Calming The Capricious Canine:
Week 6 - Living the Lifestyle
When you share your life with a Capricious Canine, it is never quite the same as living with a dog who doesn’t react to things. When you put in the work and reactions change, it can be easy to become complacent. It is important to commit to the understanding that even with marvelous progress, it will always be your responsibility to protect your dog and manage their world to the best of your abilities.
This week’s lessons (our last week!) will focus on normal life situations and how we integrate everything we learned. This won’t cover dog sports situations. Those are for another day, but this will show you what to do when life throws a lot of the normal curve balls at you.
When to End the Popcorn Game
The purpose of desensitization aka the Popcorn Game is to reduce and change the emotion directed towards a trigger. The powerful thing about this exercise is that when your dog is calm from the exercise, they learn that food is available in proximity with a trigger. This opens the door to create replacement behaviors. NOTE that your dog has to be calm enough that they do not care about the trigger and are now excited by the prospect of getting to earn a food reward.
So if your dog is now calmly anticipating food from you and couldn’t care less about the trigger, it is time to move on to counter-conditioning to replace old behaviors.
Last week, we started nose touch training. Nose touch is a fantastic thing for your dog to do once they are calmer around their triggers. In this video, there are dogs in the crates in the back of the car. I will walk my dog near the crates and reward my dog for performing alternative behaviors. These behaviors could be looking at me, heeling, hand touch, etc. I will take cued and offered behaviors around triggers as long as my dog stays calm. If your dog can’t perform these behaviors (but knows them), return to the Popcorn Game or create more distance.
The vocalizing is my dog yelling for treats, and is not a result of how close I am to the other dogs.
Closer Greetings (With Barriers)
Now that you have practiced approaching triggers up close with a barrier, it is time to make contact. This exercise could also be performed with a muzzle on. Approach the barrier, let them sniff or look for a few seconds and retreat. Feel free to use their name (WHY WE DID THE NAME GAME!) to redirect them if they stay too long. Once your dog is calm and relaxed with this exercise, you can consider greetings without the fence but dogs with bite histories should still wear a muzzle.
Emergency Maneuvers - The Go Behind Game
Sh*t happens. There are an infinite number of irresponsible humans out there who will try to touch your dog or let their dog say high without your permission. To keep your progress, you have to protect your dog. The Go Behind Game is a great way to do this. Simply use your nose touch to lure your dog behind you. After you have practiced this a few times, cue a sit. Make sure you practice and roleplay this so your muscles know what to do in an emergency!
(Katie wanted me to note that is way very hard for her to encourage her dog - who is also reactive - to charge my dog. But both did awesome!)
Relieving Stress (Shake it Off!)
After a close call or a long round of trigger conditioning, it is important to help your dog calm down. Stress releasing behaviors can help with this. Training in behaviors like speak, dig, spin, or encouraging them to shake off can relieve adrenaline and help your dog calm down faster, thus slowing cortisol absorption. Play with different behaviors to see what works for you dog in a variety of situations.
Sports for Reactive Dogs
Once reactions to triggers are more under control, finding a training outlet can be a great way to continue your journey. Dog sports are a wonderful way to proceed and there are many that are reactive dog friendly. I will list some of the sports that can have reactive dog friendly training or competition spaces but it will be your responsibility to check with your hosting organization if they are planning to make training or competing, reactive dog friendly in that specific situation.
Practice the exercises from this week or previous weeks that aligns best with what you are presented with this week. Also create and share your training plan for the rest of the month so I can see how you plan to continue your progress.
I also wanted to say THANK YOU to my amazing students. I am so proud of your progress and I look forward to hearing all about your progress in the community. You are now proud members of #TeamSelectiveHearing and I can’t wait to hear about your future exploits. Get out there and show the world your amazing Couch Wolves!