Our goals for this evening were to introduce Mirri (reactive lurcher) to the parallel games, work on group relaxation and find a way to help Max with being less distracted around dogs and other excitements. Both Mirri and Finn find it difficult to cope when other dogs are being excited, moving quickly etc and typically would bark/lunge in varying degrees of intensity. We are hoping to use the parallel games to gradually expose both dogs to increasing levels of stimuli in a controlled manner. Max on the other hand just finds movement of dogs/people really exciting and goes over threshold pretty easily - for him its less about fear/anxiety but produces very similar reactions.
[Pictures to be added later]
We started off with a modified version of the CU Campfire exercise: doing passive relaxation on mats in a circle/close by one another. Our version started in our respective corners, then moving one at a time closer to one another, always separated by the ring gates. Within about 5 minutes we were all within 6 feet of each other *big clicks*
Moving onto parallel games we alternated between dogs to build up the criteria. Initially one dog stays stationary and plays Look-At-That while the other works on heelwork and attention, swop over, then both moving calmly. Any other dogs are relaxing and watching from the sidelines. Main achievement was having both Max and Mirri doing short recalls simultaneously!!
Last week we briefly tried a variation on the Give-Me-A-Break game where Max would play Look with Finn, then be released to go play. When any sign of reorienting to handler lots of rewards etc. It didn't work basically because a real dog was just too much....so this week we tried using 'stuffies' - life size stuffed dogs. This is an idea borrowed from TTouch, because for some reason dogs always seem to respond as though they are real, initially at least. For Max we started with me as the object of interest, he played great Look games and when released only jumped a little, and did reorient. After 4-5 repetitions he was switching back to Trish so fast!!! Repeated the same process with the stuffies, while Mirri watched from a safe distance.
We did the same thing for Mirri with the stuffies, and then introduced a real dog (my deafie Farah). The interesting thing was Mirri was clearly thinking the whole time, and was much happier staying by Janet. When she did approach Farah it was lovely and calm. Another big success!
Next week I hope to do more movement work, and plan to have two dogs relaxing on mats while another heels around them - will see if we need barriers or not!