We did some training with distractions today and he did fairly well. We had two strangers in the room, one in a cowboy hat and one in a hoodie. They at first stood in a corner while we worked and Luko did a good job of ignoring them. Then we faced the pair and we pretended we were walking on a crowded street and we asked Luko to Heel me while we walked between them. He reached to sniff the leg of the person wearing the hat but other than that did not react at all. All of this is with the Thundershirt and slip chain on.
After this we asked Luko to hold a Down Stay while the strangers walked towards him in turn. When he succeeded with that we had the smaller person (the one in the hat) stomp towards him as if she were angry with him. He did not growl or get up but he was clearly uncomfortable. He did a very good job, however, and did not break from his Down.
We then put a crawling, giggling baby doll on the floor and had it crawl past him. I am not convinced he was fooled because he wanted to approach it. I wish I had a safe way to involve an actual child in the training. I will brainstorm to see if there is any way to test this safely.
Tomorrow I am goin to be taking him into town. We will start in South Park and go as far as he can without panicking. I will not allow people to pet him even if he is doing well. Perhaps on Wednesday when we go in again we can practice interacting with strangers. The two strangers we worked with today he was not afraid of or aggressive towards. In fact he happily approached them and gave kisses and even played with the stranger in the hoodie. All very promising things.
His obedience is going just fine. I am happy with his progress and his responsiveness. He is no longer pulling even while on a leisurely walk when he is not in a strict Heel command. I attribute this partially to using a leather leash. He has been on an elastic leash so far and he learned that by pulling ahaid he could get farther. When he pulls on the leather obedience leash he just engages his collar and he has learned that it is much more comfortable to walk with the leash loose. He sure does figure things out quickly.
He has settled in nicely here. He crates up without a fight and seems to be thriving in the routine of his day. Grumpy Ted, my shepherd mix who hates everybody, was observed cuddling with Luko last night. We may possibly have a bromance on our hands. All in all Luko is making an impression on everyone here at Free State K-9 and his sense of humor is keeping us all very entertained.
Thank you Caitlin and Joe for your help today!