Sasha finds the outside world overstimulating.
A street dog by birth, eighteen-month-old Sasha has adapted amazingly well to life in a house. This is a tribute to both her basic temperament and to her new family’s own efforts.
She started life on the streets in India. They think she has Pointer in her. I see possibly Labrador and German Shepherd. A beautiful mix, she doesn’t look like the typical street dog.
At five months old, along with her brother, she was caught and placed in a pound where she stayed for another seven months until the couple adopted her six months ago.
As a pup she will have been very used to people, dogs and traffic. In the street she would have been free – no leash. Next, in the entirely different world of the pound until a year old, she will have had no contact with the outside world at all.
Then she was transported over here and found herself in a house with lots of attention. She was taken out – on a lead.
Overstimulating world outside
It’s little wonder that the last thing to fall into place in her new life is coping with the outside world. She finds it overstimulating, exciting and, I’m sure, a bit scary.
Once out of the front door she morphs from a calm dog reluctant to leave into something wild. She charges down the road, pulling the slightly built lady behind her.
Sasha launches herself towards both people and dogs. Over-friendly, she is overpowering. She is simply too much for the dogs and she jumps all over people. She throws herself at them.
To deal with this they so far have been using their training techniques where they can. This has involved trying to get and keep Sasha’s attention whilst holding her tight and distracting her with food.
This merely contains her, it doesn’t teach her different behaviour.
The emotions that drive her
The way to continue going forward now is to deal more with changing her emotions. She finds the environment so overstimulating that she simply is unable to have self-control. It’s impossible for her.
It’s easy to assume excitability is due to joy but often lack of self-control has an element of anxiety to it. I’m sure this is the case with Sasha.
They are very conscientious indeed. In order to do their very best for her, they walk her four times a day, twice around the block for half an hour and two long walks by the river or lakes. There is a belief that exercise and tiring the dog out can solve everything. I believe it can do the opposite. (Overexcitement, stress and exercise)
Before the walks, Sasha is reluctant to leave. She hangs back and they entice her to come for her lead.
This, then, is where we start. Happy to see her lead.
We will go back to basics. They can skip the 5.30 am walk. For at least a couple of weeks the lady will walk her around house and garden only, where she is calm. They will do plenty of very short sessions, making it fun with food.
We gave it a go and Sasha was perfect. No pulling at all.
Calm loose lead walking
This will take as long as it takes. It’s not really about ‘training’ at all but about having her calm and confident.
They will proceed to going in and out of the front door but no further. Then gradually they will make progress down the road.
A dog that is mooching calmly on a loose lead, sniffing etc., won’t find other dogs and people overstimulating. She won’t be on alert looking out for them.
When Sasha sees a person or a dog, instead of holding her tight and trying to distract her with food, they will move away. Food will be used to reinforce good manners with the dog or person in sight but not too close. ‘Distracting’ her teaches her nothing.
They can still take her to the river, but by car for now. They dare not let her off lead and walking close on a short lead must be so frustrating for her with exciting sniffs out of reach. It will be more fulfilling for Sasha if they walk her on a long line while they work hard on recall.
They need not worry if they don’t give Sasha a ‘proper’ walk every single day for now so long as they spend the time on walking calmly near to home. We know that even as an adult street dog, choosing for herself what she did, she won’t have covered miles every day.
There are plenty of other things that they can do to enrich her life without overstimulating her, including brain games, hunting and foraging for food.
Although it’s in the overstimulating world outside where they have trouble, there are things to do in her daily life at home that will give them the best ‘platform’ to work from.
It will take time. They have already proved that they are dedicated and patient people.