Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Visit to the car dealership

I got into the habit of taking Dragon with me to the dealership every time I had to get maintenance work on the car. I've been to four different dealerships now, and none of them have ever said anything negative about having a dog with me. Dragon would always stay in his crate or on his mat during the wait. I decided that it was Chimera's turn to do the same.

Before asking him to settle down in a new place, we took a long walk around the dealership area. Of course we worked on loose leash walking. I noticed right away that if Cai went ahead and reached the end of his leash, and I stopped and waited, he would eventually self-correct and come back to my side and look up at me. That was great! However for the first twenty minutes, it was slow going, because as soon as I took one or two steps forward, he was already at the end of the leash again. It also took him a while to finish sniffing and looking around and come back to me. We were in a brand new place, so I understood his need to explore the environment, and I let this ping pong game play itself out. It was more important to me that he get lots of rehearsals of putting himself back at my side rather than trying to force him to pay attention.

Finally, after twenty minutes, his pace started to slow down, and the walking improved. After thirty minutes we were able to actually walk together for a few yards at a time. There was one magical moment, right at the end of the walk, when he went ahead of me, and I stutter-stepped as he reached the end of the leash, and he immediately turned to look at me and then came back to my side. I guess that's what we're working toward (along with keeping pace in the first place).

Back at the dealership, he spent the next ninety minutes chilling in the soft crate. At first I gave him chicken through a little opening in the zippered door, and then he settled down with a bully stick, then he dozed off, then he whined just a little bit and tried to chew on the crate out of boredom (I interrupted that and he promptly stopped), and then he just lay around. All in all, the experience was exactly what I was hoping for -- just hanging out in the crate, not worked up about it. I sat next to the crate the entire time. He would have gotten very upset if I'd walked away.

His reactivity is slooowly getting better. Sometimes when he gets reactive I still have to drag him away from the stimulus, but other times he might give one bark but then turn away and willingly move with me away from the Danger. That's a major improvement. BAT is teaching him how to disengage and walk away with me. We have two more sessions already scheduled with friends, and I'm going to put out feelers to do some more.

Yesterday he freaked out when the neighbor kid came into the apartment with his hood up and walked directly at Cai. Today he freaked out when my roommate's kid came out of the shower and was wrapped in a towel. He has a phobia of people with bulky, shapeless silhouettes. It's not something that comes up as often, so I think I'll just work on it after we've got the dog reactivity more in check. One thing at a time...

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