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this place is for the birds

Any Suggestions?

Any Suggestions?

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I'm trying to socialize Matilda so that she learns to play well with other dogs. We would especially like Matilda to play well outside with Stella. Matilda and Stella get along very well in the house. They even seemed to play well in the house which we decided was not a good idea.... playing in the house. Outside Matilda becomes overbearing. When Stella runs Matilda runs after her and shuts her down. They can really be free together outside only with parallel play... if each of them is playing with her own toy. Sometimes they played together with a rope tug toy.

I've been to four Labradoodle Romps with Matilda. She seemed to do pretty well there. At the one in New York she actually ran with the dogs and seemed to do fine. At the three we've been to out her in California, she didn't play, but she didn't seem to get over aroused by the running of the other dogs. She mostly seemed comfortable walking around sniffing other dogs and mostly sticking with me.

At agility for the past year Matilda gets over aroused. She barks and barks. It starts off as we arrive because the dogs in the yard across the street are barking as we arrive. That gets Matilda barking. When we first get back into Barbara Mah's backyard where class is held, Matilda is usually all right again, but once the dogs begin to run, she barks and barks non stop. I have been bringing a pop up crate and covering it with a sheet and that has helped. But one of the dogs barks as she runs and that drives Matilda crazy.

I want to try to get Matilda socialized well enough so that she can play with Stella next summer and I'd love to cure this over aroused barking behavior.

Yesterday and today I took Matilda to our town's dog park. She began barking as soon as she saw where we were. Inside the park she continued barking. Mostly she'd stand and look at the dogs and bark. Sometimes she'd run after dogs for a little but not get close to them. One female German shepherd she chased and barked at. She was clearly making the shepherd uncomfortable. Later when the shepherd's mom moved off her bench and onto the grass Matilda didn't chase.

After awhile Matilda did stop barking. She did get involved with some mutual sniffing. As new dogs came into the park she did start up with some barking, but she would stop pretty quickly. One fairly dominant male Lab did come over to her and sought to engage her in play. He was mixing it up with lots of dogs. She seemed intimidated by him, tail between her legs, but she didn't run away.

Any suggestions?
  • even if she didn't find a dog or dogs to play with it would be great if she just felt at ease immediately when other dogs were running and playing around her or inviting her to play... once a week... you can see how jittery she is... how far is this park from you? it looks like a pretty big space...

    the other thing I thought of right away is that Kienan told us the less a dog does something the less she will do it... so what if you tossed the handful of treats into the backseat as you pull up to the park? and what if once she is in the park, every once in a while you ask her to do stuff for you, interrupt her running around and playing, so she knows you are still in control of the situation and she doesn't have to worry... Stella is always calmer when I ask her to do a few things before I release her with the command Lets go play! Also, Dawn always says to treat the dog whenever the leash comes off... Stella gets a jackpot for leash off and leash on...
    • It is quite a big space and they have a small dog area fenced off beyond the big area. It's not too far away. It takes about twenty minutes to get there because you go through all the stop signs and lights through town. It might be faster if I go the long way around and avoid town.

      I can try the treats on the seat. They have two security fenced, gated areas before you get into the park itself. I did get her to sit there when I took off her leash before I let her into the park. She was pretty wound up, but dumping a bunch on the ground would probably have been calming. I don't think anyone else brings treats. All the dogs gathered around and were jumping up on me when they smelled the treats.That made me a little concerned about getting the treats out, but they weren't always around me. Asking her to do something is a good idea.
      • i don't think you want to be dropping treats on the ground at the park... thats really not a good idea, adding competition for food to the mix
        • I didn't mean dropping them on the ground in the park itself. I meant in that separated off area before the park. But the dogs do come up to the fence to see who is new coming into the park so maybe even there it wouldn't be a good idea.
          • yes, only hand treat her directly and discreetly near the other dogs and be alert... food is supposed to be a no no at the dog park, so if you bring treats, maybe don't bring the stinkiest and keep them well away and carefully choose your moments when treating Matilda
  • I think the more experience she has there with lots of other dogs she will learn to recognize and even use herself--the calming signals that she ignores when Stella presents them to her during the summer when they play
  • also notice how she IS giving them calming signals... tail down, she's licking her lips, circling, turning away... the more she can do this, converse like this with other dogs in a controlled atmosphere the more comfortable she will feel----I really think she just panics when Stella goes into play/run mode... and then also ignores Stella's calming signals when Stella is telling her okay stop now or thats too rough
    • I came to the dog park a long time ago, but because Matilda didn't play I stopped coming. I can see how over time Matilda could become more comfortable, less stressed. She could learn how to respond to the other dogs

      Clearly her stress level has gotten worse over time because she didn't do the barking thing the first year we did agility. She didn't do the barking thing all during class that first summer in Goshen, did she?
      • Matilda has always barked coming into Goshen... I don't remember so much barking in Melody's class or Laurey's class...

        I do think the park visits are a great idea... if you can make it regular... do any of the other people bring toys?
    • As we drove in she barked, but not in class that first year.....Melany's, Laurey's, or Teri's class that first year.

      I've seen balls at the park, maybe there have been others, too. I could try a toy.
    • It's supposed to rain all week. I won't be going this week. Maybe by next Sunday it will be dry. I will just plan on getting there once a week.
  • By going into the park/staying in the park when Matilda is barking you're rewarding the barking. It doesn't matter why she's barking, just that she is.

    I read a great article recently about a fly-ball team who got fed up with their dogs barking out of excitement for the game. And so anytime a dog barked they took it away from the ring until it stopped. Then they slowly moved back closer and closer as long as the dog was quiet. If they barked again it was immediately followed by a sharp exit. The dogs very quickly learnt that they only got to play when they were quiet and the team ended up with a focused, fast, silent fly-ball team.

    Maybe the same sort of thing would help for Matilda? You say she barks when she arrives at agility? Then turn around and walk her away. When she's quiet start walking her back again. It may take her a little while to work it out but, if you're consistent, she'll get there.
    • It's worth a try. If she barks getting out of the car, I can put her back in the car til she's quiet.
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