Here is Lara working with Rachel, The DogSmith Palm Beach County Florida. Bailey is working with Susan, Rachel’s partner.
You can see from the video that Lara is still uncertain at times but doing a great job with Rachel.
I was looking through some photographs of Lara the other day and realized the first time I met her was in January of 2010. She was curled up in the corner of her kennel at a local animal shelter, so afraid that she would not even raise her head from beneath her paws. For several weeks I watched as nobody adopted her, actually nobody even showed the slightest interest in her as she did not present well at all.
I have been fostering her since early March 201o on behalf of New Spirit 4 Aussie Rescue and the journey has been very slow yet very rewarding. I decided to foster Aussies about four years ago when I adopted Bailey, my five year old Red Merle Aussie, through APRH. I wanted to help rescue dogs and it was a great way to do it.
Anyway back to Lara, for those of you who have been following my Lara Blog you know we have gone through many stages.
Stage 1 – We could not even approach Lara, she would run and hide in a bush or behind a chair or just freeze on the spot. We began to treat her for being close, 10 to 15 feet away
Stage 2- We could finally approach her inside but had to carry her in and out, her outside trips were on a twenty foot line. She was so scared of a leash if it became taut that you had to follow around behind her making sure it did not get trapped on anything. If left unsupervised for more than 5 seconds with the long line she would chew straight through it.
Stage 3 – We began shaping calm behaviors around people, we shaped her to approach people and then to touch a hand. We then used this to catch her to carry her in and out. We then used the touch cue to move her in and out so we no longer had to carry her. A six feet trip could take 5 minutes.
Stage 4 – We began clicker training her to sit and down. We had to do this from a distance as she became too scared if we got to close. We could now move her in and out and we began working on name recognition so we could get her attention if she was outside.
Stage 4- We began working on ‘let’s go’ so we could control her outside. She was now allowed off leash in the yard as we could at least get her back to us. She began playing with us and the other dogs. We shaped a nice ball drive so exercising her became easier.
Stage 5 – Lara was allowed to romp on the north 5 acres of our property with the other dogs, she was attached enough to me and the other dogs that she would follow us all back into the yard.
Stage 6 – Lara has learned that begin inside the house is not that scary, she still shudders at strange noises but has learned to sit and relax on the couch when we are watching television.
So what have we learned through all of this.
1. Dogs that have been abused or had zero socialization have a long road to travel, that needs to be taken slowly and at their own pace
2. There is nothing more satisfying than working with a dog that is almost feral, very scared and very shut down and the simplest of behaviors they offer are a huge breakthrough. I never thought I could get so much joy from having a dog tap my hand with its nose on cue.
3. With patience, kindness and a good plan, almost anything can be achieved with a dog. Check out the DogSmith FREE MTR cards that show how to train each of these skills.
So who is Lara now?
Lara is a delightful dog, with a lovely personality. Her exuberance with her new life sometimes gets her in trouble. She does not always respect the space of other animals and has been known to climb over the other dogs in excitement to reach a goal. She loves her ‘peeps’ those she trusts and they are few and far between as she is not overly keen to meet new humans. Her antis are comically entertaining. Even at her most frightened she has never show as much as a snarl. She is amazingly athletic but I believe her personality will restrict her from ever performing, had she had a normal puppy-hood she could have been a fantastic agility dog. With that said if she continues to progress the sky may be the limit.
Lara is welcome to stay in our home for as long as it takes to find her the perfect home. A home with patient and understanding owners who will enjoy what she has to offer at the speed and pace she can offer it. Owners that are prepared for the first few months to work slowly with her and to build a loving and trusting relationship before they expect anything from her. Owners that are prepared to give her adequate exercise and mental stimulation in a safe environment while she assimilates to her new home. Owners that can wait for the day when she feels safe enough to give back the same amount of love and trust that they have put forth first.
Are you one of those people that just loves dogs and has to hide from all the information about the overwhelming number that suffer each your and end up in rescue because you feel helpless. Well you are not.
There are so many ways to help, not everybody can adopt a shelter dog. But what you can do is endless. You can foster, help with transport, sponsor a sick animal, sponsor your local shelter, provide a bag of food … the list goes on.
“One small step at a time from many individuals soon becomes a stampede”!
As you buy gifts for your pet this holiday season think of the many dogs and cats that are in need of help.
I offer my time on behalf of my dogs and the great life they have that so many others deserve, it brings an amazing feeling of satisfaction knowing that you provided one of the many foot steps forward in helping our rescue animals
Choose a shelter or a breed rescue group if you have a particular affiliation with one breed. Give them a call and ask them about all the ways you can help. There is room for everyone, no matter how small you think your contribution is – It will be very welcome
mixes in the eastern half of the United States.
Our motto is much more than a saying. We provide those things to all our program dogs, and usually that’s all it takes to turn their lives around. But in the cases of the dogs below, a great deal more had to happen to turn their fate around.
Just this week, New Spirit learned of a sad case in Columbia TN—an older Aussie boy very much down on his luck, and heartworm positive. Maury was named for Maury County Animal Shelter, a place where not many stories have a happy ending. But with the help of the shelter staff and some super new rescue friends in TN, Maury is out of the shelter and on his way north for heartworm treatment and what we hope will be a wonderful new life.
To help Maury and all the many other dogs needing our help, New Spirit welcomes any donation, however small. From a gift of $5 to something larger, we are so grateful for your help. We couldn’t do it without you!
Help Maury today. Just a small donation will help him receive the care he needs.
We often talk about the importance of socializing dogs and why it is so important when dogs are young and in the ‘explore everything – no fear’ period. This becomes so obvious when you are faced with an older dog that has had limited exposure to almost everything. Even the smallest of things become a major emotional event to overcome. Think about shoes. I have noticed, since the weather has cooled down here in Florida that we are now shelving our flip-flops and summer shoes for the more hardy footwear, when I approach Lara with my new feet coverings it takes her several seconds to sniff, assess, bark and then accept socialization of shoes, too funny. I now go outside with a different style of shoe as often as possible.
Last week we began training Lara on the dog door we had installed in her room. Yes she lives in a 20 x 20 room that we have gradually added home items to so she has time to accept each new piece of furniture. If you have followed Lara’s blog you will know that it was a tremendous effort to even get her inside in a relaxed state. We have attempted to bring her into the main area of the house but the overwhelming number of stimuli, visual and sound, has her running for the hills. She now loves her chair and her dog bed is left to cool. She is comfortable with a radio on and does not shudder each time a door or window opens or closes. Anyway, part one of her dog door training was to remove the cover and expose the flap; it took two days for her to be comfortable with this. Once the cover was removed she would not go in or out of the room. Step 2 was to secure the flap up exposing the outside. Once in the room she would not approach the door. Step 3 – once comfortable with the flap fastened up was to encourage her through the dog door. This was actually the easiest step. I trained Rick’s 9 pound JC mix to jump back and forth through the door and Lara was so excited that she jumped after Gizmo and was astonished to find herself outside. Now getting her back in through the dog door, that will have to wait a while!
I may have to change Lara’s name; not so adorable any more, LOL. She can now do a swimmer’s turn off my shoulders at 35 miles an hour. Chases and retrieves balls, barks and chases the lawn mower, demands affection by jumping on your lap, and the list goes on.
It sounds awful but is in fact wonderful. All these behaviors are ‘behaviors.’ They can be changed in frequency, intensity or duration. I am not going to complain as it has taken 5 months for her to come out of her shell. When I greet her in the morning now rather than it taking 5 minutes of shyness, she bolts into my body looking for hugs. Let the real training begin!
Out in the training field for my own safety I have had to teach her, on her recall with the ball, to drop in to a ‘down’ when she gets to me to prevent her from launching off my shoulders. She will chase any tennis ball but only chase and retrieve her plastic KONG™ ball that bounces and moves quickly.
When you pick up the chuckit™ she gets so excited, spins in mid air and lands on her feet. She would make somebody a fabulous frisbee dog. Her recall is about 60% reliable. If you are holding her KONG™ her recall is about 90% reliable. At 28 pounds and about 19 inches tall she can jump a 5 foot fence without breaking a sweat so keeping her focused and busy is important.
She now sleeps in her crate on her bed surrounded by all her toys, with the door open; the closed door comes next. Lara is very uncomfortable around the crate and I suspect it has something to do with the way she was caught by animal control. They had to use trap to catch her after several days of trying.. No damage has been done to anything for months now and she appears to be a very happy little dog.
I surprised Rick this morning by asking her to ‘down’ from about 5 feet and she dropped into a ‘down’. When you cannot touch a dog or get close to them it makes training at a distance critical. What Lara does show you is that it is so easy to train a dog using our methods even if you cannot touch them, restrain them or even get close to them. I remember the days when I shaped her to ‘sit’ and then ‘down’ from across a room.
The next big goal is to get her leash trained. Whenever you attach something to her collar she shuts down. Now she ‘likes me’ and will sit with me and on me I can begin to desensitize her collar and leash and then we will learn to stand still on a leash and then take some steps on her leash. This will be the final obstacle before she can go to a new home (mmmmMMM maybe I will wait a few weeks before we begin the leash training).
Note to self: Ask Beth to take some videos so our faithful blog followers can see the new Lara in action
Friday April 9th 2010
We have had a wonderful week here at the DogSmith Training Center with Lara our rescue dog. Lara has come on in leaps and bounds. The week started with a concerted effort to work with Lara, during structured time slots, three times a day, for ten minutes per session on shaping calming, approaching and happy behaviors. We stocked up on a selection of yummy treats, got the school room ready and off we go.
We no longer have to have Lara on a short leash when we go outside, with the exception of her late night walk (just in case she does not want to come in). Lara is happily coming in and going out. She now follows us on our walks at about four paces and we don’t have to create a 20 foot gap to get her through gates and doorways. She is also now moving into Rick at about 3 paces, this is a huge encouragement.
Each day I split her food ration up into five portions. Whenever it is time for her to go in I wander into her room, place a few kibble in her bowl and she is right behind me. In the past I would have to sit quietly in a chair in the corner and wait for several minutes for her to appear. Inside I can now approach her and stroke her whenever I get the urge and every now and then she will sneak over for a quick stroke. Lara spends her inside time on a big dog bed and only goes into her crate at night or on the odd occasion when she will be alone for more than three hours.
Lara is a much happier dog now. She runs, plays, wags and bounces either on her own or when one of my dogs plays with her. She also circles us wagging and bouncing more often. When we are outside for several hours she relaxes and lies down. We often find her snoozing, rolling around in the sand or happily chewing or playing with one of her toys. Lara still has panic attacks at new sounds, objects or movements but her recovery time is seconds and not minutes. This morning she actually ran towards a strange sound rather than away from it.
I now have Lara making eye contact for duration of three seconds. She sits about 5 feet from me but will come in to me to collect her treat after she hears the click. We have not attached a cue to this yet as I want to build a more robust behavior before we do that. Bear in mind that when she first arrived we never saw her face as it was dug into her body cowering in a corner of wherever she was placed. So this 3 second eye contact is huge and highly rewarding to me (Dog Trainers need positive reinforcement too).
When I open the door to let her outside she will now run over and sit down in front of me. At night when she does this I take her collar gently, click and treat (for the calm approach and collar hold) and attach her leash. Remember only three weeks ago, we would open the door and then disappear so she could be brave enough to exit. She would then run out at top speed as close to the ground as she could physically manage and run straight to the nearest, thickest and most prickly bush to hide out.
I have been working on Lara’s crate training too. As I explained in an earlier blog I have to carry her to her crate and I had been gradually placing her on the floor directly in front of her crate so she can walk in. We had this behavior down to about 4 feet, meaning if I placed her in a straight line in front of her crate at four feet she would take the necessary steps to go in. Because she is now more ‘clicker savvy’, (she understands that the click means a treat and she is associating her ability, through behaviors, to drive the click) I decided that we now must have her voluntarily going into her crate.
Each night I have sat by her crate and clicked and treated for any behavior toward her crate, a head turn, a look and, even by Wednesday evening a slight nose touch to the side of the crate. I load her crate with treats and toys to make it very tempting for her so her need for treats overtakes the hesitation she has to go inside.
On Thursday night she was actually voluntarily placing her two front paws into her crate in a stretch to grab the treats in there.
Last night – YIPPEEE – I managed to shape Lara actually going all the way into her crate. We did this several times; she would grab her treat and then run from the crate. On the last attempt I got up quickly to close the door. It was late and I needed to sleep. I expected her to, as normal, make a dash to escape the crate as I moved forward. So as quickly as I could, without panicking her, I closed the door but she made no attempt to escape, she simply lay down and looked at me. Did we have a party! I crawled in and lay there for several moments loving on her as she licked my face. It must have looked very strange from the door, my butt and legs sticking out from the crate with lots of cooing noises coming from inside. We are going to build on this now so we can have her coming in and going out on cue, importantly, with her body wagging and enjoying it.