Maggie, who is a rescue dog, is leash reactive. We presume that’s because she wasn’t socialised properly while growing up. This means she doesn’t get along with other dogs…like, at all. So, when you’re walking her on a leash, she’ll lunge at other dogs when they even start to get close.
But, all that is changing thanks to the Behaviour Adjustment Training (BAT) that Nadia and I have been doing to help Maggie “gain confidence and learn better social skills”.
I was walking Maggie a couple of days ago, for example, when we came across two large-ish, black off-leash dogs who had run out of a house to greet their owner as she brought her weekly shopping in from the car.
These dogs were three houses away but the Maggie-of-old would probably have freaked out, strained on her leash, and potentially lunged at them. (Maggie is scared of big dogs but knows that her best defence is a great offence. The consensus is that she ‘lived rough’ for some time and had to fend for herself in the bush or on the streets before she was rescued.)
The Maggie-of-new, however, did this quick threat assessment:
After which she promptly turned to me and asked for a treat :)
That, in case you’re wondering, is exactly what we’ve been training her to do. We’re happy for her to look, assess the situation, realise that the presence of other dogs doesn’t signal danger, and then disengage to ask for a treat. The presence of a nearby dog should, in fact, make her think ‘treat!’, not ‘danger!’.
It’s taken us about eighteen months of consistent BAT to get her to this place.
The trainer who set us down this path, by the way, is the brilliant Mia Shaw, Head Dog Trainer at the Lort Smith Animal Hospital. Mia also does private consultations so Nadia asked her to assess Maggie and recommend a training approach. We’ve been following Mia’s recommendations and we’re super happy with the results.
Maggie is still not a fan of other dogs, but she’s now MUCH more relaxed in their presence. So much so that she’ll even ignore them at times. That is certainly something worth celebrating.