I mentioned back in October that Galen and I had started a Rally Obedience class. That was a 6-week course, but after it ended the instructor started doing drop-in classes in the same time slot. In the drop-in classes, we learn one new sign and practice it a few times while she sets up a course, then we run the course twice, then Galen lies down and asks for tummy rubs and generally wanders off into oh-god-please-don't-make-me-use-my-brain-a
We have now learned all the signs in the Novice, Advanced, and Excellent classes. Well, I say "we". Galen doesn't understand left pivots at all (he has to stand up and then back up while turning beside me while I twist to the left, then sit down again aligned in the same direction I'm facing). My new plan is to get him really good at the right side step (we stop, he sits, I step to the right and he comes with me, then sits down again in heel position) first, because he has to turn to wind up facing the right way and he's done a few of those brilliantly, then go back to left pivots and see if I can get the turning to transfer. I may also try just telling him to stand as I start to turn, because I think that's what he's most confused about, is that he needs to stand up to get where he needs to be to sit down again.
There's a competition coming up in May that we're planning to enter, so we can actually apply some of this stuff. I expect Galen will either do quite well or explode from TOO MANY DOGS WHAT IS THIS PLACE and cause an embarrassing scene. Or both! There's plenty of time lurking around waiting for other dogs to run to have embarrassing scenes in, and it doesn't disqualify him if he doesn't do it in the ring.
In the meantime we are going to take a bit of a break from classes, probably until a few more dogs have been through the next six-week course, whenever that is, and/or the other dog who came to most of the drop-in classes in January finishes his same-time nosework class and starts coming again, because with just us there I don't think we're gaining much that we couldn't get from going over to the park and setting up our own course within walking distance.
Our efforts to get Galen to worry less about other dogs don't seem to have been particularly fruitful. His behavior has improved (less barking, much faster recovery when he does react, better response to cues, offering eye contact), but he seems to be getting concerned from even further away in certain circumstances. I'd like him to feel less worried in addition to being able to work through his worry, so I've started using Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol.
It reads like a Stay drill, and Galen is perfectly capable of staying through anything listed in it, but rather than moving to the next day when he can perform the behavior of sitting still while the various distracting things happen, I am taking the opportunity to practice (1) looking for very subtle signs of stress and (2) patience, and repeating each day until Galen looks entirely calm during the whole procedure. So far the only sign of stress he's shown has been putting his ears back (or, if less stressed, just one ear, which is adorable). I expect this mostly indicates confusion rather than fear, but I am practicing my patience and repeating days until the ears stay either forward or floppy all the way through.
We did Day 1 once, Day 2 three times, and have done Day 3 four times so far. Once we've made it through all 15 days, I plan to extend it to include other people coming to the door, as well as repeat it from the beginning in the back yard (this will probably go very quickly), the park (possibly slower), and at gradually decreasing distances from other dogs. But we'll see how the first round goes before I make any detailed plans there.
New Bike Trailer
Cathy used to bike to work with the dog, but she got frustrated with how slowly he runs relative to how quickly she would like to bike. She's been driving instead, on the days she takes him to work. Recently she decided that, as the rainy season ends, she'd like to get back to biking more consistently, but she still doesn't want to bike as slowly as Galen runs.
Enter a solution:
It will be a while before it's usable -- we need to be very, very sure that he's going to stay put no matter what's going on outside -- but he seems generally positive on the basic concept.