Rocky has been spooking more lately than he has over the summer. I think it's because I have focused my attention on sensitizing him to my cues without putting much (if any) time into desensitizing him to the world at large. He was so steady for me this summer, I think I took his calm nature for granted rather than doing upkeep on him like I should have been. He hasn't done anything major, but I want to nip this in the bud before he gets worse.
The last time I took him out for a trail ride, he spooked a few times at some grouse that flew up and away from us in some pines. At first he just stopped and snorted, side stepping a little but otherwise just watching the trees intently. Bear helped out by trotting over to where the grouse had been, sniffing around and then looking at me to see where I wanted to go next. He's a good dog. Later, a grouse flew up from somewhere behind us and Rocky scooted forward a few feet in alarm before coming to a stop mostly on his own- my reflexes were a bit behind. Oops.
Overall, he still did what he was supposed to do as far as not taking off in a mad panic, but he still wasn't as quiet as I like him to be. My barn owner has put up a horse obstacle course designed for desensitizing, so Rocky and I have been spending a good chunk of time with that. So far, she has hung a tarp between two trees that has been cut in strips, so it flaps in the wind or hangs there, depending on the weather. There is also a line hung with plastic bottles that rattle and bounce off the horse as they move through it. Two tires that can be stepped through or around make up one of the last obstacles. Rocky doesn't like them but he really doesn't like the last one- a tarp that has been stapled to parallel boards. He is positive that tarp is going to swallow him whole or something equally disastrous will happen.
We spent a good hour and a half on the ground tarp a few days ago. He stops, scoots backwards, snorts heavily, and generally exhibits great distrust of that obstacle. By the end of that time, I was getting him to back over the boards with some success. He drags his feet terribly when he backs up, so it was a good exercise in encouraging him to actually LIFT his feet up. A few times he would drag the tarp thing toward him with his backwards shuffle, and his eyes would get big as he hustled off it.
It's a work in progress, but we'll get there.