anxious in the car-ride home. Upon arriving to my house, I let Fynn sniff around and let him into the yard for a potty-break. After the potty-break, I typically let the dogs have some quiet-time in the kennel to decompress. Fynn did anything BUT  that, and barked/whined/chewed the kennel while I was letting the other dogs have their potty-breaks & got another dog ready to go home. The level of Fynn’s separation/kennel anxiety is extreme, and it will be a difficult behavior to fix. 


I waited for a small lapse in Fynn’s barking to approach the kennel, this method is aimed to discourage barking and reinforce Fynn to be quiet. The kennel was soaked with drool, which is a sign of severe anxiety. I let Fynn out of the kennel once he had calmed down, and walked around the house with him. My dog was in the backyard, and the two of them could see each other behind the sliding glass door. Fynn became overexcited and started to whine, so I had him hold an extended down. I waited until Fynn focused on me and calmed down before letting him out to meet my German Shepherd/ Malinois mix, Krüger. 


Fynn was over-the-top with his greeting, and displayed several ‘rude’ behaviors (jumping on him, grabbing him around the neck with his front paws, mounting him). Although Fynn was very playful in his actions and exhibited friendly body-language, some dogs may misinterpret these behaviors as dominant. Krüger is used to rough-and-tumble dogs, however, and responded well. The two of them played great, and their play-style gradually faded into more appropriate levels. 


At one point, Fynn ran into Krüger too hard, and injured Krüger’s leg. At this point, I put Fynn back into his kennel so they both could rest. Fynn continued his anxiety-filled-frenzy in the kennel, and continued to bark non-stop. He quieted down after about a hour, at which point I left him out to mingle around the home.  Every time Fynn is prevented from getting to me, he whines and barks excessively— even if I am in the same room with him and he can see me.

 

Pupdate 2/27/2023


Fynn continued to have issues being in the kennel throughout the night, but finally settled down around 3am. He was a bit calmer in the morning and tolerated not being in the same room as me for a shorter length of time while I got ready for our training excursion. We met up with a couple other OLSC trainers and their dogs at Hasker Park in Garden Grove. There was a massive flock of seagulls at the park (someone comes by and feeds them), other dogs, people, bicycles, and other distractions for Fynn to practice his obedience around. 


First we worked on Fynn’s heel. To do this, I used leash-pressure and prong-collar to help guide and shape loose-leash walking. If Fynn pulled one way, pressure would be applied in the opposite direction. In order to relieve this pressure, Fynn would learn to move along with the pressure. For heel, Fynn’s head should be in-line with my left leg, and he should maintain position and pace with me. If Fynn pulled ahead abruptly and lost all focus, I would turn abruptly, and pressure would be applied at the end of the leash. Doing this repeatedly helps get Fynn to focus on me more often, and he began to recognize when I am about to turn and turn with me. He catches on fast, however he got easily distracted. When Fynn is distracted, I will give the verbal cue “off!” paired with a leash-pop-correction, and mark & reinforce Fynn when he brings his attention back to me. 


We continued work on his extended sit and extended down. When either command is given to Fynn, ‘staying’ in that position is implied until he is either told to do something else, or once he is provided his release word “Break!”. To accomplish this, I gradually ask Fynn to hold the position for longer periods of time before marking the behavior with “yes!” and providing reinforcement (such as praise, kibbles, affection). The marker word tells Fynn that I like whatever behavior he was performing in that instant, and the reinforcement encourages him to repeat the behavior at an accelerated rate. If Fynn broke his position earlier, I would use leash pressure to help guide him back (when leash pressure is applied straight up, the bottom goes down into a sit). While performing ‘heel’, I will also have Fynn sit when I stop. This is another way to help him build his focus, and remain in a polite position while waiting. 


When outside of the kennel, Fynn is pleasant to have around in the home, however he is still exhibiting major separation/kennel anxiety. In addition to walks and training, I have also been offering Fynn a Kong Wobbler puzzle toy for his feedings (what is left over from training sessions). This provides him with additional mental stimulation, and tire his mind out. 

 

Pupdate 2/28/2023

Yesterday evening, I worked heavily on Fynn’s separation anxiety. I would leave him in the baby-gated area with his dinner inside the Kong Wobbler, and he would be quiet and content. When that ran out and he started exhibiting barking & whining, I would wait until he settled down and was quiet before letting him out for some free-time. We continued this approach until I eventually fell asleep on the couch. I woke up early in the morning, and everyone moved to a more ‘usual’ arrangement. He slept better through the night, however he would whine occasionally. The kennel is setup in my bedroom while we’re sleeping, so I have a good idea on how frequently the pups ‘wake up’. Since I myself wake up several times a night, Fynn may be responding to my semi-conscious gestures during these periods.


In the morning, I performed my usual ritual of making coffee and tending to other animals. Fynn was let out of his kennel when he was quiet and non-demanding. After a couple days of rest, I allowed Fynn and Krüger to play off and on today. They have been around each other prior to this, however Krüger was instructed to not engage and to keep his distance in order to let his soft-tissue-injury to mend.


After their play session & potty break, Fynn was provided his breakfast in the Kong Wobbler, which he happily engaged with while I was doing homework and studying for an exam. After the Wobbler ran out of kibbles, Fynn proceeded to either open or jump over the baby-gate several times. Since Krüger is a big tattle-tail, he would cue in as soon as Fynn ‘escaped’ and alert me. I would guide Fynn back to the gated area before going to the yard again to work on schoolwork. After 3 ‘escapes’ Fynn finally realized that he should stay in the gated-area, and rested peacefully on the dog bed provided. After some time of Fynn being calm and accepting (and allowing food to digest), I granted Fynn permission to leave the gated-area and mingle with Krüger. While I was away at classes, both Krüger and Fynn were kenneled next to each other. The proximity of someone familiar likely eased anxiety while I was away.


Upon returning home from university, I elected to grab a snack and settle in before letting the dogs out. This helps them create an idea that departure and arrival of their humans isn’t centered around them, and that they should come back to a calm state of mind before the environment changes. Krüger settled down first, and was let out of his kennel first. This created a massive objection from Fynn, so it required an extra 20 minutes before he was let out of his kennel. The two of them are playing much better together, and are less rough-and-tumble while still chasing, wrestling, and sharing toys nicely. Krüger did correct Fynn after he kept pestering him while he was sun-bathing earlier in the day, but they both instigated play-behavior afterwards. The two of them respond well and play great with each other.


Later in the day, Fynn and I went to Petco in Costa Mesa to work on his obedience training. Fynn was very distracted initially, and we practiced “heel” around the store so he could get his bearings. He is doing better about checking in with me while walking and keeping his positioning. I have been pairing his obedience cues with low-level ecollar stimulation, and will tap the remote as I say the verbal cues (heel, sit, down, off) so that Fynn can build an association with it.


So far Fynn is settling in well in comparison to his first day/night with me, and is exhibiting less anxiety and is more controlled in coping with it.

 

Pupdate 3/1/2023

Fynn slept through the night well, however he started crying when I woke up in the middle of the night, and in the morning. Once he quieted down, I let him outside to use the restroom and gave him some breakfast during a morning training session.


I used kibbles as reinforcements for correct behaviors when practicing heel, extended sit, and extended down. I also used them to help introduce two new behaviors: place & come-to-sit. Place is where Fynn is asked to go to a definable object (cot, dog-bed, post-it note, etc) and hold a position (either standing, sitting, or laying down). If no additional cue is provided to Fynn, he is allowed to choose what he’s most comfortable with. Place is a great place to start with food manners and door manners (which will be covered later), and is helpful with extended behaviors since place is in a more definitive spot. I like to use the cot, a blanket, or a mat-style dog-bed for at-home place.


Come-to-sit is a tricky behavior to teach, as it is rather complex. This behavior not only “recalls” Fynn to come to me, but also loop around behind me from my right-hand-side and sit in a “heel” position on my left side. To aide in teaching this behavior, I taught Fynn “touch” which requires him to tap my open palm with his nose. Using “touch” as a target, Fynn would follow my hand around my back and to my left side. Leash pressure was also used to guide Fynn. To prevent Fynn from sitting too far away from me or askew, I utilized walls to tighten up extra space.


After our training session, I placed Fynn inside his kennel to settle down and digest his meal. Fynn was not happy about this, and protested via whining and barking. He continued off and on, but I would acknowledge Fynn when he was quiet and pop a salmon treat in the kennel. I want to mark when he is being good, and ignore him while he’s being anxious and vocal.


Once the dogs had enough time to digest (to prevent bloat), they were allowed to play in the yard together for some free time. They enjoyed playing tug-o-war and wrestling.


We went through our training again in the evening to feed Fynn his dinner, and practiced both old and new cues in different sequences. Fynn had a bit of trouble differentiating cues— he would know he was supposed to do something, but would offer the wrong behavior. This is typical when dogs are first learning, and patience should be taken to show the Fynn what the correct behavior is.

 

Pupdate 3/2/2023


Fynn continues to gradually get better sleeping throughout the night, and didn’t whine every time I woke up. He is beginning to realize that laying down politely in the kennel gets him out quicker, although he still throws tantrums. After his breakfast-training-session, I put the remainder of his meal in a bowl inside his kennel. He has absolutely no problem voluntarily going inside the kennel. I left my laptop on to watch Fynn while he was kenneled during my errands this afternoon. He continually barked/ whined/ howled for 25 minutes before finally settling down. The first night he was left alone kenneled, he continued to cry the entire time I was away, so this is still progress.


When I arrived home, we did some obedience training in the yard, and the birds and squirrels provided a nice distraction. We worked on extended sit, extended down, and “off” when he would fixate on the small animals or bark at people walking passed the fence.


Later in the day, Fynn and I walked around the neighborhood and to local TeWinkle Park in Costa Mesa. Although Fynn is walking considerably better, he tends to stay a bit too far ahead of me to fulfill the “heel” position. The prong collar was not used during his training today, and we relied on leash-pressure from his regular collar paired with his ecollar. I would say “heel” and press and hold the stimulation button (Fynn has been working best at lower levels) until he gets into the correct position. When he got into the correct position, I would mark with “yes” and remove pressure. If Fynn was having a hard time or seemed confused, I would help guide him with the leash. Over the weekend, phasing out leash pressure and focusing more on problem-solving will be a focal point to allow progression to OffLeash walking.


At the park, there were many distractions, such as squirrels, dogs, people, children on scooters, ducks, and geese. We bumped into a couple neighbors with their dogs offleash. Fynn was asked to perform an extended sit while we chatted briefly. Fynn broke his sit several times as the other dogs approached, but did well after a couple corrections. One person wanted to pet Fynn, so we took this as an opportunity to practice greeting manners. Fynn jumped up, at which point he received and “off” paired with ecollar stim correction, and the individual was instructed to stop petting him until he resumed his sit. We want the dogs to maintain a polite sit or down during the entirety of the greeting.

 

Pupdate 3/3/2023

Fynn and I went to Huntington Beach Boardwalk & Main Street today for training, and met up with a couple OLSC trainers and their dogs. This was a new environment, and provided a multitude of new distractions (smells, pigeons, street performers) as well as the regular distractions found at the park. 


Fynn still needs work on maintaining heel, as he will veer too far ahead or away from me, and needs continued focus. I tried a slip lead on Fynn while we were walking, and used a longline to practice duration/distance sit, down, and place. I have noticed that Fynn is incredibly sensitive to the ecollar when fitted on his neck behind his right ear and even a very low ecollar stim would bother him. When the ecollar is positioned on the left-side, Fynn can tolerate a much wider range in levels. I have begun to position the ecollar on the left, however when he is in a heel, he tends to move towards the stimulation, leading him further away from me. We will work more on mastering leash pressure and changing his reaction to the stim. 


Fynn held distance and duration positions very well, and was responsive to verbal re-cue if he started to break any, at which point he would receive a “yes” and praise. Breaking an extended-sit cue and going into a down needs work, however he was making this error later in the training session and may have just been tired. Another area for improvement that we will be working on is his positioning for stop-to-sit and come-to-sit, as he still has a tendency to sit crooked vs. parallel to me. 

 

Pupdate 3/4/2023

Fynn and I practiced our obedience in the morning, and worked on tightening up his position on come-to-sit & door manners. For come-to-sit, I utilized a wall or corridor that didn’t allow Fynn much wiggle-room to veer off, and I also re-cued for incorrect positioning before offering a marker-word or reinforcement. 


Later in the day, we went to Home Depot in Costa Mesa to work obedience in a new environment and around new distractions. I had Fynn on a longline and ecollar, and he was given extra freedom when practicing heel. Fynn did well considering the struggle we were having the other day with positioning, however it needs more work. He was less engaged with me in the beginning, but with frequent turns and cues, he kept position well. Amidst the new distractions, Fynn was most overstimulated by the large forklift and wanted to flee down another aisle. He was also apprehensive about meeting people, and would be shy prior to attempting his regular happy-go-lucky greeting (where we would practice greeting manners). 


Fynn whined when put into a long extended down, particularly after he saw and heard other dogs. Fynn is a very vocal dog, and seems to protest not being able to do what he wants. This may translate over to some of his kennel-tantrums. 

 

Pupdate 3/5/2023

Fynn and I walked around the neighborhood in the morning to work on heeling. I would pair ecollar stim with my turns when he was going ahead of me, and mark when he was in correct position before giving verbal reinforcement. Fynn is checking in with me more, and keeping better heel position in low distraction environments.


We continued work on desensitization to animals while in the yard, and Fynn has become responsive to commands and leaves the critters alone, particularly after a correction.


We worked a lot on home manners today, including door manners with the front door. Although he had his ecollar on, a longline was also used in case something caught his eye. With the practice of extended sit/down/place, and door manners at other thresholds, front-door-manners came pretty easy for Fynn. We will continue to work on duration and at times where more distractions are present.

 

Pupdate 3/6/2023

Fynn attended me on a walk with Kona after our usual breakfast-training-session, where we worked on polishing up positions, working extended cues, and practicing manners. When I came to the car after getting Kona, Fynn whined out of frustration and excitement so I waited until he calmed down before letting him out of the travel-kennel. When I gave him his release word, he attempted to run up to Kona after jumping out of the tailgate. I gave Fynn the verbal cue “off” paired with a tap on the ecollar, then gave him the cue to “sit”. Fynn broke his sit once in an attempt to go sniff Kona, so I recued the behavior. Kona is sociable, but a bit grumpy and standoffish— she would not have appreciated Fynn’s way of wanting to say ‘hi’. To ease the meeting, we prompted into an immediate “heel” after Fynn was maintaining his extended sit well. This helped offer Fynn a job to do, and take his focus off the silly, small dog next to him. Fynn did really well about ignoring Kona while we enjoyed our walk. He did need to be cued “off” several times, but considering how much Fynn loves other dogs I was impressed. 


We worked on heel, stop-to-sit, duration/distance cues, and reaction to distractions (leaf blowers, squirrels, crows, ravens, other dogs). I used a regular leash today, as we thoroughly worked on positioning for heel. Fynn is very good about checking in and will keep pace well, however he was struggling to keep his ears next to or slightly behind my leg. Every time Fynn would start ahead, I would give the verbal cue “heel” and tap the ecollar. After many repetitions, he would realize where the sweet-spot is, and get verbal praise for a “good heel”. 


Later in the day, we walked to TeWinkle park to work on Fynn’s heel some more, in addition to greeting manners. Fynn got to practice “place” on more challenging objects (such as large boulders), and worked on duration cues. Fynn is getting much better about his impulse-control around distractions, and does not pull towards them.  At the end of the walk, Fynn got a chance to play with a golden retriever, Honey, after saying hello to her owner and her friends. Fynn’s bottom popped up from his sit cue a couple times, but was much more composed in his overall greeting. 

 

Pupdate | 3/7/2023


Fynn woke up with a bit of eye-boogers, likely due to his eyelids and an environmental allergen. They tend to occur while he is sleeping. I flushed his eyes out with a bit of saline water, and will continue to do so as necessary. The saline helps dislodge any foreign particles. 


Fynn ran through his obedience cues in the morning for his breakfast, and got the remainder in a bowl to practice food manners. Since I want Fynn to distinguish sit from down, I asked him to do “puppy push-ups” where he goes from sit to down repeatedly when asked before “breaking” him to his meal. This encourages understanding of verbal cues, and helps if Fynn might go into a down while practicing extended-sit. 


Later in the day, Fynn and I went back to Home Depot in Costa Mesa to practice his training on a longline, and around more distractions. Fynn was a bit excitable initially, so we walked around the store to work on heel. At this stage, Fynn worked on ecollar pressure and had problem-solved where he should be. It took repetitions of turn-around’s and stopping, but he began to heel better as we continued the exercise. We practiced extended sit/down/ place. He broke his extended cues a couple times when people walked by, so Fynn definitely needs more practice in crowded areas. 


Overall, Fynn did much better during this session at Home Depot, with his biggest improvement for heel. 


 

Pupdate 3/8/2023

Fynn and I took a morning walk around the neighborhood with longline dragging. Fynn did well about maintaining heel, however there were a couple instances where I picked up the end of the leash when we were coming up on another dog. Fynn was distracted and broke heel a little bit, but responded well to “off” paired with ecollar stim and was able to return to heel before hitting the end of the leash. He got better with repeated response conditioning. 


Later in the day, Fynn and I went to Fashion Island in Newport Beach to work on longline obedience around distractions (dogs, people, new environment). Due to mall policies, I kept the leash at hand during the length of the session to varying degrees. While Fynn was adjusting to the new environment, I kept the leash shorter to pair with leash pressure, and as he acclimated, he gained more leash. Fynn is an excitable dog, and may need time to familiarize with new places. 


Fynn heeled very well, although he did attempt to lead in the beginning. We practiced extended cues, especially near fountains, as the water is distracting for both people and dogs— tending to draw crowds. Fynn will do his “monkey” whine when he sees a dog, so we are continuing work with desensitization. Practicing extended place with dogs/people coming and going helps to dampen excitability. Fynn continues to have a bit of an issue when people walk by very close to him. We will be returning tomorrow during the afternoon when it’s a bit busier to emphasize the training we worked on today. 

 

Pupdate 3/9/2023

Fynn attended me on a walk with Kona this afternoon, where we practiced heel next to another dog. Fynn was on a longline, which was left dragging. He walked well, however he was slightly excitable to the crows, squirrels, and dogs and needed “off” cue on several occasions. 


Unfortunately, something came up midday, and we were not able to get back to Fashion Island until later in the day. Fynn was on a longline, which I held the end of, and we practiced his obedience around similar distractions as last night. Although it was a bit quiet, this exposure is still critical to training and helps Fynn become calmer in these situations. 


We focused on extended cues with increase distance/duration. If a particular distraction came about, I would close the gap between myself and Fynn to decrease distance. Fynn responded better towards dog distractions, and whined less, and was also better about not getting too excited by the humans as well, though he broke cue a couple times when they got too close and made eye contact with him. We got to practice greeting manners, as well, where he is getting better about not getting wiggly in anticipation for affection.

 

Pupdate 3/10/2023

Fynn had a big day of training today! We started with an offleash walk around the block, practicing various cues along the way. Since we have been rehearsing offleash by letting the longline drag, Fynn took to this milestone very well. He still has a tendency to walk slightly more in front of me than desired, however he frequently checks in with me and is focused on what I am doing.


In the afternoon, Fynn and I went to Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance to work on his obedience in a busy indoor mall (and to beat the rain). Fynn had his longline on for the majority of the session. We practiced all of his cues while on a longline, and after Fynn acclimated to the new environment, we tested his training offleash! Fynn did very well, however he was distracted by smaller dogs. He got very excited around small children, and when we would pass by the daycare facility— he truly loves children. Despite these distractions, Fynn performed his obedience well, and was able to bring his attention back to me vs. going down a rabbit-hole and losing himself in the stimuli.


We have a very good idea of what final things need touching up before his return home, mainly greeting manners, duration/distance cues around small dogs, and heel/come-to-sit positioning.


After our training session, Fynn and Krüger wrestled around in the rain. They play exceptionally well together, and Fynn has been Krüger’s most favorite companion thus far! He will really miss Mr. Fynn.

Fynn continues to have goopy-eyes in the mornings, and one eyelid is slightly more red than the other. Saline flushes continue 2-3x per day. Due to its color and infrequency it may be due to the dogs running in the dirt/sand, allergens to the yard or irritation due to the anatomy of his eyelids. His poops are a bit more loose today as well, however Fynn is active and happy, and excited to see his family Sunday!

 

Pupdate 3/11/2023

Fynn and I returned to Home Deopt today for our final training session. It provides a plethora of different stimuli, and is a great place to polish up obedience cues in a distracting environment. 


We focused on reaction to dogs and strangers, greeting manners, extended cues, and come-to-sit positioning. He was much better with heel position, and walked by other dogs and children without an issue. He still got excited and wagged his tail, but this is hard to control. 


Fynn is so excited to see his family tomorrow and show him all the wonderful things he has learned. 


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