One thing became clear fairly quickly when I started taking Rain on walks: she was really, really barky.
On Labor Day weekend, we took her out of town to do a couple of short hikes in the Columbia River Gorge. The first site was hopping—lots of people hiking, many with their dogs. She barked her head off each time we encountered one of her own kind on the trail. At the halfway point I was mortified and mentally exhausted.
We also take a morning walk around our neighborhood park. Sometimes, nobody was there in the morning and things were fine. Sometimes, Rain would get into a tizzy about a series of distractions: a group of homeless kids sitting on the curb outside the park, garbage trucks passing by, the groundskeeper making noise while cleaning bathrooms.
At first I chalked it up to Rain not having had much exposure to the world. It wasn’t until I tried to sign her up for an obedience class and wondered if her barkiness would be an issue that we started finding her real training need.
Rain already went through a beginning obedience course when she was young, and gets enough practice that she didn’t really need to take a class. It would be a refresher. But the teacher wanted to meet with us to see how much barking we were talking about.
Between the time we set up this appointment and when we actually went, I had discovered a class offered at Oregon Humane Society called Reactive Rover, specially designed for dogs who get crazy while on leash. Surely Oregon Humane Society was particularly suited to helping barky dogs, considering the many dogs with behavioral issues that come through their doors! It sounded like a better fit for our needs, but I had committed to at least meeting the other trainer.
The trainer agreed when we met, adding that having a disruptive dog in such a basic class is also asking too much of other students—usually new owners who aren’t very experienced at being a handler. (She said this as we tried to have a conversation over Rain’s very loud barks. Rain had gotten bored exploring the room and was demanding attention.)
It was great to finally get some forward direction that evening, but then a staff person at Oregon Humane Society advised me that dogs that would react to hearing other dogs still may not be ready for Reactive Rover.
How does such a smart dog keep getting sent further down the ladder for training? What else was there to do if we can’t even get in to Reactive Rover? I thought. I made a (very expensive) one-on-one appointment with one of the Oregon Humane Society trainers.
A few days later we met Jenna, one of the Oregon Humane Society trainers who helps teach Reactive Rover. By the end of our hour together, Jenna had Rain settled enough that we were able to converse easily. Before we left that evening, Rain also walked on leash near another dog without barking! Jenna said that Rain would be fine in Reactive Rover and gave us some exercises to practice until we were able to start class.
We started our work. In just a few days I could tell Rain was behaving differently when she was over at my house.
It has now been a couple of weeks since that meeting, and Rain continues showing improvement!