Thursday, December 20, 2012

You're so spontaneous, er, impulsive!

One thing I've come to learned about the Pit Bull is that they can be very impulsive. They are act now and think later kinds of dogs.

When Seppel first arrived he was very impulsive. The first few walks we took he would cross over in front of me to sniff something and when I walked into him was like "Whoa, where did you come from?" It's like, hello, I've been on the other end of the leash the whole time!

Over a year has passed and Seppel is a completely different dog. In training, and even in other things we do he constantly checks in with me. Don't get me wrong, if the thing he wants is more exciting than I am at the time he will occasionally forget me. Even in those moments where he loses focus he will usually check back in with me after he's done something impulsive, like "Eeek, lost myself, sorry!" 

I think consistency has been the best thing for him. His old owner complained that he ran the fence line and it was impossible to make him stop without physically catching him. When he first arrived he completely tuned me out and I had to step into his path a few times for him to go "Oh." Every time he ran the fence line I would go out there, physically stop him, and bring him inside. Eventually something turned on and he started responding to his name, coming when called even when he was busy running the fence line. He's not 100%, he doesn't always stop immediately, but 99% of the time I call and he comes - leaving the thing that he's barking at.

At our last training session we were sending him around a blind by baiting it with a toy. I'm not sure where my brain was. The trainer told me not to drop the toy but to pretend I had. I did, I sent him, and when he came around my face totally dropped because I thought he missed the toy! He completely read my body language too and thought he had also. I then realized I had it in my pocket and had to throw it for him. It was HILARIOUS. It also really showed me in that moment that he is a lot more keyed into me than he used to be, because not only had I convinced myself he missed it - but I made him second guess himself too!

I believe taking him places, using food as a motivator to reinforce him 'leaving' whatever distraction is going on around us really helped to get him to start looking to me. In the beginning going into places like Petco was overwhelming for him and he wouldn't even take food. I'm fairly certain those kinds of places and experiences were very new for him because his former owner did not drive. As we've continued to go into pet stores and meet people his confidence has grown and he will take food from me no problem. He's also a lot less reactive and even if he loses his mind for a moment I can usually bring him back in. His 'leave it' command has gotten much stronger. I know 'leave it' should mean they 100% leave something alone, for my dogs I don't care if they look at something as long as they aren't trying to get it. If you want to watch something, that's fine, but I'm telling you to leave it which means you stay with me and if I want you to perform a command you need to do it when I ask you to do it. Seppel is pretty reliable at this and over the months has definitely gained better self restraint.

I will say from experience, there is nothing more frustrating than your dog being so amped they won't take food or toys. It's happened a few times with Seppel and I've just had to rely on him following some basic commands, like sit and down to use to distract him from his nerves.

Seppel is still very much impulsive. I don't trust him off leash with distractions and probably never will. However, I think his self control can only improve with time by introducing distractions and rewarding calm or attentive behavior. I've accepted that he will always probably be the 'fly by the seat of my pants' kind of a dog. It's actually something that I enjoy in many ways because it's a huge part of his character. I love my impulsive dog.

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