Rufus a Rhodesian Ridgeback cross GSD attended training at Royvon during August. Rufus was quite a large dog and very strong. He had some aggression issues with other dogs and got distracted quite easily. When walking past other dogs Rufus would lunge quite aggressively towards and was also quite vocal towards them. He would start to wind himself up at a distance and the situation would worsen as I got closer to the other dog. As I already said he was a strong dog so fighting his strength was not an option, so I, being 5ft 3inch had to think of another way to get Rufus’ attention off of other dogs and on to me as the handler.
When I first got Rufus out for training I wanted to start building a bond as this is the foundation of any training. I cuddled and played with him and put him through his paces to see what commands he already knew and would respond to willingly. He had a good understanding of basic obedience and so I just worked on reinforcing this to ensure he understood that he must obey on my first command and that all correct behaviour will be rewarded with my eyes, my hands, my voice, or a game, or a combination of the above.
My main area of focus to begin with was his heel work as I needed him to know that when out walking I was in charge and that he needed to walk beside me and focus on me and not what is going on around him. I do not expect my dogs to continually look up at me whilst walking, but I do expect them to be aware of me and to look up on occasion for reward. This took a lot of walking backwards and forwards to begin with and only adding my voice in when he was getting it right. As dogs do not words it is very easy for them to mistake us saying no, stop, don’t for reward, as all they know is that you are talking to them so they must be getting it right.
Once Rufus was walking with me on command and no longer worried about his surroundings I started to add other dogs as distraction. To begin with I started at a distance walking towards and as soon as he started to look alert I would start to walk backward, making sure that I did not pull and put tension on the lead as this would make him want to pull towards even more. As soon as he started to come with me I praised him, guided him back to me left hand side behind me and continued forwards towards the other dog again. This took a lot or patience and consistency. The key to this was my timing, I would always start walking backwards as soon as he overtook me and not when he got to the end of the lead, and it was important that the reward came when he was willing walking back towards me and the lead was slack, I had to ensure that I was relaxed. By repetition Rufus eventually got it and each day I found that I was getting nearer and nearer to the other dogs and then eventually able to pass them. Rufus had realised that the wrong behaviour got him further away and by being good he got nearer.
The Royvon Activity sessions also had a huge part to play in Rufus’ socialisation. He learnt how to read the other dogs properly and also how to get them to interact with him.
I am sure that Rufus’ owner will continue with his training at home.
Rufus’ mum said
“I am absolutely thrilled with Rufus’ progress at Royvon. I was at my wits end what to do with him as our walks were not enjoyable anymore, but became a chore. Most of the time I worked on avoidance by just going the other way if I saw another dog coming. I just couldn’t bear the anticipated possible meltdown and scene–it was just embarrassing for me and frightening for others to watch.
When I returned to Royvon after the 3 weeks Rufus had spent there, I was truly astonished with Rufus’ performance when Paula did the demonstration. He had really come so far and it was hard to believe he was the same dog. He was walking within such close proximity of another dog, on and off lead. Realizing that a dog reacts and acts a lot on the anxieties of the handler, my next concern was that, yes, he did all this for Paula, but would he for me. Paula did a wonderful job talking me through the steps. She outlined specifically what does and does not work with Rufus and what to watch out for. Stressing that he needs a firm leader that means the command the first time and how to correct him effectively but without fuss. We practiced this together and she guided me through beautifully. I could immediately see how Rufus was responding to me, it was incredible. I love Royvon’s approach to positive reinforcement and am thrilled with the high level of result. Rufus and I are in the early stages of practice, but we are doing well so far on our own. We have had our first public “walk by’s” past other dogs on lead, and it went beautifully. Rufus now know all the cues and commands and it is up to me to provide them the correct, consistent and calm way that Paula has taught me. My confidence is growing, and it helps knowing that Paula and Royvon are just a phone call away should I become unsure or just need a refresher.
Thank you Paula and Royvon, for making our walks enjoyable again!”