'Not only is punishment risky, but it also fails to teach the dog an acceptable alternate behaviour. The dog does not learn what to do the next time he is in the same situation. He only learns to fear the situation.' Emma Parsons, Click to Calm p73

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Old Girl.

Since most of the posts on here are about Lola, today is going to be Jess-centric.

Jessie's behaviour with other dogs is weird. If she's off-lead, she has a certain ritual she has to go through with ninety-five percent of dogs (circling around them, tail rising, occasionally hackles up as she gets aroused; air-snapping if they dare to sniff her, otherwise either chasing them off, coming back when called (ha! - a likely story), or playing in a style very similar to her aggressive chasing). If she's on-lead, she's either under control at my side, carefully sniffing the other dog if I know it--not meeting heads-on--or she's a whirling dervish of jaws and dribble, barking and lunging. It's fabulous, really.

And yet if she meets the dog inside a house (she's more confident if it's in our house rather than in another person's, but she's still way better inside than outside!). she's fine. She's perfectly well behaved with strange dogs, even ones that try to hump her: she is tolerant to a degree, and then snarls and air-snaps if they ignore her less obvious body signals. She never escalates beyond snapping at the air though. And she is amazingly tolerant: Lola can leap at her face, even without treats nearby, without her doing anything but flinching slightly.

This all leads me to believe that her real problem is lack of knowledge in how to greet other dogs: after the initial greeting, she's often fine outside (though she used to be better, admittedly - people fleeing with their dogs from the hackles-up Staffie cross hasn't helped her) unless the other dog tries to run away, whilst she manages to skip straight past that to be fairly relaxed with dogs if they are inside the house.

Considering she's pretty old though now (eleven years old as of February!), and the problem is manageable, I just try to keep her under control around other dogs--and I practically spew praise and treats at her when she is well-behaved--as there's not much point in introducing her to dog after dog after dog, on-lead and off, and making her even more stressed in trying to combat her strange reactivity. If she was younger and I had the knowledge I now have, I would probably work on systematically desensitising her to strange dogs with a lot of Look At That! (as opposed to the LAT work we have done on-lead only). But there really isn't much point - at best, I'd just be able to teach her that approaching dogs nicely gets her a cookie (which she already knows).

Besides, she's my old girl. I'd like our remaining time together to be pleasant, and not filled with encounters with strange dogs that I don't know (all the dogs I do know, Jess also knows) and that would further stress her out.


Crysania said...

It does sound like she doesn't quite know how to greet other dogs and isn't all that comfortable with them outside of her comfort zone (the house). Sometimes when a dog is older it's just best to manage the situation and keep her as happy a possible. She's a pretty girl!

Sophie said...

Thank you! I think she's pretty too, even if she does pull some silly faces sometimes. :) I am just limiting the amount of walks she goes on (she only really needs the exercise once every three days or so - she gets the rest from wrestling with and chasing Lola, but after about four days she gets moody and uppity), and when we do go on walks I try not to take her at 'prime dog time'. It's just easier that way.