Burrito Wrangling Update # 13 (& a #throwbackthursday): Today, there were two incidents where crazy dogs were barking at him relentlessly from behind a fence (one wood, one chain-link). During both events, I was able to get Murphy to sit with his back to the dogs, look at me, and take treats. The craziest thing is that he didn't pull on his leash for the entire walk. I have literally been working on this with Murph for years, and never had much success until now. Positive reinforcement is so counter-intuitive due to public misconceptions (that I certainly had) about dog behavior (i.e., giving a treat when the dog is reacting is not rewarding the behavior, it's redirecting his attention and helping to change his underlying feelings about whatever is causing him to react) but is well worth time investment because it works like nothing else (and is humane)!
Murphy's transformation during his walks has been so monumental that yesterday, he sat calmly and let an elderly woman walk towards him and pet his face (he is reactive around white haired elderly women and my dad). The whole scene went like this:
Woman: Oh what a cute dog, what kind is he?
Me: A pit bull terrier (the woman starts to amble over)
Woman: Oh! He's just so cute and well behaved.
Me: Actually he's aggressive, so it would be best if you didn't get too close.
Woman: Whaaat? I can't hear you, let me just come a bit closer dear.
Me: (calmly asking Murph to sit, which he did, and then I proceeded to give him tripe continuously while the woman touched him and talked to me about pit bulls).
Woman: What a lovely well behaved dog! (No joke, she said this)
Again, mega-thanks to our invaluable trainer Train Without Pain! If anyone is looking for more information about dog psychology and +R training, I would *highly* recommend "At the Other End of the Leash" by Dr. Patricia McConnell #burritowrangling