1.Give Your Dog a Job. Train with simple distractions at first, increasing gradually the levels of difficulty up to a simulation of the problem. Decide which job(s) will work best at the time.
- Heel (3Ps=proper pace, position and no pulling)
- Touch (a game to draw attention away from problem to a job for you)
- Stay and Chill/Relax
- Come(turn away from the problem, run straight to me and sit in front)
- Leave It (turn your head away from the problem and look at me)
- Check It Out(look at the problem for a second, then look at me)
- Attention/Look at me (eyes on you, not the problem)
2. Predict Behavior. Learn the concept of “threshold.” Notice the signs that your dog has alerted or aimed and is about to go over “threshold” (ears forward, intense focus, head lowered, mouth closing). Don’t wait for the reaction. You want to respond at the first twitch to stay under “threshold” where your dog can make good choices. Get control before it fires off.
3. Control the Problem and Environment. You decide who comes near or how close you get. You decide how and if your dog will interact. Practice what you will do or say. Have a backup plan.
4. Get Distance when all else fails. Increase distance to help you get back emotional and physical control of your dog. Training can happen only when your dog has emotional control.
5. Change the Emotional Association. Teach your dog to associate other dogs or people with good things happening. Some dogs may never enjoy being around people or dogs, but you can ask for manners and tolerance under reasonable circumstances.
6. Safety is number one. Don’t push past your dog’s “threshold”, ie, tolerance, training or emotional ability. Stay within its comfort zone or work around the edge of it during training.
7. Believe in Success! It is possible to improve manners and decrease emotional reactivity with patience, persistence and good practice. You and your dog will enjoy your walks again.
By Augusta Farley CKO CPDT-KA