Sunday, October 31, 2010

K9 Homeschooling = 30 Day Plan for Desensitization

We had our first visit with Michelle from K9 Homeschooling yesterday, we met bright and early at 8:30 a.m. at Westarbor Animal Hospital.Coco did very well. We actually were pleasantly surprised, but I needed a professional to point out just how aggressive Coco had become toward other dogs.

We spent the first 45 minutes in a consultation going over her entire history. Then we went outside where an unfamiliar dog (planted by K9 Homeschooling) was off in the distance with a dog handler. The dog was about 100 ft away when Coco had her lip curled and her defenses went up. The plan is simple. Let Coco see other dogs from a distance for the first few weeks and fill her up with treats so that she has a "GREAT experience" when she sees the other dogs. That way, she will associate new dogs with threats and love...instead of the usual jerk on her prong collar and screaming her name "NO COCO!!!" It was this consistent association that we just were not in tune with.

We had her on a prong collar and over time, her barking became more and more aggressive. Every time she saw a dog, her collar would tighten up and she would experience heightened anxiety because she would anticipate getting reprimanded. Add my weak state due to pregnancy, and you have the perfect storm. So we've dropped the prong collar and now have a "Sesnse-ation" harness that will not cause any discomfort.

We are using the "clicker" training philosophy and it's amazing how quickly we are seeing results.

Michelle has set up a comprehensive 30 Day Plan for Desensitization. It will be a lot of work and we will have to reach out to some of our neighbors who are doggy-parents to Coco's biggest nemeses. There are few dogs that completely set her off in the area, and we need to put Coco about 75+ feet from them, long before the confrontation, and reward her for not over-reacting. We will have to do this every single day, on our walks and hopefully once we can connect with our neighbors who will most likely support our request. Coco is a sweetheart and everyone knows it, but her behavior has got to be remedied.

Coco is a very sweet dog with a lot of potential. But if she hurts another dog or person she could be euthanized in Ann Arbor. With a baby on the way, we cannot take any chances. Coco is officially GROUNDED for the next 30 days.

On a side note, she's adapted well to the floor and is not sleeping with us. It was a rough few days, but it's been working well and we are MUCH happier sleeping through the night.

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