Friday, October 14, 2011

Coco Akita Long Leash Training in Park

Here is a video of Coco and me working with a long leash. Using the long leash gave me the freedom to train Coco and give her the space to make her own decisions. It helped me to stop tugging and to rely more on using sounds and verbal commands so we could work together in sync.

I put this long leash video together to show how to use this technique. I also use a whistle in one of the clips (sorry if it's loud) to get Coco used to coming from a distance when I use my whistle. A thirty-three foot leash, as you can see, is plenty of leash to let a dog roam with some freedom and enjoy a day with you in a park.

We have had a couple of serious encounters with dogs that were off leash. I've written about them in this blog. Once a german shepherd attacked Coco. We were talking with a friend and when we turned around to continue on our walk he was already across the street and took two strides and hit the air. I was also walking my son's Chihuahua. With my peripheral blindness and balance issues from having a Traumatic Brain Injury and with having difficulty processing information when things happen too fast, this could have been serious for more than one reason. The lesat of being that it's dangerous for me to fall and hit my head and for another reason, I have been working with my service dog for almost four years. If she would have gotten injured all of that hard work and the freedom to go places I now enjoy, would have come to a stop.

While the dog was in the air Coco bent down and as he was landing she grabbed him by the throat and threw herself in the air over him and came down straddling him. Her entire body was shaking with tension to keep him away from us. The owner came over and broke their concentration. Then Coco came right back to my side. She showed incredible restraint and did not bite the other dog.

This was a huge setback for us. I had to work on keeping Coco calm when we were walking near other dogs and I had a really rough time with not being afraid and tense myself. I thought the problem was over with this dog but the other day Coco and I were out walking and she cued me that something was ahead and I saw him loose again. So we turned around and walked the long way back to my car. I now drive to a park so Coco and I can avoid lose dogs and take a nice long walk.

Coco was finally getting calmer, me too, when three dogs swarmed around us in another park. This time I was overwhelmed and had a full blown reaction. I fell down and my hip and shoulder still hurt me, even though this happened months ago. This time Coco laid across my and protected me. She put her neck over mine and looked into my eyes and never looked away. There were wet spots all over her body where the other dogs were grabbing at her. She could have stood there and tried to protect me and try to fight with these dogs but she didn't. Instead she let her body shield me. The young man that was letting his dogs run loose in a public park that has leash laws, was just having a nice day. And before the ambulance took me away that's all I wanted too.

It took Coco and I about eight or nine months of work before both of us were calm and enjoying our walks again. Thanks to a trainer that we met in the park, we had the chance to work with another dog that had once been highly reactive to other dogs. Without this person taking time out of his busy life to help us, we might still be struggling.

I remember when I had my first Akita, Angel. Back when we had the farm. And then when we had Bear, my second Akita. And they were so amazing when they hit their stride and then began to lope, like deer. And I wished I could let them just have their freedom. But the reality is, there is traffic. In some countries dogs run loose. In some countries they are more members of the community they live in. But in some countries there is also a problem with rabid dogs attacking other dogs and people. So we have leash laws here. And they are good. Having leash laws means we can walk dogs and keep them from attacking each other or other people.

I remember when I was fostering dogs. And I had this amazing Chow Chow who had suffered indescribable cruelty. And I loved him and he became this amazing soul wrapped in a bundle of red fur. We walked later in the evenings because the heat was hard for him. Some new people moved into the area and they had two dobermans. And they let them loose late at night. They scared the hell out of me. Fortunately, I saw them before they saw us and we went back to the house. I wrote the new neighbors about Yogi and what he had gone through and that it was dangerous to just let their dobies loose at night. And they stopped. Which was awesome.

I have an Akita because all three of my Akitas were really intune with what I needed. Before I got dizzy or had what I call a bad spell, from feeling all woozy and not being able to focus on what was going on around me. Each one gave me cues to stop or sit down or go lay down. And they were all strong enough to brace for me, even before I knew what that was.

So having an Akita service dog is perfect for me. All that being said, Akitas may not be for everybody. If I let her run loose it would probably bother all kinds of people. So I put in fencing around my backyard. And I put her on a leash and we go for walks. She wears her service dog vest and still we have had to change our directions because people walking their dogs let them loose and don't have a clue that this may not be good for everyone else around. I don't care what size of a dog it is, encountering a dog off leash when all someone wants to do is take their dog for a walk, is really inconsiderate.

I shouldn't have to explain, I have a brain injury or I have peripheral blindness or say two words about why I need a service dog to anyone, unless I want too. Now I holler ahead and ask a person if their dog is on a leash. And so far, they have put their loose dogs on a leash. My point is, if you want your dog to have some freedom great, get a long leash. If you see anyone or another dog, loose or on a leash, you should bring your dog back to your side. You may be enjoying the day by letting your dog run loose, but it could wind up being a catastrophe, or at the very least a headache, for someone else.

Now I have an airhorn and dog pepperspray so if I do have a problem I can do something about it. And this has made me feel a lot calmer so I have been able to work on Coco's non-reactive training. She has been doing great with her training too. We both have. I'll need to get someone to take some video of us working. It's just hard to plan on when the opportunity is going to arise and so far, we've been alone everytime. But she is learning that I expect her to sit and look at me when a dog is passing us by. She is doing this consistently and wonderfully. And on occassion, when I see that the other dog owner knows what they are doing and they can control their dog, we even walk facing each other and Coco has done really well with this too.

I really enjoy being able to go for a walk and enjoy the day. So does Coco. I hope this video inspires others who may not understand why it is important for them to be able to bring their dogs to their sides quickly, to get a long leash. Dogs can be completely predictable and well trained and still run off and challenge another dog, even though this isn't their normal behavior. They can decide to run off and scare someone who has been bitten by a dog. Or they can bite someone. All of these things can be avoided if people simply take responsibility for their dog and get a leash and then use it. Just because we use a leash, that doesn't mean we can't have fun with our dog.

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