Technically this is week 4, but we were sick last week and had to cancel our lesson, so I'm going with this being Week 4 LESSON 3.
During out week 2 lesson, we met in a public place so Helene could see how Matthew interacted with people and distractions. He did really well. Me, not as well. I am so on edge when it comes to Matthew being in public because SE Guide Dogs told me that Matthew displayed aggressive tendencies towards other dogs, so I'm always freaked that he's going to see another dog and just go ballistic. But we didn't come across any other dogs, and he did fine. BUT...there was this bird, this white ibis that flew in front of us while we were walking and Matthew lurched after it, and my initial reaction was one of PANIC!! Matthew lurched, I screamed, and Helene sort of laughed. It was then that I think she decided that I needed to see Matthew actually put in a controlled situation with other dogs. She didn't tell me her grand plan then, but later that week when we talked to set up our next lesson she told me that's what she wanted to do. She wanted me to bring Matthew to a neutral place, and interact with her 2 dogs. One big black German Shepherd, and one small dominate Jack Russell Terrier. She sensed the hesitation in my voice, and said if I thought I wasn't ready, we could wait. ME?? Not ready? BRING IT ON!
We arrived at our destination and I snapped a quick picture. We were both happy, though inside I was a bundle of nerves. Would my dog rip out the throat of another dog? What would happen? OMG OMG OMG!!! But I didn't have too long to think about it because Helene arrived right on time, and we were off working. She came dog-less and first off she wanted to see how Matthew and I were working together on our heel. We passed that test pretty easily She said she was satisfied with the control I had over Matty, so she was going to go and get her German Shepherd first. SE Guide Dogs said that while Matthew had dog aggression, he particularly had dog aggression with SMALL dogs, so we were going to start with the big dog first.
I put Matthew in the back seat of my truck and Helene brought out her pup, Talon. I greeted Talon, and then took his leash from Helene and she went and got Matthew.
We kept the dogs at a good distance for a short time, and then gradually brought them closer together, with Helene carefully observing Matthew's body language. After a minute (literally, it was very quick) we brought the dogs together. They said hello, they sniffed, there was no growling, no hair raising, no aggressive signs AT.ALL. I even felt confident enough to handle both dogs at the same time.
We let them sniff and mull over each other for about 20 minutes. No reaction from Matthew at all. Helene decided it was time to get the little dog (Kaiser), so off she went to transfer them out, and up went my anxiety level!
I could tell as Helene was bringing Matthew up that he was apprehensive. She told me she could feel it from him as well, and that he was looking to me for cues on what he should do, so I should try to remain calm and praise him as he approached. We brought the dogs together and a little bit of hair went up on the back of Matthew's neck. Nothing to bad, and Helene had him and I had Kaiser, so I was following her cue's and she let the dogs come together. Matthew apparently displayed some dominate traits by placing his head over the little dog (I totally missed this, that's why she is the PRO!!) and then he completely turned his back to Kaiser. There was very little butt sniffing going on, no friendly greetings like with Talon. Every few minutes Matthew would turn back around and sniff, then turn back around. But he was visibly nervous. And at one point there was a little something something happening, but Helene quickly picked up on it and we separated the pups before there was any sort of incident.
So, in a nutshell. Matthew DOES NOT HAVE DOG AGGRESSION!! Matthew has dog anxiety, but it's something that we can work on and likely get him over it. Eventually we will have Helene's dogs over to my house and the dogs will have a controlled play date in my backyard. And I thought I was a helicopter parent with my trio.
Then we worked on the sit/stay. Matthew did AWESOME, so I practiced with him when we got home. I did it just like Helene taught me with keeping him on leash, shaking the leash, had the kids distract him while he was in a sit/stay on leash and he did great. So I bought out the big guns...no leash, big bone and distracting kids. AND HE ROCKED IT!
And then I was feeling VERY brave and I brought Matthew to football/cheerleading tonight. We walked a mile around the field with stops to practice sit/stay. We did encounter one other dog, and despite me telling the dude WE ARE WORKING RIGHT NOW, he let his dog on a long retractable leash come running up to us. Matthew let the dog smell him, but I could tell he had enough and just as I was about to pull us away, Matthew gave a little growl and the dude invited us to the dog park. Really?? Couldn't ya tell that neither me or my dog wanted to be there?? I pulled a Matthew and just turned my back to the dude and off we walked in the other direction. When we saw him again about an hour later, I took a very wide berth and didn't make any eye contact. I need to get Matthew his working dog vest so that people will leave us alone! I understand that he's so big, and so beautiful, but if people aren't going to listen to my words, maybe they'll realize the working vest and give us our space!
Homework this week: continue with our heel, easy walk, sit/stay AND I need to start focusing on Matthew's body language, trying to pick up his cue's when he's happy, stressed, etc...so that I can better interpret when he might need to be removed from a stressful "dog situation."
And that's that. I love my dog.
Do you take your dog to the dog park?? Does it make you anxious?