Fairy, Andrew, and Bandit Visited CPT for a Private Behavior Modification Session on Dog Aggression
March 1, 2015
The photo is of Fairy Mills, her son Andrew, their Norwegian Elkhound Bandit, CPT Trainer Patricia King, and service dog-in-training Sookie. Fairy, Andrew, and Bandit visited CPT for a private behavior modification session on dog aggression.
Fairy and her husband Rusty first contacted CPT in July 2014 regarding their then 8-month old Norwegian Elkhound littermates Smokey and Bandit. They were concerned about the dogs’ unruly household behavior, which included jumping, digging, stealing food, and bolting, their lack of adherence to obedience commands, and their pulling and apparent aggression when encountering unfamiliar dogs while walking on-leash. Fairy and Rusty completed one private lesson at CPT, then elected to convert to board training.
During the board train we worked on all the listed issues, whereby Smokey and Bandit exhibited excellent progress. Unfortunately, the progress regarding one key behavior deteriorated over the next 5 months. Fairy contacted us in February 2015 that the now 15-month old dogs again pulled uncontrollably on-leash and exhibited severe reactivity (barking, lunging) when observing other dogs. We advised a private behavior modification session with CPT Head Trainer Mark Spivak in conjunction with CPT Trainer Patricia King and a volunteer dog.
During the first session, we separated Smokey and Bandit, so that we could work principally with Bandit. However, the separation caused great distress to both dogs, especially Smokey who howled throughout the lesson. Nevertheless, we were able to make tangible progress with Bandit.
Since Bandit was afraid of the clicker, we classically conditioned him to a “Yessss” reward marker. We then acclimated him to a Gentle Leader (he was previously on a pinch collar). Once conditioned to the Gentle Leader we taught Bandit how to walk in heel position without pulling. We then taught Fairy proper no-force leadership communication and leash mechanics, so that she could walk Bandit on a consistent loose leash and frequently obtain focused attention. Next, once Bandit walked well on-leash for Fairy, we introduced the volunteer dog into the environment.
We started with a motion drill, the CPT Walking in Pack- Dog Behind Drill. However, the drill was too stimulating for Bandit. Therefore, we converted to the Single Stationary set of drills, whereby Bandit performed well. When we concluded the session, we were able to walk Bandit within 4 feet of Jordan, the volunteer dog, without observing any reactivity.
During our second session we made FANTASTIC PROGRESS!! At the completion of the prior lesson, we advised Fairy to leave Smokey home for the subsequent appointment. We consulted her that we should work with Bandit first, Smokey second, and then both dogs in tandem. With Smokey at home, Bandit was significantly more relaxed. He focused better on Fairy and on the information presented within the training protocols. During this appointment, we successfully completed all seven CPT dog-dog behavior modification drills, which included stationary and motion drills. We then concluded the session with Bandit and the volunteer dog, Sookie, in very close proximity, as documented by the photographs.
Fairy was ecstatic! She stated that the session at CPT was the first time since the dogs were young puppies that she felt comfortable having Bandit or Smokey approach an unfamiliar dog. Moreover, she was very pleased that we diagnosed the reactive behavior as excitability combined with barrier frustration, rather than aggression. Now, Fairy has a formal protocol for introducing Bandit to other dogs and both she and Bandit will be more relaxed and confident when engaged in the protocol.
We look forward to ultimately achieving the same results when both Bandit and Smokey are walked together. However, when it comes to behavior modification, often slow and steady wins the race.
TRAINING TIP: If you have a multi-dog household, to foster superior communication, bonding, attentiveness, and obedience reliability, periodically separate the dogs to spend one-on-one time, especially during “quality” activities, such as walks, play, and training.
(Sandy Springs, GA)