As Urban Tails’ Senior Trainer Monica Body walked with Andi into the lobby of Friends For Life, our staff held their breath in anticipation. We’d been rooting for Andi for four weeks and our hopes paid off.
The dog that once barged through doors, now patiently waited until given permission to go through.
The dog that bit and pulled on a leash, now calmly walked with us and listened to our commands.
And when a man walked by with scary items in his hands, Andi saw but didn’t react.
Four weeks ago, Andi was admitted into Urban Tails’ Second PAWportunity program. Each day, expert trainers worked with Andi on her reactive behaviors (barking, lunging, growling, snarling, snapping), anxiety towards strangers (stiffening, hard gaze, forward body, ear posture), poor manners (pulling biting/tugging on leash, jumping up for attention, biting pant legs/shoes for attention/play) and jumping and barging through doors.
Urban Tails created a curriculum utilizing positive reinforcement based training including clicker training with focus on encouraging and rewarding Andi for desired and calm behaviors. While Andi still has some needed behavior training ahead of her, she has improved leaps and bounds from the dog that started a month ago. Her general manners and basic obedience have made Andi more of a pleasure to walk and be around. Her reactive behavior and anxiety levels have come down to a much more manageable level. She thrives on attention, pets and play time with people she knows and trusts.
Andi is a quick study and has learned many useful basic obedience cues and good manners. It is important for Andi to continue to receive daily practice with these behaviors so they stay reliable. The best way to accomplish this is to integrate these behaviors and cues into Andi’s daily routine. Interactions such as putting on a leash, going through doors and playing fetch can all be chances to practice training.
Andi is gradually learning to relax and be more confident around “scary” things like strangers.
Especially outside, Andi is still hyper vigilant of her surroundings, always on the lookout for something that might “get” her. It is important that when walking Andi, high value treats are kept on hand and the walker is very aware of the surroundings using counter conditioning to keep her relaxed. When Andi isconfident that the person walking her is looking out for potential triggers and knows how to handle the situation, she’s much more relaxed on walks.
Trainers also worked with Andi on “Emergency U-Turns” to get out of a situation where she’s likely to react. This entails calling Andi in a happy tone “Andi, let’s go!” and quickly turning about and walking away from the situation while offering a reward. This was one of our staff’s favorite activities to practice.
An important thing to remember in Andi and all dog cases is that training is a process not an event. In other words, training should be incorporated into Andi’s lifestyle and daily routine. With consistency and regular practice, Andi can only improve from here. Behavior cases like hers are a gradual process where you can only progress as quickly as the dog allows. However, it is incredibly rewarding to see and track the progress she makes and how quickly she can get there.
As mentioned in our first blog, behavioral issues are among the many reasons other shelters would categorize an animal as “unadoptable” and end that animal’s life. We want to thank Urban Tails for giving this Friends For Life animal a second chance at life and knowing that offering redemption is a key component of the No Kill model.
Want to see other animals like Andi receive a second chance? You can sponsor training! A donation of $75 will cover 1 hour of dog training. DONATE HERE.