What scares me the most about Brychwyn's leash reactivity is the lunging. We have to pass by other dogs in pretty close quarters here in the city and while I don't believe he would ever injure another dog, I fear that another dog will understandably defend itself against Brychwyn's snarling, barking lunge and Brychwyn will get hurt. So to me the most important thing in dealing with my leash reactive corgi is to get him by my side, out of harms way. For many years, I have used a "with me" command that means he is supposed to come from where ever he is to heel position (I don't make my dogs walk in exact heels while on everyday walks and with three dogs there's always one or two on my right side,) and look up at me. But lately Brychwyn has out smarted the "with me" command. On his way to his heel, he frantically looks about for another dog. I have taken to occasionally using the command when there is no other dog around but he is still on to me. We have been on such a minimal leash reactive event upswing lately, I want to somehow keep the momentum. And do that, I have gotten even more positive.
When either Brychwyn or I see another dog and Brychwyn's threshold has not been crossed, I just start praising up a storm. Not just verbal praise. Not just tons of treats. Petting. Tickling. Laughing. Squealing. I am a mobile Brychwyn cheer leading squad all by myself. And it's working! Brychwyn is such a hard working and eager to please dog. He has been very proud of making me proud. It's been a very rewarding few weeks. It's been virtually lunge free and with very few out of control barking fits.
I am so pleased with our progress lately and with travel season looming on the horizon I truly hope that Brychwyn continues to work so well for his cheerleader at the end of the leash. I am also very proud of myself in that it seems that I have finally undone the damage I did to my leash reactive dog with the useless negative training techniques I had tried. Any old-fashioned, negative reinforcement training with a reactive dog only make things worse! I always knew that it's all about the positive but that is so tough when holding the leash of a snarling, barking lunging monster. But now I am positive, positive and more positive. Maybe now all I need are some pom-poms?
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm just a corgi. Nothing can hurt me. Especially not another dog. I live with Wilhelm, a smaller dog, and he can't hurt me. I also live with Huxley, a larger dog, and he can't hurt me. Last weekend we went to a corgi walk and there were lots of corgis there that agreed with me. Nothing can hurt us. We're not afraid of anything. Humans may call this expression of our corgi toughness being "leash reactive" but we just call it being ourselves. Sometimes we have to bark, snap and lunge at other dogs to let them know we are not afraid.
I have also said before that brings corgi means that I am eager to please Bethany. I like working for her. She's nice. Lately, when she tells me another dog is approaching... What is it she says? Oh yeah, "with me," she has really been expressive with her "good Brychwyn," "good dog" and "such a good boy" praising. I mean, I know it all, but it helps to hear it. She almost scares me with all her cheering and patting... but what frightens me more is missing out a chance to loudly tell another dog how tough I am. Wait. Nothing frightens me! Besides, like I have also said before, I would do anything to make Bethany happy. While I'd much rather bark, snap and lunge at other dogs, Bethany says we should stay positive. I'm not sure what that means but if ignoring other dogs gets me so much cheering and praise, I'll keep trying.
Thank you so much for all of your kind and encouraging comments during last months WOOF Support blog hop. It had really never been so obvious that reactivity can be genetic until so many of you pointed it out (and then we witnessed proof of it at last weekends corgi gathering.) Dealing with a leash reactivity is a struggle for the life of the dog but we are in it for the long haul and it is wonderful to have a community that feels the same way. Stay positive everyone!