I have published this information before,however there are so many clients out there contacting us about the subject that I thought well to post it again...
Dogs have different triggers that make them reactive towards a certain object, person or animal. Some of these behaviours would be lunging on lead to get to the other dog or person, barking, whining and growling.
This is a training issue that you can work on through proper management and professional training. A good behaviour modification program includes both management and training techniques and is carefully crafted with a goal of keeping the dog under its threshold in the face of triggers. If your dog is not kept under its threshold, training is at the very least made more difficult and, in many cases, cannot take place. When over threshold dogs are often responding emotionally and learning is much less likely to occur.
Working with Thresholds
Often we see people walking their dog and approaching another dog on lead or a person on a bike. The owner of the dog just walks straight ahead towards the “trigger” and only once the dog goes into his frantic state and reacts, the owner then tries to change the dog’s behaviour. This however is too late, the dog is already pushed over his threshold and focusing on you or any training is very hard.
Instead once the owner spots the dog coming towards them he could ask his dog for a sit or like we teach in our training classes making use of the HERE cue or even turn around or cross the street. Rewarding the dog for not showing any reactive behaviours is very important for training so walking with your dog is ALWAYS accompanied by treats in a proper treat bag. If you treat the dog to try and get him to stop barking or any other reactive behaviour you are reinforcing that behaviour.
Remember the more a dog practice a behaviour the better he becomes at it, this counts for unwanted behaviours like barking and lunging too.
How do you know if your dog is over threshold?
Your dog’s body language and focus will tell you if your dog is over his threshold. If your dog is unable to focus on you or respond to basic cues that your dog already knows, your dog is over threshold and you need to back up in your training. If your dog is looking fearful or anxious this will include things like a lowered tail, lowered ears, panting even though it’s cool, excessive drooling or avoidance.
Your dog can also be aroused and excited by jumping up, raised hair on his back, barking, lunging, snapping, snarling or growling.
What is Management?
Management refers to changes that we make in an animals environment to prevent unwanted behaviours from occurring. For example: If your dog jumps on the counter for food, by putting a baby gate up by the entrance of the kitchen you are managing the behaviour.
Training refers to the use of classical conditioning and operant conditioning to either change the way your dog feels about a certain stimuli or to teach your dog certain behaviours in response to a certain cue or stimuli. For example, if your dog nips on your guest before they leave your home you can teach your dog to lay on his bed when your guests are preparing to leave your home.
To keep your dog under his threshold, we combine management with training until we have taught the dog the new acceptable behaviour. As training progress we then bring your dog closer to his threshold trying to never go over his threshold.
In our Leash Lungers Anonymous classes (also known as our reactive dog training classes) we teach you how to get your dog to focus on you instead of on the trigger, how to reinforce the behaviours that you do want. Your dog learns that he can cope with the trigger by changing the way he feels towards the trigger or replacing it with a different wanted behaviour. We also teach you about understanding your dog’s critical distance, body blocking and closing the gap between the dog and the trigger.
Louise has attended and graduated from the Leash Lungers Anonymous training at Buddy’s Chance Training centre, LLC in Austin, Texas and also attended nose work training for dogs.
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