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Walk skills backsliding - any success stories welcome!

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Hiii everyone! Quite a while back - pre-summer, I think - I posted about how Kevin (now age 1 year, 4 months) would go after my ankles when crossing streets. It hasn't been an issue for mooonths and mooonths - maybe not since August! He has been able to cross all streets that do not have triggering sound-emitting crosswalks like a total champ. We have been taking the same 2ish mile walk for about a month now and I have a goal of being able to walk him down to the water, which involves crossing one big street. Yesterday I decided to give it a try: it was Sunday morning, early, little traffic, few people out. Perfect time to try. 

But alas: new surroundings, despite the small number of cars and people, were super overwhelming for him, and long story short, on the way back he went after my ankles three times while crossing streets. Something he hasn't done in MONTHS. I decided not to walk him for the rest of the day (he was totally exhausted after this, it took us an hour and fifteen minutes to walk 2.3 miles), we just chilled at home, played in the courtyard, potty on the street right outside. My husband walked him when he got home in the evening and Kev went after his ankles while crossing a super easy street that's close to home. Argh.

SO! here's the plan: we are going to cross NO streets this week. We'll just walk around the block 2 or 3 times for each walk - right turns only! It won't be exciting for any of us, but my thinking is that if we don't give him the opportunity to ever want to go for our ankles (the trigger is stepping off the sidewalk into the street), then it won't happen. And if it doesn't happen, he'll forget that he even wants to do it.

I'm bummed that we have to go back to boring walks for a while but I feel confident this behavior will fizzle out again. I'd love to hear any stories you all might have of "things were going great - and then they weren't! And then it got better again" just to boost our household morale! :D


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Curious if any of your sidewalk crossings have wheelchair access, then you wouldn't have to step down into the street?  Also, is Kev okay on stairs?

I train border collies to herd sheep, and I have more examples of "two steps forward, one step back" than you can imagine.  Sustained progress usually comes from fairness and consistency in training, and figuring out what really works for the individual dog.

Good luck and I'm sure others will have more helpful advice!


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Actually a backsliding's a pretty common experience. Just had an entire day of it with a recently adopted dog.

Training issues aside, there's definitely something triggering anxiety at these crossings for Kevin. I'd be inclined consider something to help reduce the anxiety, like some sort of calming agent. There are many treats made with various combinations of calming herbs. I've used several with success (https://smile.amazon.com/Pet-Naturals-Vermont-Behavior-Bite-Sized/dp/B07FRCY4MW/ref=sr_1_9?keywords=pet+naturals+of+vermont+calming&qid=1578927254&s=pet-supplies&sr=1-9 You can safely double the dose), also melatonin (dose can also be doubled) and CBD oil. Not all work with all dogs so you might have to try several of them before hitting on the right one that helps.

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The good news is there is a learning curve for everything, and regressing is a part of it.  Never trained anything that did not regress at some time...so do not get discouraged. Sometimes it may not be regressing, however, it also may not be progressing. (That's like when your 4 foot stay is solid, but you just can't get that 6 foot stay to happen.)  So it just levels out before progressing again.   Also normal.  Just stay calm, be patient, back up a little in training and work through it. Know that what he learned is not lost or forgotten.  It will come back.  :D

Years ago I noticed that in my beginner dog classes, dogs would start regressing between the 4th and 5th week.  It was amazing how consistent the regression was.  That is, the dog would have been doing well up to those weeks, and then it would come to class and act like it never even heard of the words sit, down, stay or come.  And the owners would just look totally confused because they had been doing their homework all along.  Got past those couple weeks and then it was back to normal.  It happened too often to be a fluke.  It was then I realized how regression plays a part in learning. 

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Update: after Joey walked Kev yesterday morning with no street crossing issues on the small streets, I decided to feel it out and let Kevin lead me on a walk (we just went wherever he wanted to go, which was of course the park two blocks away) so I didn't follow my protocol to a T - and it was totally fine. We didn't do any big, loud streets, but he was totally fine crossing the small streets that had set him off the day before, after our too-much-too-soon adventure. So perhaps (shocker of all shockers) I overreacted (gasp) and was too worried. But I do still plan to wait out the week before going on anything further afield with him, just in case. Still, I'm feeling heartened!

@GentleLake Interesting suggestion! With the exception of that walk on Sunday, he really isn't triggered by street crossings; he's been totally fine on them. If the street is heavily trafficked with cars (like at a crosswalk in the road, but without a light), then I will have him sit and get calm for a second first, kind of just to center him, and then we go - no problem. If the street doesn't have a lot of cars, we just cross and he's fine. So with this particular incident, I think it was triggered by the newness of the area, which makes me think a calming agent doesn't make as much sense as just exposure and desensitization to new areas.

That said.....

Joey feels frustrated with how very gradually we have to take each step of Kevin's training - like, why can't we just go to a new place and everything is fine!?  In that sense, yeah, he's a totally anxious dog. But still - I feel that as long as we're doing something to train him, then we're doing something worthwhile; we're just at his level. So: I walk Kevin down to the big street and we sit beside it and eat tiny pieces of steak and then turn around and go home without crossing said big street. Sure, it would be awesome if our training that day were walking on the big huge street - but he isn't there yet. My hope is that one day, after more exposure, he'll be like yeah, I can cross this street, let's do it. (That's one where the noise-making light is unavoidable).

He's good on stairs - I think it's less the actual process of stepping down into the street, and more the concept of crossing (I think he's probably worried about the cars).

And thanks  @amc and @beachdogz - so glad to hear that it's a normal part of the learning curve!



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7 hours ago, KevTheDog said:

Joey feels frustrated with how very gradually we have to take each step of Kevin's training - like, why can't we just go to a new place and everything is fine!?

Might help to remind Joey that everyone has his or her own learning speed. My guess is that if he thought back over his life, most especially when he was a  child, he could think of something that took him a while to learn or to get used to. Maybe he was scared the first week of a new school, or it took him a long time to learn to do a sport he plays really well or whatever. That frustration is counter-productive and damaging to everyone.

It is what it is, and you have to work with the dog you have today. Progress will definitely be made, but if he gets frustrated with the dog it will be slower than if he is accepting and patient.

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So, you have what you admit is an anxious dog who by this example sometimes backslides into anxious acting out . . . but you don't want to entertain the possibility that a supplement to calm his general anxiety could be helpful?

OK. Your dog, your choice. I respect that. What I'm having trouble with is the blinders you're wearing. You have no way of knowing what nervousness Kevin may be constantly fighting silently.

I have an anxious dog too. Sometimes it interferes with her daily life and other times it doesn't. It's not always predictable to me when those times are or what the triggers are. She's on CBD oil regularly and sometimes a supplemental calming treat in situations where I know she might have (or previously has had) an issue. She's much more comfortable in her own skin and has fewer meltdowns because of this. IOW life is better for her in the whole.

Just sayin' . . .

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@GentleLake touche!  In fact...yesterday at the vet, we were recommended a supplement for anxiety, and your having mentioned it so close to when we talked to the vet definitely had the seed planted in my mind. So we are going to be starting up on a product - something called Aptus Relax; there's no CBD here in Sweden - and we'll see how that goes! Fingers crossed. I do have some blinders - he's always perfectly fine at home and in our general neighborhood, and I guess I've been thinking more in terms of puppy behavior - "ah, he's just a puppy, this is maturity; training and time will fix it" - rather than in terms of generalized anxiety.

@D'Elle - indeed. Luckily, the frustration tends to come out more in conversation than in actual practice - more a feeling than an action. In fact, I may have mischaracterized what's going on: he's certainly not doing anything negative in walks/training. It's more that when we talk about Kevin's training and walks, we both feel like this is something we have to take painstakingly slowly, which is frustrating, when you think about it for too long. Then you move on! In practice, Joey's actions are great. A very patient dog dad!

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