Cooper Says Relax

As we mentioned a little while back, Cooper is temporarily off the market. No, he hasn’t been adopted, but the Cooper-monster is in limbo for now while he continues “working on himself.”  We started his second round of Relaxed Rovers class this month. We first went through the class last year when Cooper started showing some reactivity towards other dogs when we’d be out and about. Cooper’s reactivity comes from a classic case of anxiety, he just doesn’t like what he doesn’t know – that includes strangers coming into the house, scary two-legged three-foot tall monsters (aka “children”), and other dogs.

"Go 'way go 'way!!"

“Go ‘way go ‘way!! Look, I’m ferocious, RAWR!!”

Kat Martin of Dogs & Kat teaches our Relaxed Rovers class.  We worked with Kat for Cooper’s Basic Obedience Class, as well as Agility. In Relaxed Rovers, “we work on helping dogs learn to be calm and focused on their people in distracting environments. This class if for dogs who have a hard time being calm, whether due to excitement, reactivity with other dogs or people  (especially when on leash), anxiety, or just plain lack of focus. This class is also very beneficial for dogs who compete in sports like agility.”In other words, this class is right up Cooper’s alley.

"Yes, I simply must learn how to relax."

“Yes, I simply must learn how to relax.”

When Cooper encounters a strange pooch on a walk, or at the vet, or anywhere in public, he puts on his big boy bark and puffs up his little chest and starts yelling at the offending canine: “HEY! YOU’RE TOO CLOSE! I DON’T KNOW YOU AND YOU’RE FREAKING ME OUT! GO ‘WAY PLEASE!!”  He’s not misbehaving, he just doesn’t know any other way to communicate to us that he’s uncomfortable. Unfortunately, when a Cooper freak-out happens, our first instinct is to pull Cooper out of the situation STAT – which unintentionally reinforces his “bad” behavior. Cooper learns that if he tells us with his words that he’s scared, we’ll take him out of the situation. And so the cycle continues.

What we need to do is teach Cooper that he can trust his People to take care of him if he gets nervous. When a strange dog or scary monster appears out of nowhere, Cooper needs to know that his People will take care of the situation, and he doesn’t need to worry. Part of this learning experience is on us, as Cooper’s handlers, learning how to read his cues so we’ll know when he’s starting to get nervous, before we enter full on freak-out mode. Us learning how to read Cooper, and managing the situation to keep it below his “threshold” helps build trust, and ultimately let’s Cooper know that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Cooper practicing "Look at That" like a bawse.

Cooper practicing “Look at That” like a bawse.

Cooper is crazy-smart, like freakin’ Mensa level smart. He gets it, he really does. The hardest part of this class will be training foster mom and foster dad (OK, mostly foster mom) to keep their cool in “scary” situations – easier said than done at times!

Cooper is off the market for now, but Agape Animal Rescue has lots of other wonderful, adorable, adoptable pooches searching for their furever families! Check ’em out, here.

For any of our Nashville readers who are interested in Relaxed Rovers or other training classes with Dogs & Kat: Dog Training & Behavior Counseling, visit their website for class descriptions  and schedules.

….oh, and don’t forget to mark your calendars for Glitter and Glam this weekend!



Filed under Our Foster Journey

11 responses to “Cooper Says Relax

  1. I definitely stopped being the one to hold Eddie’s leash for a few months because I knew my husband could stay calmer! Cooper will manage to learn to relax with all the work you are doing. We worked on a “look” command with Eddie for months, but I had to shove the treat bag in his face to get his attention. It did eventually increase the time it took to reach his threshold and reduce his reaction, which helped after I saw something on Patricia McConnell’s site that really worked for us. We started tossing treats on the ground in front of him in the moments between when he saw the dog and reacted. Bingo. Have you tried that method with Cooper yet? Learning “place” in obedience class also helped him realize those other dogs weren’t gonna get him if he was on his spot. Now he just gets a little squeaky instead of barking. Once I saw the changes, I relaxed and now I can walk him alone without transferring nervousness to him. I have faith that Cooper can do it, too!


  2. I have no doubt that Coopster is MENSA smart but i still snorted when I read that part! You go Coop!!! The class sounds made for you (and mom!)!


  3. Rockstarts….all three of ya! This class sounds perfect — for Cooper and our Edi! He does the same thing most times, and although he has mach SUCH good progress, he still has a long way to go. We’d love to do agility with Ed someday (we did an agility basic which he loved and rocked), but his being focused around other dogs is a huge barrier right now. We’d love to hear more about your class and what you are doing to help Coop!


  4. Callie's Mom

    I wish I could find such a class for Callie! She is very leash-reactive toward other dogs, but if she is on familiar turf and both dogs are off-leash then it’s play time. I know I get nervous when I see another dog coming toward us on walks so we both need the class. In other news, Callie now has a little brother, who so far could care less about other dogs he meets. I plan to keep it that way!!


  5. What an awesome class, I wish I had something like that here because Boomer has the opposite problem he wants to make friends with everyone and makes a huge scene when he can’t get to the other dogs. Dottie on the other hand just completely freaks out and I have yet to figure out if it’s excitement, fear or a reaction to Boomer!


  6. That first pic is hilarious. Sounds like a great class

    Stop on by for a visit


  7. Good luck with the relaxin’ Cooper! I know another dog mum who gets a little anxious in (potentially) scary situations 🙂


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