So LARA really can be Pooped Out!

I have been planning for several weeks to take Lara out onto the main piece of our land for a run with my dogs. I have been very hesitant as 8 acres is a large piece of ground if you have a dog loose and cannot catch it. We have been working on lots of recall games and name games and I have been very comfortable that in our 2 acre training field I can normally get her to come back to me, her recall in the context of her safety areas is very reliable.  She has shown very little interest in our 2 mini donkeys and our array of ducks and geese and two pet sheep.

Last week when I tried to walk her on a leash at the front of our property she put on the brakes and I had to carry her back to the yard. She is very scared of anything new so I was not sure she would even be brave enough to venture out with us.  Anyway this morning it was so bright and cool outside I decided ‘today is the day’.


We carefully lured the Donkeys into our pond pasture with hay and the sheep into our training field. I was convinced that when we opened the gate, the same way we do every morning that my dogs would charge out, off across the bridge and Lara would stay back. WOW what a surprise, she charged off with them. Four dogs all running at top speed. As Lara hit the metal bridge for a second she glanced back and I felt for sure she would stop and retreat. With a huge Aussie smile on her face she bounded forth. She ran and ran and ran, through the stream, back and forth, jumping through the long grass and into the tree lined area.

We walked as the four dogs ran at top speed exploring everything, like dogs do, enjoying every smell as if it was a first time experience. As we walked we realized two dogs had gone missing. From the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a Red Merle Aussie running across the pond pasture and as she ran down the bank and into the pond she disappeared followed by a smaller, whiter Red Merle Aussie. Bailey had taken Lara off to the pond to cool down after their morning romp.  They had navigated a gap at the bottom of the fence between the stream and the pond as the water level has dropped giving them just enough room to squeeze through.

They were polite enough to join us at the bottom gate, the entrance to the house, so we could open it for them. Lara had a ball; she was great around the donkeys, ignored the sheep, ducks and geese and fully entertained herself with the donkey poop as she rolled in it to help dry her off after her dip in the pond. So now on our daily morning and evening walks we will be entertained by the comical entertainment of two Aussies and not just one.

Lara was pooped, not just covered in it but mentally and physically pooped.


Month 7 and Lara is Finally On a Leash!

Finally, Lara on a Leash!

September 28, 2010 Month 7

I know it has been a long time coming, this blog on Lara’s progress, but it comes along with great news. After weeks of painstaking work each day with a leash we have finally accomplished the training goal of ‘walking on a leash.’

One of The DogSmith key training skills is just that, we actually do a special 6 week course called ‘walk nicely’ as it is such an important skill for our  pet dogs. What I had overlooked until my experience with Lara is that before you can teach a dog how to ‘walk nicely on a leash’ you have to teach them how to be on a leash, not ‘stand nicely on a leash’ but to actually accept the leash without ‘freaking out’ the minute it comes into sight or is connected to a collar.

From day one, for those of you who have followed this blog on Lara, we had to train her from a distance as she was so frightened of people; in fact she was scared of everything. Most of Lara’s training had been done at 10 feet or more as we could not get her any closer to us. We have moved her around the farm for exercise using the other three dogs, where they go she will follow.  As a result of this distance handling we do now have a nice ‘sit’ and ‘down’ and ‘stay’ behavior at ten feet, something many pet dog owners never achieve.

When we first introduced the leash it was for safety and so we could catch her. She has chewed through many a long line and can expertly grind through a 20 foot line in about 3 seconds. If you actually held the 20 foot line or any leash while she was on the end of it, if it became tense she would ‘freak’ (howl, jump, spin in mid-air at three feet, all in about 4 seconds) and then shut down. She would just sit, tuck in her tail and refuse to move.

So this is the pattern and process of her training for the last few weeks.

1.      Any contact I have had with Lara has included a leash draped around my neck. At first when we started this she no longer came in for strokes, she would keep her distance. We gradually shaped her back in for strokes with the leash still draped around my neck.

2.      Then we worked on her ‘sit’ in the context of me being next to her with the leash around her neck.

3.      When we got out her food bowl and filled it, the leash came out just before. The leash began to predict that she was being fed.

4.      Then we worked on shaping a hand holding the leash down towards her face.  This took a couple of weeks because she would jump back as soon as the clasp of the leash got close to her face.

5.      Then we worked on connecting the leash while giving her lots of yummy treats.  We normally did this first thing in the morning when she was at her hungriest.

6.       Then we worked on waiting a couple of seconds with the leash connected, in a stationary position, before we gave her a treat.  We gradually shaped this behavior ‘sitting with the leash connected,’ for several seconds.  Then we shaped it for longer durations.

7.      Then we worked on clicking and treating for any calm behavior she did while connected to the leash, lots of reinforcement.

8.      Finally to get her into motion we used a hand for a target. The first behavior we ever shaped was to target a hand.  We had used the targeting a hand behavior to help desensitize her to human hands as she would run away whenever you moved a hand near to her.

9.      The leash walking started with one step, target the hand, click and treat, to two steps, target the hand, click and treat.

10.  I then worked on the ‘let’s go’ cue. When you say let’s go she now moves towards you and then she gets her reward.

So yesterday, finally, I had her walking around my yard on a leash with a happy tail. Yippee. The brakes did go on the minute I attempted to take her through the gate into the front yard. Now we have a lot of work to do to generalize this behavior to other locations. Progress is great, however small.

LARA The Rescue Red Merle Aussie

What a fabulous weekend for Lara.

On Saturday evening having spent the day with Bethany Jordan who worked with Lara quietly inside   i had some great breakthroughs in new behavior that evening.  We had a bark, a grab a tennis ball and a mad puppy dash. Well today we saw a few more signs of confidence. Lara initiated play with me and one of my dogs. She is walking in and out of her crate on her own and today on two occasions she wandered back into her room and into her crate all on her own.

She is still very flighty but i think in a couple of weeks if we continue at this pace we maybe able to start some training.

Here is Lara after she suddenly appeared back in the Training Room all on her own. I was inside working with a dog so she slinked behind a crate

Lara is very comfortable in this room, we spend many hours hanging out together in silence, me reading a book and her pondering. I have all my dog training books in there and a computer so i can while the hours away while we bond.

Day 1 Update. The Rescue Red Merle Aussie

February 25th.

Good news for our rescue Red Merle Aussie. Today she received her annual vaccinations and her Heart Worm test with a negative result. This is great news for us. Lois, Walton County Animal Control Supervisor just gave me the great news. Our girl was also spayed today and is recovering quietly from her surgery. Lois will keep me updated on how she is tomorrow so we can plan to pick her up when she is ready to be moved.

I am very grateful to Lois for doing all of this before we bring her back to the DogSmith Training Center. In her current mental condition it would have been quite an ordeal moving her from here to our Veterinarian.  Now when she arrives here we can get her settled knowing that she does not have to go anywhere for a while.

We have prepared her room at The DogSmith Training Center; she has a comfortable futon to sleep on in her guest room with access to a small fenced in outside garden. As soon as we have her collar trained and she is more comfortable we can extend her area.