Calming The Capricious Canine:
Week 4 - Creeping Closer!
By this week you should have your Popcorn Game down to some pretty strong muscle memory. When you see a trigger you should be ready to reach for your treats to stuff them in your dog’s mouth.
Next, it’s time to creep closer to our triggers. If your dog is calming down during the Popcorn Game and giving you attention you may now inch closer to your trigger. Don’t move quickly. Move up 3-5 feet and then repeat the Popcorn Game. If your dog can get very close (10 ft) from the trigger, Stop and don’t go closer. For all the students who can’t get that close, keep practicing!
If you have been heading straight on at triggers or using sidewalks, it’s time to practice in places where you have more room to move. I want you to practice wandering with purpose which is basically walking on a zig-zag in the vicinity of triggers but far enough away that your dog barely glances. You want to say way below a reactionary threshold and you should only use food in the case where a trigger comes on fast. The importance of this exercise is to start teaching your dog to consider triggers as background noise.
Ninja stalking triggers
If you live where there are mostly sidewalks, you can use this to your advantage. When following someone, you want to be a ninja about it. You want to be at enough of a distance that the walker and their dog don’t really notice you. You want to feed your dog for any triggers they see too, not just who you’re stalking. In my video, Journey is distracted by children playing across the street. I feed him for any trigger regardless of if they are planned. I also keep stalking bouts short. Don’t go on long walks for this. In the second video, the person we are stalking starts heading back so we duck down a driveway. Always have exits planned out ahead of time so that you can get out of the way if things go sideways.
(I apologized for the quality of the video. I was using a head mount and the video is a little wobbly. Pause it if it gives you motion sickness.)
You don’t want every walk and every trip to the park to mean triggers. Dogs are excellent are learning patterns so relaxing is important. Otherwise we can accidentally sensitize being outside with triggers. So this week I want you to find a few nice places to stop and relax on your walks or practice. Make sure you take at least 10 minutes per break and reinforce the relaxing too.
We will soon be including more content involving dogs in closer proximity. Dogs with any bite history should be muzzle trained prior to this work. I am including a video (NOT MINE) by Chirag Patel on muzzle training. All of my dogs are trained through some steps so I wanted to include a more complete lesson.
Wandering and relaxation are the most important things you can do this week. Get in 2-3 sessions minimum. If you can juggle it, post videos of some ninja stalking but I understand if that is hard to film. I struggled too. Keep practicing, things are about to get more intense!