Luna | Rottweiler-Malinois Mix | Los Angeles, CA | In Training
Luna is a two year old Rottweiler Malinois mix who comes from Los Angeles California. She is joining OffLeash SoCal‘s Three-Week Board and Train program to work on her general obedience, for pulling on the leash and her inattentive behavior. The goal will be to first build up a valuable reward via interaction with the handler. Once Luna understands that paying attention to her handler at any given time is more ideal and more stimulating than her surroundings, then we can expose her to greater and greater distractions while we refine her obedience. Stay tuned for Luna’s Three-Week transformation!
Luna is a very driven and motivated dog. She is very confident and stable environmentally. The main thing that we need to work on with her is to build her focus so that she is more interested in the handler and that way we can expose her to various forms of distraction more reliably, and keep her occupied so that she makes better decisions. It’s important to remember that with Luna being more independent, we have to incentivize her even more so than another dog might need to be. Our awards need to be so valuable that Luna is actively seeking them out of her own accord, rather than needing to be hurried along or encouraged in any other way. My goal is to first demonstrate to Luna that I have a highly valuable reward as well as a consistent boundary that she can respect, understand and learn how to navigate the world with.
Today with Luna I introduced the prong and leash pressure. As Luna shows me that she has proficiency with understanding the leash pressure and prong collar combination I will introduce stimulation from the E collar as well. I do think based on her performance from today that tomorrow would be a good time to try it out, considering she did very well in understanding what I was asking and why I was asking it. Luna is naturally a very independent dog, but so long as we make it worth her time by giving her an adequate reward and a stimulating level of challenge, she would actually prefer to work rather than simply explore and stimulate herself. If training becomes a natural part of everyday, rather than a specific event, like say, going to the gym, then there will be a new level of understanding and fluency in communication that I think Luna will benefit from greatly. The goal is not training under certain circumstances for special events, but rather training for every day living and to make your lifestyles more complementary, considering that Luna was an adult dog when adopted it is important to respect her own experiences, and her own habits or background. With that respect and understanding, that doesn’t mean that we can’t shape her behavior, rather that as we shape her behavior we don’t push her beyond the specific limits she has too soon.
Today, Luna and I met up with some fellow trainers at a local park in order to work on exposure to new distractions. All things considered, I think she did very well. It is important to keep in mind that Luna has a high threshold for stress. This means that Luna can tolerate quite a bit of discomfort in her environment or new distractions before she feels worried or afraid. On the other hand, when she is overly interested, or potentially on track to making a bad decision, it does require a more direct approach in order to get her attention again.
This does not mean that we have to be unfair to our dog. What it does mean is that we need to spend time building her focus in advance of those moments so that when we ask for it, it is not a jarring and totally surprising question that she has no familiarity with, but rather a reminder to perform a behavior that she has done hundreds and hundreds of times in the past. While I shape the rest of her obedience, the primary means of redirecting her attention will be the off command. When I teach a dog off, I expect them to give me eye contact, and this is something that I can reward.
Remember that the goal is never to punish our dog but instead to interrupt a potentially negative or less than productive behavior, so that we can replace it with a productive one. In order to best do that we must have a means to refocus the dog’s attention without stressing them out, or putting them into a negative mood. It never hurts to spend time practicing off, getting your dogs attention and rewarding them in times where there isn’t a lot else going on because when there is a lot going on your dog will have had enough practice to remember precisely what to do when we give them the off command.
Today, Luna showed me some more of her reactive side. Luna has some leash reactivity that shows itself when she feels overwhelmed. Luna’s first instinct when she is experiencing stress is to shut down and avoid it. When she can no longer avoid entirely what she feels is bothering her, Luna then lashes out. She isn’t being aggressive. However, her displays or temper tantrums are still highly undesirable behavior. Going forward I will continue to show her the obedience, 1 foot in front of the other. Part of good leadership is knowing when to set the pace, and in this case, Luna does need guidance, but she needs it in the form of someone not believing her temper tantrums, and instead rewarding her good attitudes.
Today with Luna we continue to make progress with the E collar. I was able to graduate away from the use of a prong collar in conjunction with E collar stimulation. Luna has some reactivity to the leash and to the E collar stimulation however, when we work through those moments, she becomes stronger and more confident in her understanding and clarity with the behaviors. Luna has been having bouts of diarrhea the last few evenings. Normally, when a dog goes to training, they can feel somewhat stressed or anxious and so I allow for the occasional stomach upset without concern. However, in this case, considering the frequency of the bowel movements and their looseness, I am giving her pumpkin with her food today to see if that helps her.
Today Luna and I were able to work on her commands at the park while dragging a leash. We also worked on the duration portion of her commands. Luna can hold her sit and down positions. As well as having a solid come to sit (recall). Her familiarity with e collar stimulation is improving and it makes it easier to use the collar as a tool of communication to enhance her behaviors at a distance. This current stage of training is about slowly fading the use of the leash out of the picture so that Luna is thinking and problem solving entirely on her own. Her bowel movement was more normal this morning with the addition of pumpkin.
Today, Luna and I worked on place. A place object should be easily differentiated from the surrounding environment by the dog. This can mean visually, the scent or even the texture. A good place is off of the ground as this is easily distinguished as a separate area from the surrounding environment. However a beach towel, or even a cloth napkin can be place after the dog has grasped the concept fluently. Remember that Luna is an independent mind and willing to go explore her environment and so we must always have a reward that is more valuable than what she can provide herself. This means that while the dog is in place, especially in the learning process, it is highly encouraged to speak to her and give her praise in a soothing tone of voice that encourages her relaxation and her holding the position.
Today, Luna and I worked on all of her obedience thus far around my neighborhood. It is important to keep in mind that training is not a special event or something that needs to be made time for rather it is a new language to incorporate throughout the day so that we can make the best of our time. Luna is doing well grasping the obedience, and the only thing that she is struggling with at this point is her come to sit. But with time I do think that we will figure that out and we do still have quite a bit of time left. When Luna does go home, I want everyone that is living with her or immediately surrounding her to follow the exact same protocols and procedures, so that she has a consistent set of rules that she can follow rather than being able to ever get away with any kind of nonsense or mischief. Luna is a smart dog, and she will figure out ways to bend, and break the rules. If given the opportunity to remember to only reward her for doing things honestly, and completely rather than ever allowing her to cheat. What that looks like oftentimes is ensuring that she completely sits or she has downed the entire way rather than hovering an inch off of the ground etc.
Today, Luna and I continue to work on refining her heeling. She does well for the most part, but is still finding it difficult when she is feeling overtired or exerted. We spent some time deliberately working on those moments when she wants to quit by first, walking and training until I could see that she was ready to relax and then asking her for that one percent further . In the end, she was able to rise to the occasion and you will see in the video that she was able to perform the obedience that I asked of her despite the fact that she didn’t want to do it. The trust that she has in me now is because of the consistency of my rewards so that even in those moments where the dog is feeling overwhelmed, or perhaps wants to go indulge themselves, we have more leverage and we’re more convincing when we ask them to perform our obedience instead.
Today Luna and I worked on fading the leash and getting her to police her own behavior entirely. When Luna is engaged with me she works very nicely and listens but if she gets tired or overly distracted she wants to walk away. At this point she understands the boundaries and it is only a matter of continuing the same consistent rules and rewards while also slowly building the distractions. I will be exposing her to a greater level of distraction later this week and ideally she will be able to work off leash when we do. Her understanding of the various behaviors isn’t perfect but she does have enough of the concept for everything that the rest of our work won’t be difficult at all so long as she continues to make the same progress with distractions in public. I feel confident and very proud of her progress.
Today we were able to work off leash consistently. When increasing duration for our obedience behaviors, we aim for only a few seconds at a time. Increase duration or the distance we are away after every successful repetition. If we are slow and steady our dogs will become solid in their behaviors and not lose focus on their task. Time is our constant ally! If it is a rushed process the details can become muddy very quickly, so remember when frustrated or overwhelmed the best policy is the take our time and focus on the basics. If a farther distance is difficult to manage then make it shorter that you are away and build on that success rather than rely on boundaries to reinforce when the dog makes mistakes. Boundaries help us to maintain our momentum but progress requires positivity and praise. Reward the dog!
Today Luna displayed some reactivity while working off leash but she was able to work through it and regain her stability. The important element is consistency. When we remain consistent with our boundaries as well as rewards we give our dogs something to use as a frame of reference when experiencing stress. The context we add should always offer guidance to some extent but the degree to which we need to supervise directly is always lessening. Consider that all training tools are transitional and we want to use them as little as possible but with that in mind it is important to use them when we need to consistently so the behavior becomes reliable enough to trust without any assistance.
Today Luna and I continued to work on off leash skills. It is important not to rush the areas a dog is struggling with as the extra focus on an area of conflict can sometimes exacerbate issues. For Luna going forward she has a level of fidelity and understanding with the behaviors that I feel she can be exposed to new and stronger distractions. I will be continuing to refine the obedience that Luna already possesses as well as working on a few more behaviors that are a little more complex like the send away to place or the come to heel.
Luna and I worked on her Distance and Duration today. We want the dog to be capable of maintaining a behavior for longer periods of time and the way to do that is by aiming for only 1 percent improvement every session. If we encourage our dog to take an inch they will go for a mile, so keep in mind small progress becomes major progress over time. Luna is becoming more and more comfortable giving her full attention to the task at hand and I am excited about her growth.
Today Luna and I worked on Send Away to Place as well as Come to Heel. For advanced behaviors it is important to practice our fundamentals. If we have a strong Heel and a strong Come to sit, the Come to Heel is natural and doesn’t require much extra attention. For Send Away to Place you want to be clear what place object you are pointing to, so keep in mind the dog’s point of view and be sure you have them looking in the right direction before sending them. Luna is doing well with obedience and has been much improved with her crate manners and potty training.
Today Luna and I worked on Come to Sit and Come to Heel. Come to Sit means the dog should move to our side and sit while we are stationary whereas Come to Heel tells the dog to walk with us while we are already moving. Luna like many dogs needs guidance and reminding on occasion but for the most part she grasps the concepts very well. Consider practicing similar concepts in the same session to help Luna differentiate between them.
Today Luna and I worked on her Door Manners as well as her Send away to Place command. When we are going through or coming out of a doorway we should always ask our dog to sit. Building the habit of sitting for entry and exit helps to prevent dogs from running through open doors and other passageways. For Send away to Place Luna has shown she has a strong grasp of the behavior so long as we are clear about the Place we are Sending her to. Remember that if our dog struggles we want to challenge them and reward their effort but if they show us they are incapable of finding the answer through repeated efforts then it is always best practice to help them find the answer for the future. Being a good leader means offering guidance, not just directions.
Today Luna and I worked on Send away to Place and the Under commands. It is important with commands that have a similar picture to be worked simultaneously so that we can establish the correct context and our dog is able to differentiate between what we are asking for. For the Under command as well as the Send away to Place command, we have to keep in mind that the finished picture is very similar and so we should spend time distinguishing between the two so that our dog does not struggle when we ask for one or the other. Similar commands with easily confused, finished pictures are Heel and Come to Sit. For Luna now that she has a strong grasp of her behavior it is important that we give her challenges, but at the same time, ensure that those challenges are solvable and that we have prepared her adequately. If we do not give our dogs adequate preparation, then our challenges are unfair, and therefore not productive.
Today Luna and I worked on all of our skills to prepare for our final video. When training on an average day it is easy to incorporate our behaviors into our routine if we can be creative. Using the Under to make relaxing in the shade more accessible for our dogs, sending away to place when we load groceries etc. Luna has come a long way from where we started and I think to continue along her good progress it is best to incorporate our training as organically as possible and make it automatic. Practice makes perfect and when you only need to focus on 1 percent improvement every day it is easy to see continued results.
Today with Luna I went to Santa Monica pier with some fellow trainers, and we worked on obedience around distractions. Unfortunately, I forgot the remote for my e collar at home. Sometimes when we have undesirable situations we are still able to get a lot of quality training in. In this case we were able to work on the eventual fading of the e collar. Long term people always ask if the e collar needs to be on constantly. This video is proof that it does not need to be on all the time but the consistent use of the e collar is what made this possible. Be sure to continue practice and use of the e collar for an extended period of time. When the dog is consistently performing commands and never needs any stimulation then she is ready to go without. Also consider the safety feature of having the collar on in the event of an emergency. Just wearing the collar is a reminder to be well behaved!
Today Luna and I filmed her Final video at the Cerritos Mall. When working in public keep in mind the policies and rules of wherever you go but otherwise aim to continue building on Luna’s good progress. The goal is to stay focused on obedience and not react or hyper focus on anything. When our dog gets fixated we can take a moment and ask them for a replacement behavior. If they struggle with that we will then use our e collar to reinforce our command. The goal is to create moments of praise to redirect attention onto a more productive reward. Don’t panic! Use the training! Luna hit a point during her day today where she was protesting the work/task at hand. She began to push her boundaries and default to her Under command. When she was asked to follow through she then redirected her frustration at me. Note that even if she is having an off day or simply throwing a tantrum, we can't give into her demands. It would be the same thing as giving the child a lollipop who is throwing a tantrum to get them to stop. At that point it will become a learned behavior.
Today, Luna and I worked on her extended place and down. It is important for Luna to work on active relaxation. What I mean by that is taking her to places that are busy with a lot of different things going on different distractions, different people, different objects, different smells, different sights, different sounds, and when she encounters those things, encouraging her gently through our voice and occasionally if necessary reinforcement of our boundaries, we help her to develop a sense of calm cool, and collectedness around those distractions. Luna is naturally an independent dog. With that natural independence comes a sense of obligation to react to her environment because she feels the need to be the leader. Do Luna a favor and keep your eyes peeled for potential sticky situation is that you might come across.