Last night at obedience class I decided to try something new with Delilah; she is highly motivated by food so I filled my pocket with dried chicken and off we went. I am very glad I did. We had a full class with a couple of new people and dogs; and there are a number of very BIG dogs, one of the big dogs (Gunner, a Giant Schnauzer) has a tendency to “punk” the other dogs. Simply stated this means, he will lunge at another dog while he is growling. This scares me because he is a very big dog; and if he “punks” Delilah, she will go right back at him; generally his parents are right on top of it and rein him in, but it still worries me. I try not to be positioned next to Gunner.
There are a couple of other dogs that tend to get aggressive on their leads and that is why they are at class, to learn how to behave around other dogs; one of these dogs is Zoe. Zoe’s mom Marcy admits to being nervous with Zoe and her aggressiveness, so she has her on a gentle leader. (If you are unfamiliar with a gentle leader it fits around the dogs muzzle and is designed to keep the dog from pulling, it is also supposed to make it easier for you to make corrections with your dog.)
Last night one of the new dogs that came in was Vinnie, I thought Gunner was big but Vinnie is enormous, he is an English Mastiff and has to weigh at least 150 pounds! I saw Vinnie coming in and I positioned me and Delilah between Chet and Sampson and Zoe and Marcy. Vinnie didn’t seem at all aggressive but we had a huge class and moving room was tight.
While we were in a sit, Zoe punked Delilah, and this is the best part, Delilah did nothing! Marcy was puzzled because neither one of us saw what prompted Zoe to do this, then Zoe did it again and again neither one of us saw what prompted it; but this time Delilah responded. Since they were both on leash, it was very quickly under control.
Sara decided we were going to do weaves, so we had to put our dogs in a “sit” while we took turns walking our dog around the room and weaving in and out between the dogs. I was a little anxious about all these dogs walking so close to Delilah and so I took one of the treats out of my pocket, held it in my hand and placed my hand down near her mouth. Immediately she started licking at and nibbling the treat, she was so engrossed with my hand and what was inside it; that she paid not one bit of attention to any of the dogs walking around her! Our turn to walk came, (we were last) and we passed with flying colors!
Now Sara had us repeat the exercise with our dogs in a “down” position; Delilah’s eyes were fastened on my hand, which was in my pocket. I would pull a treat out, she would lick and nibble, then I would wait a few seconds and pull another one out and so we managed to make it through the weaves with no incidents on our part. For the rest of the class, Delilah’s eyes were on my pocket and nothing else, the only problem was she was so obsessed with the treat, that she kept walking around behind me to see if I had something in my other hand!
Sometimes when the class is large, some of the people make a second circle, inside the outer one and they work their dogs in there. This is really a great exercise for the aggressive dogs because they not only have dogs in front and behind them, but dogs will be passing them on the side. After the weaves were done, Sara worked Zoe in the middle of the ring. Chet and I happened to be in the outer ring and Sara noticed that Zoe was only tugging when she came near Sampson and Delilah. Sara seems to think Zoe is becoming comfortable with us and our dogs, Sara thinks this is good and perhaps there will be a time when we can let Sampson, Delilah and Zoe off leash together.