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.
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.
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 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!
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!