I’ve been hesitant to write it for fear of jinxing our progress, but I have to update you all on Dexter’s car chasing. Words cannot quite explain the changes I’ve seen in him. It’s been a crazy good 2 or 3 weeks in terms of his car chasing. I think something just “clicked” in his brain and he finally got it–all the crazy hard work was finally starting to pay off..
When I first brought him home, I could not have him outside with me just hanging out because he was out of control hypervigilant. The mere sound of a car got him running the length of the fence and the sight of one moving had him barking, chasing, and pogo-ing at the corners of the fence. He could not think … this was not a choice, this was simply a reaction to a stimulus. Although I knew it wasn’t his choice, I couldn’t help getting frustrated at the constant rehearsal of a really dangerous behavior…. so poor Dex was often kenneled while I was outside chilling. There were moments of total frustration … where I would just hope upon hope that a car wouldn’t cross our paths. I mean, ultimately, I became reactive to the sound of cars approaching. I was walking Shayne and I heard a car and my hand reflexively shortened the leash and my muscles engaged to absorb the lunge… only it was Shayne and not Dexter on the end of the leash.
I know I’ve written about the huge changes I’ve seen with his on leash behavior while on walks but his off-leash behavior hadn’t made huge changes until the last few weeks. It started while hiking on my long line and he started to look for cars only to run back to me for a reward. I decided to take the off-leash training in the yard to a new level… uh.. using the long line.
Although I had been pretty good about not letting Dexter out to potty when there were likely going to be cars (I know the neighborhood schedule pretty well), he was still able to rehearse the dangerous behavior, even if only occasionally (since I am not, you know, super skilled at controlling neighborhood vehicles). Having seen his massive improvements on the long line I was inspired to really amp up the training plan for off-leash work.
I knew that at this point Dexter was fully capable of making a choice to chase or not to chase in many circumstances. I was more vigilant about never allowing him to chase the cars, we did a lot of work on the long line, and I taught him a warning cue.
The ‘end’ result (though it’s not the end, only another point on the map) is that Dexter is pretty chill about cars now. This weekend he watched 6 cars drive by the house and he didn’t choose to chase at all, he cantered for about 30ft after 7 cars before turning back to me, he listened to his warning (cut-off) cue each time I gave it, and only really chased after 1 car all weekend. It’s now a pleasure to have him outside with the rest of us while we play in the yard or just relax in the warm sun.
Although I wouldn’t yet trust him off leash around cars, he has made some huge strides both on and off leash. It’s been quite the turn around for him… I’m so proud of him. It’s been a process, but I think the behavior plan has been as effective as I could have hoped for–I think back to the day I met Dexter and he was reacting to a car who was more than 200yd away from us and it took him minutes to stop searching for the car, nowadays he wouldn’t even think twice about that car and certainly wouldn’t react to it!
It’s not always easy but seeing the results make all the hard work so worth it!