So in fairytales, the woods are at the same time places of enchantment and danger. This doesn’t seem to be the case for Spencer. As far as he’s concerned, it’s all good.
Because of his fear aggression, Spencer doesn’t get a lot of freedom: we keep him on leash at the park, we carefully choose which dogs and owners to let him near, and he wears a muzzle when we aren’t confident of being able to keep him at a safe distance from people.
In the woods, he still wears his muzzle, but we put him on a long line and give him the illusion of freedom. We still try to keep him at a safe distance from people, but somehow joggers and bikers still manage to surprise us. This past weekend, Spencer found himself face-to-face with several people in the woods. And basically he paid them almost no heed and came back to base when called.
Part of the benefit of the long lead is we can’t accidentally convey tension down the line. So he gets no signal that contradicts his general glow of happiness as he sniffs his way through the forest.
We’re trying to figure out how to use what we’re observing there in his urban training environment, where he is significantly less relaxed, but still making progress, even if it’s uneven and slow.