Beginning Friday, May 1st, I will be running a month-long Reactive Dog Course from my business Facebook page. This course is free to anyone of any skill level and any dog!
If your dog barks and lunges at other dogs (or people, cars, etc) on leash, this course will help you. Their motivation can be fear, excitement or over-friendliness – the course will still help.
The rules are simple.
- Each day, I will post a new simple task, skill, activity or tip to my Facebook page.
- There will be a weekly “theme” and tasks will be in progressive order to mimic the structure of an in-person class.
- You can follow along on your own, or you can enter the contest by taking a photo or video of your participation daily and saving it to be later submitted in a photo collage or video compilation.
- At the end of the course, a random number will be drawn to see who wins the prize!
- I can answer simple questions on the Facebook page, but for more complex issues or challenges, please contact me for online consulting options.
- R+ training and equipment only please!
To join the course, follow and like my Facebook page!
May 1 2020
Welcome to Four Weeks to Fewer Freakouts! Let’s get started!
As an introductory lesson I want to just say a few words about reactivity. All dogs “react” to things in their environment, so when we talk about “reactive” dogs, we are usually meaning dogs who *over* react to things they encounter. Usually this looks like barking, staring, whining, lunging, snapping or otherwise “freaking out”. This behaviour is often directed at other dogs, but can also be towards people, things with wheels, prey animals, etc. A lot of the time, this behaviour only occurs while the dog is on leash or otherwise restrained or contained by a barrier, and I’ll talk more about why that is in a future lesson. I’ll also talk more about why this behaviour occurs, but dogs often bark at things they are afraid of, or when they are frustrated. In my experience, leash reactivity is often a combination! You may also be wondering what the difference is between reactivity and aggression. Behaviour professionals don’t all agree, but for the purpose of this online course I am specifically addressing the behaviours of barking and lunging at dogs or people outside the family. Dogs who have bitten people or other dogs, who guard items, who are extremely fearful, who fight with other dogs in the family, or who react badly to people within their own family may benefit from these exercises, but their behaviour is beyond the scope of what we’re doing here.
Our first task will be an easy one! I’d like to see a picture of the dog you’re hoping to work with during this course. Tomorrow we will go over what your dog reacts to and why. Feel free to share your dog’s photo below, or you can save your pics for the final submission. Remember, you must “Like” Ethical Canine’s Facebook page to enter!
May 2 2020
Welcome to Day 2! Today we are going to get a little geeky – behaviour style. A “functional assessment” is a behaviour analysis term for breaking down and sorting out what’s happening when your dog “freaks out”. After all, while it’s a catchy title, “freak out” isn’t a very helpful term. If I was meeting you in person, I’d ask you to tell me what exactly happens when your dog freaks out, what causes them to freak out, and what happens in response to a freak out. Today your task is to write down (or type, or whatever you find the most helpful) these three things as they apply to your dog’s reactivity. You’ll start with the Behaviour (be specific in what your dog does when they react), and then the Antecedent (which technically comes first, but go with me here) – that’s whatever in the environment causes the behaviours to begin. And finally the Consequence, or what happens when the dog does the Behaviours (either from you the handler or the environment. For example: my dog barks (behaviour) at people walking past my front window (antecedent) and so I close the blinds (curtains). We aren’t talking yet about what we *should* be doing, just getting an idea of the situation as it is. And if you’d like more geekery, read this article by the amazing Eileen Anderson! Share a picture of either your Functional Assessment or of something your dog reacts at below! PS Just as a reminder, if you miss a post or want to check the contest rules, they’re all posted on my website!
May 3 2020
Today we are keeping things simple, but simple things are still important for reactive dogs. We are going to talk about equipment – specifically, the equipment you use to walk your reactive dog. We want our equipment to be safe, secure, and comfortable for you and your dog. I could easily talk for a whole class about equipment – and there are seemingly endless options out there, between harnesses and leashes and even treat pouches. I’m going to give you a basic outline for what you need to be set up for success.
For your dog: walking equipment that is as non-restrictive as possible, but still allows you to feel like you have control and prevents your dog from escaping. I like harnesses (make sure your front clip harness does not droop in the front and get in your dog’s legs) or head halters for very strong dogs. If you’re concerned about escaping, you can also attach your leash to both your collar and harness. A martingale collar is a collar with a section that tightens, fabric or chain, and they are excellent backups for dogs who may get out of their harness. I don’t like to use them on their own, because when a dog reacts, pressure on a collar very quickly adds to frustration which feeds reactivity. Some equipment, such as muzzles or head halters, may require some training for your dog to feel comfortable in, so work on that before you head out.
For you: a pouch for your treats (seriously, the ease that you can get to your treats will make a huge difference in your training, and pockets usually won’t cut it. You may also want a bag of some sort to carry extra supplies such as extra treats, poop bags, and toys. You will want to have your hands as free as possible.
For today’s task, post a picture of your dog in their walking gear! (Please note, I don’t suggest collars that function through suppression such as choke,pinch or shock. There are many reasons for this and if you’re using one of these tools and would like to switch, you are welcome to contact me for a consult!)
May 4 2020
Welcome to Day 4! Today we will have another simple task – treats! First of all, it’s important to note that there is no “magic” treat that will solve your reactivity problems. However, I have had many clients impressed with their dog’s increased responsiveness when we upped the treat value from “yes he likes it” to “wow I’ve never seen him so interested!”. Most dogs have a treat value scale, and it’s worth it to you to find out what your dog’s is, and use it to your advantage – the highest value treats only come out during “training around triggers” time! To give you an example, my dog’s scale would be:
No Value – blueberries and oranges
Low Value – kibble
Medium Value – Commercial treats like Zukes, Rollover etc.
Medium High – Cheese sticks, hot dogs
High Value – Roasted chicken, deli meat
If you don’t know your dog’s treat scale, do a taste test! It’s fun and easy. And remember, even those dogs who love ALL food, will notice a high value treat 😉
To play along today, share a picture of your dog’s treat, especially if it’s something unusual that they love!
May 5 2020
Welcome to Day 5! Today we are talking about a bit of a more complicated topic – management. Simply put, management is when we control the environment so that problematic behaviour isn’t practiced. We aren’t actually training the dog, but by not repeating barking and lunging, we *are* helping. Most behaviours are reinforced (which is why they continue) and so every time a dog practices, the behaviour gets a teensy bit stronger and harder to change. Because reactivity is also strongly linked to frustration, the dog gets unpleasant feelings when they react, which leads to their responses to triggers creating almost reflexive unpleasant feelings.
With dogs who are reactive to other dogs, people, or vehicles, that can make it challenging to exercise our dogs appropriately. However, it’s important that we find ways to mentally and physically fulfill them that don’t increase their stress rather than decrease it. If your daily excursions with your dog are full of corrections, frustration and barking/lunging, you may be doing more harm than good. Today’s task is to share a picture of your dog doing their favourite mental or physical activity that you do together. Also please check out this great article on the importance of management.
May 6 2020
It’s Day 6! Today we begin to venture into training, with a small but very helpful tool – a marker. Some of you may have been using a marker for years, some may not, and some may have been using a marker without realizing it! A marker is simply a signal (a word, a sound, a clicker, a whistle) that indicates to your learner that reinforcement is available. It is helpful because it allows you as the trainer to precisely capture behaviours you want. When the learner makes the connection between the marker and the reinforcement (reward), they will offer marked behaviours more often. You can use a marker with or without a verbal cue – so, you can ask your dog to sit verbally, mark with your clicker or word as soon as their bum hits the ground and then follow with a treat, OR you can mark/treat whenever your dog makes eye contact with you on a walk, without specifically asking for it. Markers are especially useful with our reactive dogs, as we sometimes need to reinforce behaviours that happen quickly, such as noticing a trigger, looking away from a clicker, making eye contact or turning away. Response to a marker is also helpful as a gauge for threshold level: if you mark a behaviour, you should see your dog orient to you in anticipation of their reinforcer. If not, they may be too worried/excited/close to reacting, and you should move away.
Your assignment today is to share your marker, and if you don’t yet have one, pick one and practice using it! For more, have a look at this article:
May 7 2020
Day 7! At the end of the first week already. Today I’m focusing on the human and of the leash. As someone who’s had reactive dogs in my life in one way or another for the past 15 years, I know that it can be stressful. You may have been told that you’ve caused your dogs’ issues, or that things will be better if you’d “just relax” or “Calm down”. Well, one of the least effective ways to promote relaxation is to just tell someone to calm down!
Today’s task is to think of something that helps you relax.
It might be something that you do out on a walk with your reactive dog: for example, it can be helpful to teach your dog to wear a muzzle if you’re anxious about a bite, or it might be comforting to walk with another person or a group so you’ve got backup if you encounter off leash dogs. Perhaps you have an item of clothing or a vest for your dog that helps people give you space. Or maybe you have some effective breathing techniques! It could also be something you do in your life that helps you de-stress and recharge – without your dog. It is OK to have non-dog time! Ultimately your reactive dog will benefit from you being in a better head space to help them out.
May 8 2020
Day 8 Activity! We are beginning Week 2 already, and we’re going to start getting into some training activities. Because we are doing one a day, I’m going to keep it simple – and at this point we are still working below threshold (not around our triggers!) Because we are concentrating on leash reactivity and barrier frustration, we are looking not only at training that helps our dogs be more calm around triggers, but also exercises that reduce frustration.
Your assignment for today is to watch the attached video – it’s a fascinating video capture of how frustration and tension impacts behaviour. Your participation task is to post a picture of your dog standing or sitting by your side with a loose leash. Not walking, just still, and it can be in your house or yard or anywhere. And you don’t need to be in the picture, just your dog (if you don’t have anyone to take the pic). This will be the theme for the rest of the week so start thinking! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSRQ9o22KG8
May 9 2020
Welcome to Day 9 and our next training task. Today we are working on changing our dogs’ response to leash pressure. If you’ve ever pulled on your dogs’ leash to get them to stop smelling something or change direction, you probably have noticed their posture change as they brace against the leash. This is natural, and their response to feeling pressure (humans do it too!) But in a tense situation, we want our dogs to have a different association with feeling leash pressure. Ideally, we want to teach them to move *without* using the leash – with verbal cues, with lures, targets or other behaviours. However, in the event we might need to use the leash, we want them to see leash pressure as an opportunity to follow and be rewarded for it.
Your assignment for today is to watch the video, and to practice! And to participate, I’d like you to share a picture of your hand on the leash or harness Giving In To Leash Pressure
May 10 2020
Day 10 – are you ready? Time to get to work on some loose leash walking basics. Why do we care about loose leash walking? Aren’t we here to fix reactivity? If your dog walks on a tight leash, you’re setting yourself up for more trouble in terms of reactivity. First, tension on the leash feeds into reactivity, especially because as you approach or encounter triggers many people instinctively tighten up on the leash. Second, if your dog is out in front of you pulling, you’re at a disadvantage in terms of triggers. Your dog may see them before you, and it will also be much more difficult to get their focus back with you.
I don’t believe that it’s necessary for dogs to walk right by your side in a perfect heel, even for reactive dogs. That’s no fun for dogs and useless for decompression. However, you can have your dog do dog activities and enjoy their walk while still maintaining connection with you.
Your task for today is to introduce the Follow Game. Start on leash in a low distraction, safe place. Take a step, encourage your dog to follow, and feed them a treat in “the heel zone” – right by your pant seam. That’s where you want them to gravitate back to. Then try two steps – change up your direction as often as you want. Treat, then try three steps. Keep going until you “lose” your dog, then start over! If you need a nice example, see this video (and Instinct Dog Training has a really amazing free series on Reactive Dogs on YouTube!)
Your participation task is to just share a pic of your leash. What do you love about it? What would you change if you could?
Note: My exercise and the video make it look easy, but many people and their dogs struggle a lot with loose leash walking, for a variety of reasons. I’m going to get you started in this course, but if you are having a hard time, please contact me! I love to teach connected walking and it’s so satisfying when it finally happens.
May 11 2020
It’s Day 11! We are continuing along the path to loose leash walking – an under-explored and yet crucial skill for reactive dogs. If you have a pulling dog, you’ve probably tried many things – equipment, changing direction, stopping and starting. You also might have gotten really frustrated with these strategies! The thing is, that walking on a loose leash (not heeling) comes down to getting your dog to walk at the same speed as you do. Many dogs struggle with that – perhaps because they have a naturally fast walking/trotting speed, but often because they are over-aroused by the environment. For these dogs, stopping and starting can increase frustration. If this sounds like your dog, I’d like you to try out doing some circles. If you have ever worked with horses, this will seem familiar – you are asking your dog to move in loops to release energy and frustration, but at the same time not moving forward until they are able to keep some slack in the leash (not right next to you, just a slack leash). I’m linking a blog article here, but for more info there are videos on YouTube, and a lot of material offered by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy.
Your participation assignment for today is to try the circle exercise (you will find it easier if you use an open area rather than a sidewalk) and then post a picture of a circle that you find appealing
May 12 2020
Day 12 – the leash skills continue. Today is a simple skill but one that you may find very useful. It’s called the “Arc By” and it involves just changing your path to include a wide arc when passing something. Dogs naturally move in arcs – it’s how they often approach each other, or something they are uncertain of. Being able to move in an arc to pass something or someone will help your dog feel more relaxed and will also send a calming signal to other dogs. It’s easy to visualize what this exercise looks like in this time of social distancing – just approach, make a large bracket out, and then return to your original path. Try it with your dog on the outside and on the inside as the exercise will feel different depending on what side you have them on.
Check out this video by Chirag Patel of an interaction between two intact male dogs (there’s no conflict/fight). Notice all the arcs they make! For participation, I’d like you to set up a distraction (not something your dog is reactive to but something they might want to get to) and practice doing arc bys. Share a picture of what you used as a distraction!
May 13 2020
Welcome to Day 13 – Leash Skills continue! Sensing a theme yet? Today’s skill is a bit more advanced – but if you’ve worked with me before you’ve probably done it already. However, I don’t think there’s such a thing as too much practicing of this skill: Let’s Go or the Emergency U Turn. There are a few steps to this skill, but the essence of it is to get your dog to happily follow you instead of having to drag them – even if they have already begun reacting. This is why the Let’s Go needs to be practiced without triggers a lot! The end product should look like your dog is chasing you happily 🙂 Again, the leash can be used if you must, but ideally we work up to the dog following you in response to a verbal cue and your body language.
Your assignment is to practice this skill and get your dog to follow you without using the leash! For participation, post what your cue is for this skill. Remember, the cue means “Follow me” – it can be used when you change direction or continue in the same direction.
Here’s a video if you have not done this before!
May 14 2020
Day 14! I’m trying to follow the theme of relaxation on the last day of the week. Today, we are talking about “Decompression Walks”. This term came from Sarah Stremming at The Cognitive Canine, but the concept of allowing your reactive dog restorative exercise has been around for a long time! We have discussed a variety of mental and physical exercises that we do with our reactive dogs, but a decompression walk specifically refers to allowing your dog to move their bodies in a relaxed and natural way. Even though off leash in a forest seems like the only way to do this, you do have options! You can use long lines, you can use parking lots, you can use a friend’s property, you can rent a space – get creative! Have a read over this article, and your participation task is to share a picture of where, or the type of place that you do decompression walks. If you don’t currently do them, share a picture of where you might give it at try (such as an empty church parking lot).
May 15 2020
Day 15! Can you believe we are half way through? This week we are going to start working around our triggers. Of course, that means we have to know where to find them! It’s always difficult to make significant process while training “in the wild” – or encountering unpredictable triggers while out on walks. Depending on where you live, you may have various problems. If you live rurally, you may not see other dogs at all. If you live in the city, you may find other dogs inescapable! Either way, you will benefit from finding a way to work around triggers at a safe distance. Depending on what your dog’s main trigger is, you have options! From fenced in dog parks to biking trails to parking lots to asking a friend for help, there are a lot of options available. Your assignment today is to look at your original Functional Assessment and think of one place where you can safely encounter each of their triggers. You do NOT have to go there (unless you want to take a car trip out and scout the spot without your dog), but think of an option! Ideally you are going to one place and hanging out for a period of time (you don’t have to go for a walk for example). To participate, share a picture of either where you plan on going or the type of place you’re thinking of (a parking lot, a park, etc).
May 16 2020
Welcome to Day 16! Today an easy but helpful exercise to warm up for looking at triggers. As you probably have done before, we are going to be feeding your dog for looking calmly at a trigger. However, there’s a difference between a dog distractedly crunching a treat while they stare at another dog, and a dog who cheerfully disengages to orient to you for their reward. I would like your dog to be facing you and turned away from the trigger when you reward them – doing this allows us to prevent them from pulling you closer to the trigger, make sure that they understand what we are reinforcing them for, and also gives us an understanding of their threshold (if they won’t turn to you for their treat, you need more space!)
So today, your assignment is to practice bringing your dog “front” and feeding them. I am attaching another video from Instinct Training’s excellent Reactive Dog series, this one shows 3 techniques – the Let’s Go, the Arc By, and the Front and Feed. Do not yet do this around triggers – just in a safe training place! Your participation task is to share a pic of your dog’s nose 😉 (because that’s what you should see when you’re feeding them!)
May 17 2020
Happy Day 17! When are we finally going to get working around those triggers, you ask? We are getting there! Today we will have a look at the exercise of many names – you may have heard Look At That, or Engage/Disengage, or another name. But essentially what we are doing is capturing the act of your dog looking at/noticing a trigger and *not* reacting – or at least not fully reacting. Today, your assignment is to read or re-familiarize yourself with the Engage/Disengage exercise, and have you and your dog practice with something that they are interested in, but not reactive to. Examples are: a person they like, a snack, a toy, a noise – be creative! And a reminder – we are starting only with step 1 or the Engage part! To recap:
You will be hanging out with your dog on a loose leash, a clicker or verbal marker, and a bunch of yummy treats.
A distraction will appear (you could use a helper for this, or throw a distraction, or…)
Your dog will look in the direction of the fun distraction.
You will very quickly mark, and then step back and feed your dog in front of you.
For your participation task, share a picture of what you’re using as a fun distraction to play the game.
May 18 2020
Day 18: Today’s the day! Today it’s time to practice Engage/Disengage with triggers. Doesn’t have to be a long time, doesn’t have to be a lot of triggers, but you should be seeing:
1) Your dog notices the trigger but remains under threshold
2) Your leash is loose
3) You mark/click as SOON as your dog notices the trigger
4) You feed them facing you (you can talk and cheer as well!)
Review the handout from yesterday on the engage disengage game. Here is a great very quick video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH0lJFJQvdo
Your participation task for today is share a picture of your favourite long weekend activity with your dog! Social distancing friendly of course (so you can share a past picture if you like).
May 19 2020
Day 19! Today I’d like you to continue working with triggers. You might be thinking, however, what do I do with my dog in between triggers? If you are training in a new location, your dog might find it hard to relax. Or if you have a pocket full of high value treats, your dog might be bugging you to earn them! Before you go out to train, you should decide what your session will look like, from start to finish. Here an example:
1) I arrive at a training space and get myself prepared. If my dog is very excited or anxious I might give them a snuffle mat to help them relax a bit while I get ready. I’ll get my treat pouch on, treats loaded, clicker/marker ready, set up my camera if needed, and decide where my working area will be.
2) Get the dog all dressed and ready before letting them out of the car. Let them sniff/explore and acclimate to the training area a bit.
3) We’ve been over the process of working with the clicker, but decide what to do in between triggers. If your dog doesn’t know what you expect, they may become more anxious. Here are some options: lie down and relax (most dogs can’t do this but some can!), do some alternative behaviours such as obedience or tricks, play with a toy (just watch how far they get from you), walk around and allow some decompression sniffing, practice loose leash walking, practice your platform work (I’ll talk about this more in a future post), or even hang out in your car. What would your dog prefer to do?
Your participation task today is to share a picture of your dog’s favourite behaviour (you can post a pic of them doing it, or a pic of an example, etc).
May 20 2020
Welcome to Day 20! It’s been great having you along so far. Today we are going to combine a few of the skills we already have. Dogs are really good at learning one skill in a very specific context – but sometimes they struggle with doing the same skill with very minor environmental changes! (If you want to see this in action, lie down on the floor and ask your dog to sit;) )
Today’s combo is to work on skills with your dog by your side, in “heel’ position. We are combining loose leash walking, with eye contact, with feeding while moving. So your dog is walking along with you, you ask for eye contact or attention (can use your dog’s name if they don’t have an eye contact cue), and then you mark and feed, while you continue walking. It sounds easy but it does need coordination! If this is something you have mastered, then try the next step up and practice engage/disengage while moving as well!
For participation, share a pic of which hand you use to feed your dog a treat – right or left?
May 21 2020
It’s Day 21! Three weeks in, and the last day of the Intro to Triggers week. We are continuing to build on a combo of behaviours today. Today our chain of skills is:
1) Re-call (call your dog to come back to you)
2) Play Look At That (either in heel position or in front of you)
This course doesn’t specifically look at re-call training, but I’m sharing my favourite video here: The Bacon Re-Call! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1T1a3_1ouqY
Your participation task for today is to post what your dog’s re-call cue word is!
May 22 2020
It’s Day 22! I want you to keep practicing around triggers, but for our final week we are going to introduce a few advanced concepts!
Today I want to talk about Incompatible Behaviours. In training lingo this is sometimes referred to as DRI – or “differential reinforcement of incompatible behaviours”. The important thing to remember though, is the concept of “do this instead of that”.
Our foundation behaviour of “engage/disenage” is essentially a DRI – you are feeding the dog for looking at a trigger and not reacting instead of looking and reacting. In many cases (especially those with frustrated dogs), adding in other behaviours in the presence of a trigger can be really helpful as well. It gives the dog something to do, and as long as the behaviours have been taught with positive reinforcement, they also feel happy while performing the behaviours. And this happiness can help them feel better about triggers! It’s a win/win/win. One last use for “do this not that’ behaviours is that it gives us a good sense of our dogs’ thresholds. If we ask them for a simple behaviour like a touch or eye contact and they can’t, we know they are too worried or stressed and we need to back it up.
Some examples of “do this not that” behaviours are: touch, watch me, sit, down, paws up, shake, back up, roll over, place…basically anything!
Your homework is to build up your “stable” of behaviours that your dog can do. Reinforce for each and every one, even if they know them well. And your participation task is to post a pic of them doing their favourite!
May 23 2020
Welcome to Day 23! I hope you’re seeing some positive change in some of your dogs’ behaviours. Today we are going to talk about some ways you can use platforms or stations to help your reactive dog. A platform is anything that acts as a “station” for your dog – you send them there, maybe they perform a skill or two, or just a “stay”, and you release them when you’re done. Traditionally there are beds, usually raised off the ground, that are sold or made for this behaviour – but you can use anything with a defined boundary! We will have an activity later on this week on using this skill on your walks, but for now – if your dog doesn’t know this behaviour, here’s a video on how to train it:
If your dog doesn’t have this skill, choose something easy you can use as a platform and give it a try (Ideally off leash on your property).
To participate, attach a photo of either your dog on a platform or of something you might use to station your dog!
May 24 2020
Welcome to Day 24! I hope you are having a relaxing weekend. Today I want to talk about an additional training “method” that can help reactive dogs. In my class and in my one on one training, I tend to do a lot of counter-conditioning (feed food/get fun stuff in presence of trigger) and using DRI behaviours (do this and get rewarded instead of barking and carrying on). But the process of desensitization on its own can be useful in some cases! This simply means allowing the dog to get comfortable with a particular trigger by beginning exposure at such a small intensity that the dog does not react, and then gradually increasing the intensity, keeping the dog under threshold at all times. There is no “reinforcement” for particular behaviours as in most of our other procedures – the dog just gradually accepts the trigger at varying levels of intensity. This can allow us to have an appropriate interaction with a trigger where the dog might explode if the trigger suddenly appeared right next to the dog.
Behaviour Adjustment Training or BAT is a training protocol that relies a lot on desensitization. If you are curious about how this works, here’s an informative link: https://grishastewart.com/bat-overview/
Have you ever done BAT with your dog? Your participation task today is to think of and post a picture of something that your dog has been desensitized to! Just a note, that there is a difference between *desensitization* and *flooding*. Flooding is where you place something in the environment at full strength and the dog eventually stops having a reaction (note that it doesn’t always work!). For example, if your dog barks at the doorbell, and you ring the doorbell over and over and over again and eventually the dog stops barking, they have been flooded. If you begin ringing the doorbell at a very low volume (perhaps using a recording), beginning where your dog notices but doesn’t have a full reaction, and then very gradually working up until the doorbell is at full volume with no barking, then you have used desensitization. Desensitization is usually preferred to flooding in dog training – flooding, as you might have guessed, can be very stressful (although it looks better on tv).
May 25 2020
It’s Day 25! Can you believe it? With apologies for the late post, I want to share another activity that can allow you to use desensitization and DRI depending on the situation – the parallel walk. This can be a very powerful way to help a dog calm down in the presence of a trigger, and even perhaps make a new friend! Essentially a parallel walk is how it sounds – a dog moving in the same direction as a trigger (often other dogs but could be people or other triggers), beginning at a great distance and gradually moving closer. It is helpful for many reasons – moving helps the dog focus on other things, from simply moving their feet to exploring other things in the environment, it can help to reduce frustration, it allows for desensitization by just allowing the dog to experience the trigger at a tolerable intensity, and it also helps the human half by providing a task as well (not just standing around wondering if you should feed or not). It sounds simple, but it isn’t always that easy! You need an appropriate partner dog, you need a suitable location free from other random triggers, and you need a careful assessment of the learner’s body language, threshold and stress levels. Otherwise, the activity can result in flooding or increased frustration. This is why the concept of a “pack walk” may or may not be helpful – it depends on how the dog is experiencing the interactions. Gathering a group of reactive dogs together and punishing reactions can be stressful and may make reactivity worse. Remember, interactions with triggers should make your dog feel *better* afterwards. This video is a great outline of what it can look like. (Keep in mind that while the video has the neutral dog walking in front, it really depends on the dog. I find that some reactive dogs prefer to be ahead of the neutral dog, checking them out at their leisure.) Your participation task today is to post a pic of something representing parallel (you were so creative with the circles I want to see more!)
May 26 2020
Well, it’s Day 26! Today I want to talk a bit about an exercise we do in my reactive dog class – our greeting routine! In general, I do prefer to do greetings via the parallel walking method. In class however, we don’t have the space for parallel walking, so we do a backwards sit routine, and end with a “let’s go” – something the dogs have been doing for weeks! Backwards sits are a way of gauging the dog’s threshold as they get closer to a neutral dog. The handler walks backwards and asks for sits as they approach the neutral dog, and then the handler gives permission to “go say hi”. They do a short sniff and then are called away. This picture shows what a backwards sit towards a distraction looks like, and it’s from Dr Sophia Yin’s website: https://drsophiayin.com/…/reactive-dog-moving-past-distrac…/
Your participation task is to show something you can use to practice backwards sits and releases to! It can be something your dog can have, or a person they like, or another dog they know…(you shouldn’t use a stranger dog or person without lots of practice).
May 27 2020
Day 27! Have you heard of The Play Way? Dr Amy Cook is doing some great things using the connection of play, free of toys or food, as a tool to help reactive dogs feel more relaxed. We know that often dogs will eat even if they are uncomfortable, and toy driven dogs will often become so toy focused that it’s like they don’t even process the triggers. But personal play can only happen when a dog is relaxed and connected. Therapeutic play also has powerful desensitization and counter-conditioning-like applications! Have a read over this article, and give it a try!
To participate, share a pic of your dog being playful (with you, another person, another animal, by themselves…doesn’t matter!)
May 28 2020
Day 28! We are almost there! Today I’m doing a bit of a informational post and you’ll have to excuse me as it’s on my own class 🙂 I have been either taking or teaching reactive dog classes for at least 15 years now. I love the class I teach and I am continually working to improve it! With the current safety needs in the world, I will be changing it again to transfer it to an outdoor class with minimal contact. I hope to begin a new set of classes in July of this year!
In my Leash Lungers class, I try to combine new tasks for the dogs and handlers, positive association with new dogs for the class dogs, and a supportive social environment for the humans. The individual dogs may move at different speeds, I work hard to keep everyone successful and moving forward.
For your participation task, list one thing you’d love to have in a reactive dog class, or one thing you really worry about that might stop you from taking one (please don’t share specific details of individual trainers or classes). If you’ve taken my class and found it helpful, feel free to leave a review on my page!
And check out the info on my class at this link:
May 29 2020
It’s the end of our Four Weeks to Fewer Freakouts! I can’t believe it’s gone by so quickly. I will be posting instructions on how to enter for the prize on the weekend, and you will have lots of time to get an entry together, even if you haven’t managed to catch each day’s task. All the tasks will also be up on my website by the end of the weekend, in one easy to follow format!
I hope this course has helped you, and I also hope to develop it into a more in-depth course in time. I loved seeing your dogs and reading your comments on all the posts (I will also try to make sure I’ve answered any questions in the posts so that should be caught up by the weekend also!)
Today’s participation task will be just to comment with anything you particularly found helpful over the course, or anything you were particularly proud of that your dog did (or you did yourself, after all – you are part of a team).