On Friday we continued our second part of our behavioural consult from Just Dogs for our two dogs, Shiva & Shakti.
We met Lucy and one of her trainers, Jessa, at Leadville Dog park to assess the situation around other dogs.
Lucy brought a pack of well socialised dogs of all shapes, ages and sizes to put our two to the test.
Was I nervous? Beyond.
It was not at all what I had expected. I kind of expected camps of various sizes where, should training be required, dogs could be closed off from the rest of the park and so do their training in peace. There were camps – but three large ones which are all connected, albeit can be partitioned by means of closing a gate leading to each. There were no “training camps” though, and dogs were running between all three sections. To reach the camps, one has to walk through the parking lot, & between coffee shop & vet shop. From between the car park (where sadly some people have their dogs off-lead and just running freely!) and the camps, you may encounter other dogs, and in addition some people have their dogs off-lead here too.
Also, to get to the sections, or “camps” there is only one entrance – so even when potentially the camps are separated by size, one has to walk through all of them to get to where you want to be. All dogs are off-lead, and there is no “camp” for on-lead dogs only – for training purposes as example.
The facility is lovely though – nice and big with fountains, benches and pathways so one could either sit and watch your pups play, or walk alongside them while they run and play.
Sadly, to use the facility you need social dogs. I would’ve loved an on-lead camp where you could potentially “book” it by the hour – like an office boardroom, so for people that are petrified of walking their dogs anywhere, could at least come and get some walks in with them here.
Due to how extremely busy the park was, and due to no specialised “training camps”, we conducted our assessment adjacent to Leadville in an open field.
We took ours for a walk while Lucy fetched one of her pack. The most well behaved & social of them all. A female greyhound named Paisley.
We had to walk ours in the field (on-lead) as Lucy and Paisley (on-lead) approached from the rear. As we were quite ahead of them, we turned around and walked back towards them, at first keeping a wide distance and letting them pass well adjacent to us to see how Shiva & Shakti responded. We also did this one by one so Shiva & Shakti didn’t ‘rev’ each other up.
We had to use various cues when walking past to try and maintain the focus of our dogs. They actually were really well behaved, I thought. This was going far better than I had expected – especially as they are usually so ‘badly” behaved when walking past anyone else on a lead.
As the consult continued we progressed from a few adjacent walks to individually “introducing” each of ours to Paisley. Both did incredibly well – and although they were not at play level – they weren’t snarling or snapping at Paisley. Which was huge progress in my eyes!
We kept to the 3 second rule: “meet & greet” for only 3 seconds then walk away – more than that initially could be too overwhelming. We were also careful not to introduce them ‘face-to-face’ but rather “butt-to-face” – letting Shiva/Shakti sniff Paisley’s butt and seeing how they react & then naturally letting the dogs do what dogs do. Obviously all well controlled & within the 3 second rule!
After Paisley, Jessa fetched Breeze (I think), a young, unneutered male German Shepard. Even at his young age, he towered above our two. A beautiful, friendly but boisterous boy. We did all the same as with Paisley. When it came to the “butt-face” greeting we let Shiva go first (our boy) and he was super hesitant & nervous. He was okay, but when Breeze turned to face him, he pulled away anxiously. Next was Shakti, and she was totally fine for all of about 2 min. We walked them back to the Leadville car park and to one of the sections of garden which isn’t really a camp, but we wanted to see what the dogs (all) would do if they were all walking loose. Shiva was nervous but soon got the hang of it. The entire pack was now outside – about 4 dogs 2 of which were puppies. Although they didn’t really play, they weren’t snarling at anyone – so this was good. Until it wasn’t.
Shakti had had enough, and as Breeze approached her she started gunning at him. Mostly through warning barks and snaps – nothing serious – but just enough to let us know session 1 was over. I fetched Shiva so he didn’t go and try to protect his sister and make matters worse. We also picked up all the other dogs’ leads and then decided that our test session was over.
We think Shakti reacted this way as she was rescued from a puppy mill, and they used to breed her. She was only two years old when I adopted her, but she really had been through the mill. We will never really know her or Shiva’s background, but now we can try and move beyond it.
The Behaviour Training Report & Training Plan
Now we have a good idea of how much and what each of our pooches will ‘tolerate’ and we already have a plan to move forward!
As Shiva seems to follow Shakti’s lead (since a puppy); the theory is that if we are able to boost Shakti’s Confidence, focus and calmness it should automatically resonate with Shiva too.
We received a two page assessment with activities for us to conduct with our dogs, a training plan with Jessa & Shakti as well as all of us joining a local walking group (albeit from a distance) to help the dogs get used to other dogs being around them.
PS: I don’t want to share exactly what Lucy has suggested, as even-though I have read up on numerous websites about what we could do ourselves, if you have a dog that requires socialisation or any other behavioural consult, please see a specialist and don’t try this yourself at home without experienced supervision 😉