Koa | Siberian Husky | Long Beach, CA | In-Training
Meet Koa, the two-and-a-half-year-old Siberian Husky from Long Beach California that is here for our world famous Two Week Board and Train Program! While Koa does have a sense of basic obedience commands, and is great with humans as a whole, Koa is prone to not listening when another dog is in the vicinity. This we call “husky ears”! He is very independent and simply prefers to do what he wants. Koa is here to primarily work on his socialization out in public spaces as well as cleaning up his overall adherence to basic commands. Koa also has a new found fear of stairs, so we will work to building his confidence as well. Stay tuned for Koa's transformation going from not listening around other dogs, to being respectful regardless of the distractions around!
Upon arriving home Koa was reluctant to enter the kennel. After some time, we were able to persuade him to go in. He has been in/out of the kennel since and has been going in with more ease little by little. Koa met another board and train and our pet through a divider gate, and he did not react or show any adverse reactions.
As he familiarized himself with his surroundings, Koa went to mark every corner, and every surface he could. During walks this habit of his actually promotes, pulling on the leash, and leading the walk, rather than staying in a heel position. We will work on Koa remaining in that Heel position, and resisting the urge of wanting to mark everything he can. He also shows some anxiety and “jumpy” behavior when something sudden startles him. For example, when the gate was open and closed, and it scraped along the floor, or when the AC unit turned on, he jumped, and immediately turned his body to face wherever that sound was coming from and was very consumed with the noises.
Koa had a great day of training today! We introduced his Come to Sit command, also known as his Recall. A solid recall for all canines is an important aspect of training to ensure a pup’s safety.
When we ask Koa to Come, we want him to come to our right-hand side, loop directly behind us, ending in a seated position on our lefthand side. Once in this position we can then ask him to Heel, Sit (for an extended amount of time) or Break! (His release command). Please note that we do not use “stay” as a command. We simply repeat the last ask (in this case Sit) to remind him and/or if he preemptively breaks command. Please listen to the auto on today’s video for more information about the Come to Sit command!
Today’s accomplishment for Koa was introducing him to the Heel and Place command. Our training method for Heel involved a series of turns, stops and changing pace to help Koa understand the necessity of following our lead. It is important to stay consistent and ensure an appropriate follow-through with each task. Please listen to the audio for today’s video regarding the Place command!
Featured in our video today, you will se Koa working on all of his basic commands. These include Come to Sit, Sit/Down/Place (holding his positions as well) and the Heel command. Now that he has a full understanding of each task, the next step is to start venturing out to public spaces and work on all the commands with various distractions. This will help solidify the commands. Koa has a tendency to frequently test the boundaries to see what he can get away with. If you give an inch, he will take a mile! The best practice will always be staying consistent and firm with your rules and boundaries set. Never ‘give up’ because Koa is pushing back. All that will teach him is he will get his way if he simply out suborns you. It can also be looked at as the equivalent of giving the child who is throwing a tantrum a lollipop, so they stop. At that point it becomes a learned behavior.
Inside the home he has been working on his Door Manners, learning he isn’t allowed to cross through a doorway without permission. Generally speaking, he does well with this but, Koa does still require guidance and reminders at times. During our walk last night Koa reacted to all the small dogs in the neighborhood. Around most other dogs he reacts they are what Koa feels is “too close” or they’ve caught him by surprise. It is manageable but his reactions are unpredictable. At home we have one male and one female canine. Koa has no issues around the female, but he often challenges the male and has attempted to react a couple of times. After working through that issue, he is able to coexist with the male under steady supervision. Koa displays very pushy and dominant behaviors to other canines with can cause problems when interacting with others.
Today Koa ventured out to a local park to work on all of his commands in a new environment. Upon arriving Koa utilized his Husky voice and resisted having the leash simply put on him. He would have much rather had the freedom to run around the park as he pleased, opposed to getting leashed up and ready to work. Anytime he pushes back on any boundaries it is crucial you stay consistent and don’t give up on whatever task you are trying to accomplish. Even something as simple as placing a leash on. It’s likely that Koa has used his voice, his paws, and his teeth to prohibit someone from doing things that he simply did not want to do. Koa may think that doing this is going to get him his way. (Note: Koa has not tried to use his teeth on us, only his husky voice and paws.)
After just few minutes of sticking to our set boundaries, Koa was walking/working around the park. He was very consumed with the barking dogs in the neighborhoods nearby and the new scents on the ground. Anytime his head turns to snap to attention, or his ears fully become perked we provide him with the Off command. This is to break his focus off from whatever distraction and attention back on the task at hand. Off is also utilized anytime he wants to mark a surface. There were a few other patrons at the park and construction was going on in our line of sight. Koa didn’t seem to mind them much, but he did not like someone riding by on a skateboard.
We decided to take the distraction up a level. So, we headed out to our local Home Depot store to work in a new and unusual environment. Immediately Koa displayed the same struggle to focus on the task at hand. Today he displayed more anxiety and uncertainty rather than simply being distracted by smells. We worked in the garden section, and Koa was unwilling to walk next to the bags of manure and mulch. He would pull and try to move as far as possible from them. When asked to follow through with additional obedience aside from Heel, he would jump up, vocalize, paw, and bite at the leash. As you will see in the video above, he does this still after 30 minutes of working in that one area.
The idea is to work through those behaviors being displayed. This will help teach Koa that acting in such a way does not prevent us from our simple tasks. As well as show him there is nothing to be afraid of and build up his confidence.
Due to there being so much going on in the Santa Monica environment, Koa didn’t really have the ability just to hyper focus on one thing. His head was on a constant swivel looking around at each sound and distraction. When we first started off our walk down to the pier, Koa still displayed push back behaviors of not wanting to follow our lead and resist the leash pressure. (He did this again around the 30-minute mark.) About five minutes from initial arrival, he started to resist less and once we got down to the pier, we gave him time to sit/lie down and to take in the new environment.
Koa was fitted with the around the snout halter. This helps us manage Koa’s reactivity with small dogs to easier redirect his field of view. It also prevents him from jumping up at the leash when he is frustrated. In the first part of the video, you will see Koa lying down watching the conditions around us. The heavy panting, licking of his lips, constant ear turns, and head turns are all forms of anxiety being displayed in canines.
He struggled the most when we encountered small dogs and cars/strollers basically anything with wheels. Any time something with wheels passed us Koa would try to fully move in the opposite direction, avoiding it entirely. Similar to what he was doing with the bags of mulch at Home Depot.
Today we took Koa to the Cerritos Mall and worked alongside a fellow trainer Amanda focusing on distractions and more exposure to reactivity. Despite the Cerritos Mall being indoors, it is a pet friendly (on a leash) establishment, so, in addition to the humans there were plenty of dogs for Koa. Generally speaking, Koa did well demonstrate all commands. He does all the basic commands with little to no effort including going into the crate in the vehicle without asking.
Amanda noticed that Koa's head would get slightly in front when we were heeling. Allowing Koa to "lead" the walk empowers Koa to not listen to the handler and helps underscore his dominant behavior that leads to the aggressive/reactive posture with other dogs. In the video Amanda was working with Koa demonstrating turns to help track Koa to follow the handler. Koa has to actively pay attention to the movement of our legs, or Koa may wind up getting bumped by a leg during a turn.
Koa picked up the new positioning reasonably quickly, allowing us to have an improved "heel" lesson the rest of the time while we were there. We think that having a much tighter control over Koa will lead to a less dominant Koa. Then he will be one that gets invited to do more because his behavior has improved.
Today was an adventurous day for Koa. The morning started off with a long walk to Starbucks where Koa was greeted by numerous patrons and Partners alike. Koa enjoys the attention and would sit and lay down to be greeted equally. Koa is still very concerned with things he perceives that are trying to get him from behind and he still has the need to spin around randomly.
We then went to Home Depot for another spin through the home improvement giant. Koa did well throughout the visit. While the distractions in the store were low (by HD standards) Koa still remained in heel without breaking stride. We did venture outside as Koa has had difficulties with the garden section, specifically the manure. Today, Koa did very well, even allowing us to work him briefly off of the leash. At the end of the video, Koa does look over his shoulder before deciding to return after walking away. We are still very apprehensive to allow Koa off leash.
We finished the work today by heading over to the Brea mall for a walk around focusing on maintaining proper heel position. In the beginning Koa did very well. As we were there for more than 45 minutes Koa started getting tired and his heel became sloppy (away from the proper Heel position) and Koa regressed to trying to lead the walk. The only time we were 'concerned' was when Koa started paying attention to a toddler in a stroller that was talking to him, saying "doggie, doggie". Koa tried to walk forward focusing on us but kept looking over his shoulder at the toddler. He is still very weary of things on wheels. There were two service animals that Koa was disinterested in, and one French Bulldog that was having a meltdown trying to get to Koa. Koa paid him no attention!
Having Koa in a proper heel position and being willing to hold him accountable for the position seems key to getting Koa to pay attention to us, and not focusing on the distractions around us. He also briefly met his future sister (at a distance) and they did well coexisting with each other.
Our day consisted of working Koa at a park in Los Angeles to work around other canines, children playing in the playground, and maintenance workers happened to be there as well. Koa did not seem all to phased by the mild distractions around, at best he was a little involved with the different smells. Once he is provided with the opportunity to go potty, he is more in tune with working around the park and is becoming less likely to mark every corner. Although a close eye should still be kept as he tries to sneak it in here and there.
Koa did not mind any of the other canines nearby. Even a smaller dog who was barking at his tiny human playing on the playground. At most, he attempted to veer off in his recall/heel to do a ‘drive by sniff’. His confidence with Placing on a wider variety of objects have improved greatly. When first introduced to this command Koa was extremely apprehensive to place on the dog cot. Once that was accomplished, he displayed the same hesitation with a park bench. Now, he will Place on benches, rocks, and a variety of platforms with much more ease!
Through these great accomplishment Koa still had a couple of tantrums. They occurred when being asked for his Come to Sit command. Koa half completes the command and doesn’t like to be asked to do it again properly. Also, when preemptively breaking a position (sit/down/place) or when pushing his way into the car. At these moments we remain calm, don’t allow him to paw, pull, or bite the leash, let the tantrum pass, then continue on with our work.
Today, Koa joined us to run errands and stop at our local mall to work on some more obedience in a distraction filled environment. Upon arriving, we grab some lunch before walking around. You can see in the video that Koa manages to hold his Down position regardless of the distractions around while eating lunch. But you can also still see, he is on a high alert with his ears perked and following every sound and his head on a constant swivel. By the time we were halfway through lunch he was more relaxed in his down position, not too focused on the environment. Koa did great not bothering us for food or trying to see what was on the table.
Once we started to walk around, Koa was back on high alert, looking around at every sound and distraction. There were strollers, mop buckets, other dogs and noises that made him feel uncomfortable, but he was able to withhold a reaction with constant verbal guidance from us. When Heeling up and down stairs Koa has been doing quite well. He isn’t nervous to go up or down, he stays in the proper position, and stops when I stop. Koa receives a lot of attention and loves being greeted by new people, even tiny humans!
Koa and Oso had an opportunity to run around the yard today without the use of the E-Collar. This was a big test as we always had the e-collar on Koa when interacting with the pups before. They both did reasonably well, chasing each other, taking turns barking at the neighbor’s dog, getting some much sought after 'loves' from Mr. Mike. This actually is where things started going South.
Oso is jealous of anyone speaking to or engaging with Mike. So as Koa was receiving affection, Oso came over to get some attention as well. Koa immediately snapped and barked at Oso; giving Oso a correction. This is dog to dog language that is a prime example of dominant behavior that Koa exhibits. Should Koa do this to the ‘wrong dog’ who is not balanced in their own behaviors, it warrants an altercation between the canines.
Had we been using the E-Collar (as now recommended), a correction would have been made, communicating with Koa that his behavior was not okay.
Another trip to Santa Monica and Koa made so much improvement in acclimating to the environment. We always start him off with a few minutes to hang out and immerse himself in the atmosphere. As we worked on his commands Koa was able to follow through with everything. He is slowly doing better with strollers, bikes, and other things on wheels. If at any point, he displays uncertainty in a particular object we do not want to coddle this behavior. Act like nothing is wrong, redirect his focus off of whatever is setting him off, and continue on with your day. You may need to provide him with constant reminders by saying “Koa Off” or “Koa Heel”. The moment we make a big deal about any situation Koa will match that energy. We never want to allow him to fixate, bark/growl, lunge, hide behind us, or lean/step on us in any situation.
Always be mindful of the heat and mental fatigue Koa may be experiencing. These play a huge factor in his overall temperament and demeanor towards following through with the task. After some time, he becomes too tired to hold a Sit. Then he will reach a point where he reverts to finding a cool spot to lie down. Be fair in providing him with adequate water and rest throughout the day.
Every day since Koa’s pickup we have continued to work on Door Manners, Food Manners and Car Manners. We asked Koa to sit/down and wait before going in/out of any and all doorways. Even if the door is left open. This will also prevent Koa from rushing out to the door and into the street. If at any point Koa tries to be the first one through the door, call him back in, close the door, place him in a Sit/Down and try again. Even if he wasn’t “running away” continuing this practice will ensure Koa understands he cannot cross through doorways without being invited through. It also applies to general good in-home behavior such as no demand barking, jumping, begging for food, counter surfing or getting onto furniture.
Food Manners we simply want Koa to hold a Sit/Down while his food is being prepared and served. Then he must wait for Break! To go and eat the food. The same rule applies for treats too! For Car Manners we would like Koa to go in/out of the crate and car on command.
Everything Koa has learned during his training program is transferable to the home, in public, with different people, any type of environment really!