Komi | Miniature Pinscher Mix | Los Angeles, CA | In Training
Komi is a 9 month old Miniature Pinscher Mix from Los Angeles , California who has joined OffLeash SoCal's Two-Week Board and Train Program to address environmental anxiety and separation anxiety as well as her general manners and teach her practical obedience that her owners can use to better communicate and have a balanced relationship with her. Komi will need consistent guidance and leadership going forward and the first step is showing her how to handle her own emotions. When dogs are conflicted about how they feel we can help them learn to sort those feelings out by teaching them a rock solid understanding of obedience. With the foundation solid we can begin to hold the dog accountable for their actions and with that shape a more clear picture about the best way to experience the world. Stay tuned for Komi's Two-Week transformation!
Today was all about establishing a baseline understanding of where Komi is at emotionally as well as behaviorally. She doesn't have any focus on the handler and despite this being the first day we have met it is important to be able to establish some interaction in order to build a relationship that she can trust. Her biggest hurdle by far will be overcoming her anxiety in the world in general. She hasn't been nervous to be separated from me and has so far been totally quiet in her crate but that may end up changing and I will report what I experience. That being said she has no real interest in anything but escaping and finding somewhere she feels safe. The goal of the obedience is the condition the dog's mind so she feels comfortable in the routine and with that comfort we can build confidence in environments she doesn't particularly want to be in. Komi will need consistency when she returns home so be sure to incorporate the training into your daily routine. I enjoy doing obedience during daily walks for example. If we make the new routine a lifestyle then the dog will naturally continue along the right track. This is just the beginning but do keep in mind whatever progress Komi makes at training can slip away if she doesn't practice at home as well. Good luck!
Today I introduced leash pressure to Komi as well as e collar stimulation. The e collar was at a low enough level that she felt it as barely a tickle and interestingly enough she had a much bigger reaction to having a slip lead around her neck. The slip lead I like to use is sometimes called a "dominant dog collar" or "check cord". It's simple a loop of nylon cord that tightens when the dog pulls and becomes loose when they relax. I have a lock that slides to prevent the dog from actually choking so Komi was merely reacting to being restricted in general rather than fighting something unfair. Her initial response was based in fear so I was careful to make my voice calm and reassuring while continuing to gently guide her with leash pressure while simultaneously using e collar stimulation to marry the two sensations together. The goal being an eventual subtracting of the leash and the remaining e collar stimulation having been so totally conditioned to match the leash pressure becomes enough to remind the dog to stay obedient. Komi is largely unsure of herself but with patience and firm guidance she will become stronger as well as more confident. Remember that the concept of boundaries and being strict is not about punishment or forcing the dog to do anything but rather to encourage bravery and not let them quit when they do have the tools necessary to overcome adversity. We are using obedience as a tool to instill trust in the leadership of the handler that can then be applied to any new environments or situations. At times it looks like Komi tries to jump onto me/into my arms to avoid walking on the leash.
Komi did eventually settle and accept guidance even letting me help her into a sit. The main hurdle for Komi will be simply introducing new experiences but she has shown me she is much stronger than she may yet realize. Remember she may be small but she is still capable of great things! Komi is having a low appetite today which is normal for dogs entering training. Note that the meal log is for meal times but I am giving her other opportunities to eat and will update if she does take food. Don't worry! Your pup is my first priority at all times and if she is having any trouble I will alert you.
Today Komi and I continued to work on leash pressure and e collar stim being introduced. Utilizing leash pressure, e collar stimulation and my voice for encouragement I am shaping the "sit" and "come to sit". Komi has a lot of reactivity to the collar being tight enough to function or the pressure from the leash. When I put the collar on she has tried to turn and bite my hands several times. Ultimately this is normal because she just isnt used to wearing things that fit so snuggly against her neck but when she does have those reactions I cannot let her "win" by being aggressive. All dogs have the potential to bite if they are frustrated or stressed enough and considering her small size it is easy to understand why she would be afraid but my method for making her comfortable is a combination of not allowing the bad behavior--by simply continuing to put the collar on and holding the dog in such a way that she cannot actually bite me--but also by being calm and careful not to add stress with my voice. Komi has a deep desire to avoid any and all stress and when she is held accountable or isn't allowed to just do what she wants in a given situation she first reacts with a big emotional show, then quits and attempts to avoid the pressure entirely by being totally still and finally when that doesn't work she complies. Despite being frustrated and trying to bite my fingers/hand Komi and I do get along and she doesn't seem afraid of me.
This is all part of the process and we have to go at the pace of the dog while also not allowing the dog to halt progress because of anxiety. It is always a balancing act in dog training and once Komi comes home she will need more responsibility to avoid reverting to such avoidant behavior. That means not carrying the dog much at all or picking her up to help her avoid unpleasant but ultimately safe obstacles. For example if a loose dog is approaching in a threatening manner do what is necessary and pick the dog up and away from harm...but if it is simply a manner of noise from a trash truck or leaf blower and other distractions that can be overwhelming but aren't dangerous, the dog needs to be walking on her own and handling the feelings on her own. When she is reactive to the leash or collar the reactivity isn't actually from pressure or the stimulation being too much but rather that they are happening at all. It is an emotional response we need to monitor and discourage but in a careful way so we don't unintentionally make any anxiety worse by "forcing" the dog to experience the stress with no way out.
The goal is to show her that experiencing the stress leads to the way out and release from pressure and the easiest way to turn pressure off is to comply with what I am asking. In order to get the best of the obedience training the dog needs to also learn to stand on her own 4 paws and tolerate the world without having the option to retreat into mom or dad's arms whenever the desire occurs. Remember dogs are not robots and the emotional life they experience has to be balanced against the technical elements of training in order to get through behavior issues like reactivity and fear. That being said, Komi is learning and making progress however it is slower than I would like to see initially because of how big her reaction is to the leash and collar. Going forward I think she will make the necessary progress but for now the most important element of her success is showing her that the old nervous habit of avoidance doesn't work but that I am also fair and will support her even if we have had an unpleasant interaction in the beginning. Building our relationship will be the key to Komi looking for my leadership rather than avoiding her fear.
Today Komi and I worked on her "sit" and "come to sit" around distractions at the Home Depot. She managed the distractions very well but is still reactive to the leash and any collars being on her neck. I am very careful not to overload or strain her because she is so small and that also enables me to gage her reaction as more if an emotional rather than physical one. She is sensitive to the e collar stimulation and I only needed low levels of stim in order to encourage her to comply with obedience that I ask of her. At this point I am confident she understands me when I ask her to sit and that it is mandatory regardless of her feelings so when I apply the stim it is simply an encouragement to complete the picture of obedience that she already has. Komi does have a tremendously needy nature and so it is important to put her in situations that are challenging where we are certain she can figure it out. That level of difficulty is stressful but when she overcomes it she is better able to handle the basic things that currently overwhelm her. Komi is figuring it out slowly but surely!
Today Komi and I spent some time working on "down" as well as "place" and her general reactivity to the collar or leash. Komi has a strong sense of defense and feels the need to exert herself using her teeth when she is presented with behavior we are making mandatory. She previously was able to blow off any requests she didn't feel like following and now that I hold her accountable for her behavior she will lash out when she is frustrated. The simple solution isn't necessarily easy to execute but the concept is that the dog never wins for misbehaving, they only get a reward for listening. So when she wants to ignore or argue and lash out we must endure it and show her that the pressure we are applying doesn't go away until the dog complies. She needs to learn that she controls the entire arrangement and that her bad behavior results in consequences while her good behavior results in rewards. If we allow the dog to make us stop applying a level of pressure we are certain is fair, then they have only learned to argue more. Be sure to check the level of stim you are using and make sure you are being fair in the first place and we can see the dog actually work through their feelings and choose better behavior for themselves.
Komi is still working through a lot of reactivity but is still figuring out the concepts I am showing her. A lot of times with dogs like Komi the large obstacle of frustration and redirection simply needs to be addressed and the willingness to cooperate then makes obedience relatively simple to teach. We want the dog to want to work but that also requires a commitment to behavior when they have a preferable second option. In order to ensure that Komi does always choose to work for us we make our reward as valuable as possible. If the reward outweighs the reinforcement then the dog will work to their own advantage rather than to avoid something undesirable which can often lead to secondary problems. Komi will likely be frustrated by the collar and leash pressure even at home so it is important to practice carefully putting it on and carefully taking it off. If and when she tries to bite or otherwise protest we simply hold onto her in such a way that she cannot hurt us while we soothe with our voice and quietly remove the collar/put it on. We want the dog to realize that any protests or arguments are a waste of time and as she surrenders to the experience our positive energy and mindset will lead her by example and reinforce that our commands ultimately lead to something desirable. Today we spent some time at Santa Monica Pier doing obedience around new distractions.
Today Komi and I worked to transition away from the leash to see if she will be able to handle the responsibilities of off leash heeling. Unfortunately she is too easily overwhelmed at this moment to be trusted not to run off when she is stressed from the environment. Komi generally is a sensitive dog and has been struggling a great deal with reactivity to the leash or any collars around her neck for that matter so we have been moving at the most appropriate pace without overwhelming her further. This is an issue she will need continued practice with if she is going to overcome it. She has learned before coming to training that if she cries and tries to grab the leash with her paws she can avoid having to follow the leash. Whether by accidentally learning a bad habit or it being just her nature to resist pressure, it has made learning the skills an uphill struggle. She definitely has a grasp of everything I expect of her and will offer me nice behaviors I can reward but when I do have to reinforce a command or apply pressure to help her find the answer she begins to struggle. We mustn't let her "win" for being disobedient and have to hang in there until she understands that the pressure doesn't go away until we comply. Of course we check to make sure the dog isn't being hurt and we are being fair but when we can accept that what we are dealing with is an emotional response we must also endure it and not allow her to use the bad habits to avoid complying.
Today Komi had a major break through! We were able to perform all of the obedience with e collar stimulation and a leash and she didn't get upset! The reactivity is starting to become less of an issue and I hope we can continue making progress along this track. Remember that dogs aren't robots and their emotional state has a large influence on the performance during training. Komi is a sensitive dog and doesn't need a lot to motivate her when she is distracted but she does need careful and nuanced handling. It will be important to practice doing the things she finds to be unpleasant little bits at a time so she doesn't get overwhelmed and you can build on the success one percent at a time. We want to aim for Komi to be comfortable on her own feet in the world and willing to be obedient but that doesn't mean we do not give the dog love. We want to make sure and keep the balance 90 percent praise and 10 percent reinforcement. If the dog has to experience stimulation in order to comply we need to also give our praise freely and proportional to the stimulation. We want the dog to always come away remembering the overall positive experience and building those associations over time reinforces obedience. It's all a self sustaining system if we incorporate the training into our routine as a new way to communicate rather than making obedience an activity we do sometimes. Training is all the time and for practical every day quality of life improvement. Good luck!
Today Komi and I met with some of my fellow trainers at a park to work on obedience around other dogs as well as experiencing a new environment. Komi continued to improve today and while she did offer me some of the same resistance from before it wasn't nearly as extreme. When Komi is frustrated by the stimulation from the collar and wants to shut down we need to introduce directional information from the leash in order to communicate effectively. If Komi is resistant and reactive to the leash this only makes the problem grow. So we must be careful and while we are insisting she must complete these tasks we make it as easy on her as we possibly can so she doesn't have too much to deal with. While the dog is expected to work out the stress and problem solve on their own that doesn't mean we leave them to struggle indefinitely. You will want to always give Komi an opportunity to solve a problem but then do offer that guidance when she is stuck so she has the information for the future. We are always a team in dog training and her success is my success. Be patient while she works through tough moments and reward her heavily when she does. We always want to end things on a good note so if the dog is having a hard time and finally figures something out, reward and praise and put her away for now.
Today Komi and I worked on adding distance and duration to her behaviors. We want Komi to continue making good progress and challenging her to hold positions longer and while we move farther away is a great opportunity to grow. Komi tends to want to break "down" and follow so I practice returning to her and praising many times more than I do "come" in order to show the dog that the picture of me walking away doesn't mean to follow after me but to stay and wait for praise or further commands. Komi has been doing much better with leash pressure and primarily the focus is on making her behaviors reliable. She listens to just my voice the majority of the time but when she does need reinforcement from stimulation I have been able to use the collar as low as level 5 out of 100. Komi being so sensitive poses unique challenges with actually putting the collar on and certainly with offering guiding leash pressure but it is an advantage for the level of stimulation to stay so low because we have many more levels to work with if for whatever reason Komi chooses to ignore the sensation.
Remember the goal is always just enough stimulation and leash pressure to overcome whatever resistance the dog offers. We want to encourage problem solving but do not want to just force a dog through a scenario. If Komi is struggling it is beneficial to go back to basics and work out the issue as carefully as possible. Be patient and trust the process! When we are increasing levels of difficulty with any behavior remember the dog is likely to make mistakes so predict them and anticipate how to react in advance to make the most of the precise timing necessary to get the strongest result from training. When Komi attempts to follow or break a behavior we give her stimulation and the command--at this point if she tries to continue I will use my leash to guide her back into position and reset to try again. We are always trying to end with the dog winning and understanding the goal in mind so they are better prepared next time.
Today Komi and I worked on her door manners and general impulse control. Working on obedience around an open door can prove to be somewhat difficult initially because the dog only has the experience of going through a door to something more exciting and needs to practice working with the temptation nearby. For Komi the most difficult element is not following after the handler when they walk away. To reinforce Komi's position when she breaks I am using first e collar stimulation, then I remind her with a repeat of the command that she broke and finally if she needs it I follow through with leash pressure to show her the right answers. Komi is able to work with quite low levels but she still has an emotional response to the stimulation even if we can be certain she isn't in pain. When Komi does have a big reaction remember to stay calm and gently guide her into the right position. We must not ever allow Komi's mood to dictate whether or not she must comply, however if you notice she is having a tougher time than usual, putting the dog away for a short period of time before trying again can prove extremely valuable. Remember that with Komi being so sensitive initially it was an extra layer of difficulty to navigate but as she becomes more comfortable and confident with following the obedience the sensitivity enables us to reinforce commands without ever worrying we are being unfair. Of course read the dog and adjust accordingly in a given moment but do remember that Komi has a history of being emotional and likely is overwhelmed moreso than experiencing pain. Always double check the dog and if we are confident they are not injured and in pain then we need to hold them accountable so they don't continue being so dramatic in the future. Slow and steady progress is ideal.
Today Komi and I filmed her Final video showcasing everything she has learned up until this point. We went to Del Amo Fashion Mall where there were children, bright lights and loud noises as well as slick floors and crowds to distract and challenge Komi but she was able to overcome her stress and performed very well. Komi will need challenging practice to keep from reverting to her old needy and overly sensitive ways but with that being said I also want to point out that the likely level of daily distraction will not be anywhere near what she tolerated at the mall. Consider the practical ways to incorporate training into the daily routine to make it normal and automatic. For example during a daily walk work on the various obedience behaviors every few minutes. Practice a "sit" at a corner while waiting to cross, utilize "off" to redirect away from distractions and even work on place when you find appropriate areas that the dog can fit well on. When I find new spots to practice "place" I like to consider the dog being comfortable as well to make it a little bit easier for them to relax and be patient while they wait for a new command or to be given a break. So long as you incorporate the training as a practical tool for navigating daily live, Komi will continue to thrive and get even better.
Today I wanted to show the huge importance of using "break" as a reward. The obvious function of the break command is to release the dog from obedience and let them go to the bathroom or just run around. We do train the dog to first return to the handler when they hear "break" so that we can use this command to potentially help redirect the dog if they are reactive and also to create a big reward experience that the dog will associate with the behavior they were just released from. The dog will actively seek out performing obedience on their own in search of this affection and interaction. I think it is good to be loving with our animals but consider that for Komi our affection is her paycheck and at least for the duration of the time we expect her to behave we need to make sure we are withholding unearned affection and praise. When the dog is doing well tell "good" but be soothing and calm. We are using good to encourage the dog to maintain a position. When they have done it very well perhaps after struggling for a few repetitions, or if they have held a position for a considerable amount of time, release with "break" into a big reward experience to cement the value of restraint and being patient. We have to make the reward worth all that effort!
Komi and I worked on everything she knows and spent some time walking around the neighborhood letting her sniff and have fun when possible. Remember to do relaxing things with your dog as well as training to keep the balance in favor of enjoyment so the dog isn't losing enthusiasm. I would also like to mention that while her vocalizing in the crate has improved for me, she still does cry and carry on. Sometimes in the middle of the night. My best bet has been to ignore her and if she is not able to settle (assuming I have made sure she has gone to the bathroom, doesn't need water and is otherwise ok) I will put her e collar on for a short period of time so I can reinforce my "off" command effectively. After she has calmed down I take the collar off so she isnt wearing it in the crate. This process is far simpler in the daytime and I realize sleep disturbance is a very serious issue so the best practice will be to rehearse her wearing it for periods of time that you go to another room and can simulate her experience of the middle of the night being separate from you.
Also a small crate without much extra room beside what is enough to lay down will discourage accidents. She has also had plenty of accidents but also when I am able to keep her on a consistent schedule I am able to avoid them 9/10 times. Do not be discouraged when she has an accident just clean it well to eliminate any odor and be sure to take the dog out frequently to establish the window she is peeing in. You want to aim for once every 1-3 hours. Take her out, give her an opportunity and then put her away. A pattern I have recognized is she doesn't want to pee or poop in her crate so she cries to go outside but then won't go when she is outside. The best advice is to simply wait it out or keep walking. We want to be certain the dog has completely evacuated their bowels and bladder before attempting to confine them for however long we need. When we know they aren't thirsty, hungry or in need of a break to go potty, we can also be certain we are being fair reinforcing with the collar. Practicing for shorter periods during the day will help with night time ultimately because of the discipline the dog is practicing. It is also important not to leave the collar on the dog for extended periods of time to avoid any irritation. Aim for 1 hour before shifting the position of the box/contacts on the neck or removing the collar entirely. Good luck!