Counter Condition and Desensitization: Various Triggers
Be an advocate for your dog while on walks and set them up for success. When you see any of your dog's triggers approaching, such as another dog, scary people, bicycles, skateboards or whatever you know makes them nervous or reactive, Mark with a Clicker or a verbal "Yes" (Preferably Clicker in the early stages) and when your dog looks at you Reward with a tasty treat. Try and do this before the trigger gets to close and your dog is beyond their threshold.
Practice standing off to the side where the triggers are passing by, maybe a block away from the stimulus and Mark/Click and Reward as the triggers come closer and goes by. The more you do this the more we make positive associations to seeing the triggers while on leash.
Below are videos using clicker training coupled with counterconditioning and desensitization to help make negative associations into positive ones.
Bubbling Out | Giving your dog space
When walking your dog and you see an dog walking towards you, stay calm and as you approach and you have space, "bubble out” by veering away from that dogs path. By doing this your letting your dog understand that they are not meeting or entering into him personal space. This can help give your dog more faith in you as him handler to advocate for him.
Create Calm from Chaotic:
This technique is best taught with a Transitional leash or Halti, but can work with a slip leah, martingale or pinch collar as well. If there is not enough space, like many parts of Brooklyn to "Bubble Out" walk your dog to the side in possibly between two trees to give the other dog as much space as possible and use light pressure up and forward until your dog sits and then release the pressure. If your dog stays seated calmly great, you can give verbal praise. If you dog reacts again repeat the light pressure up and forward until your dog sits and relaxes. If needed you can step in front of your dog to add spatial/distance pressure.
If your dog is doing great and staying calm, start marking & rewaring your dog for looking at you or calmly looking at the dog like shown above in the Counter Condition and Desensitization sesction.
With your dog either in the crate or tethered on a leash like we practiced, give your dog something they value, like a bone, toy and let your dog “get into it”, then approach your dog and when your dog looks up at you mark with a clicker or a verbal “Yes” and toss a high value tasty treat, then walk away. Keep practicing this to make a positive association of you approaching your dog when they has something of value. After we work more on your dog's recall we can start using that to call your dog away from the high value item they guard as well.
Counter Condition and Desensitization: New People In The Home
Many dogs that have not been properly socialized to the world and new people can form fears and you see this with new people coming into your home. Have new people come over so your dog can get comfortable with them, but do not force it. Let your dog approach them.
It's a good idea to have your dog be in their crate when new people come over in the beginning, especially while you are working on their training and learning more about your new dog.
Have new people come over sit and as you saw me do, feed your dog treats in a non threatening manner. No eye contact in the beginning, putting a treat in their hand facing out and let your dog come and get it. If your dog won't come, throw treats on the floor first to get your dog comfortable. Once your dog knows "Place” we can have people walk by and toss treats towards your dog .This will start conditioning your dog that new people are not scary but a good thing. It takes time but can help your dog's fear of new people. If your dog doesn’t eat the treat right away that’s fine, it’s part of the process.
Game Of 7’s
This is geared for puppies but I have found with dogs that have not been properly socialized and intoduced to the world we can use this to help desensitize dogs to all the the new things in the world by playing the game of 7’s. Introduce him to 7 different things as listed below and make a positive association. By picking seven different surfaces, peoples, sounds and expose your dog to these things you create a dog that new is normal.
- 7 different surfaces
- 7 different people (ages, sizes, genders, colors styles, ect)
- 7 different food containers/dispensers (for feeding)
- 7 different sounds with the app and outside when you can (Sound Proof Puppy App)
- 7 different handling techniques (reaching i to pet, grabbing collar ect)
- 7 different public transit vehicles (including bikes, motor cycles, trucks, etc)
- 7 different places, when he’s allowed to go to more places take him to as many dog friendly places possible and make positive associations
Sound Proof Puppy Training app.
One of the tools I like to use to desensitize and make positive associations to all the new/sacry sounds in our world. Here is a quick video with an adorable 10 week old Cockapoo puppy Lola. We play everyday sounds and feed our dogs, here we are using Happy Howie's All Natural Dog Treats lamb food roll. You can also just feed you dog their meals while playing various sounds and use marker training and clicker training.