reactive dog

My #1 favorite command

I love a lot of commands- when a dog comes to heel, down from a distance, come. But there's one command I love the most. This is the place command and I will tell you why.

What does the place command do?

I use it with most dogs I train. Whether an aggressive dog or a well behaved dog. The reason being is because place has several benefits

  1. It gives a dog a place to go in the house so they don't get into trouble

    Many hyper and unruly dogs have a lot of energy and lack of boundaries. They have no place to go and it shows. They are the dogs that when everyone else is still, they are still moving around. Whether its sniffing the ground or just looking around looking for some mischief to get into like a bored kid. When you teach your dog place and get her to stay on place you will notice something. Your dog might start shaking like its going through withdrawal symtoms. This is your dog learning impulse control.

  2. They give a dog there own space

    Dogs don’t like to be underneath us all the time. Even the dogs that do, you need to know that this is not healthy. You have to teach your dog to not panic while you are away from them. Some dogs develop seperation anxiety because they can’t stand when their owner leaves them. Believe me, if you incorporate the place command you are minimizing this problem. The bed is also like the their crate-a safe space.

  3. They help a reactive dog learn how to be a passenger in the world

    This command is especially useful for reactive dogs. Once they learn the 4 steps to the place command you teach your dog to ignore the world around them and just relax. For example once the dog learns to stay on their place bed then I can add distraction like kids shouting from 20 feet away and have the dog remain on the place bed.

    Now comes the steps to the place command

    it seems so simple yet to achieve great results you have to put in effort.

    Step 1

    Send the dog to place

    Lure dog onto place bed with a piece of food. Get them comfortable going on the place bed. Then walk up to place bed and stop abruptly a foot away from the place bed. Remember to pull the dog back as they are likely to just keep walking due to forward momentum. Next say PLACE, then guide the dog onto the place bed.

    Step 2

    Distance

    Same as step 1 but you increase the distance where you stop

    Step 3

Get the dog to stay on the place bed.

Once your dog is on the place bed move around them in a circle. If they try to get off, Say uhuh or nope and repeat PLACE.

Step 4

Correction

Once your dog understand how to stay on the place bed then its time to add correction for failure to comply. Be careful not to move to fast to this command. Make sure that your dog understands the command. You will know your dog knows because you would have performed it hundreds of times correctly.

Thats it!!! My favorite command in a nutshell. Its many used and benefits and how to implement it.

Thanks for reading and comment to let me know what dog training question are giving you problems or if you’re just curious .

The “WHY” behind your dog barking and lunging at people and other dogs

Reactivity is an issue that I see a lot of in dogs. I even have to constantly work with my own dog and hold him to a certain standard to deal with this issue. I used to wonder why my dog was so unpredictable with his lunging. The reality is he was NOT unpredictable. I just wasn’t paying attention to what he was telling me. He was letting me know that he was uncomfortable but I missed the signs.

These signs are known as cut off cues. A cut off cue or calming signals can be when

  • a dog looks away from the trigger,

  • starts sniffing the ground profusely

  • starts sniffing the air, etc.

  • lip licking

  • Freezing in place

  • yawning

    Cut off cues are important to a dog’s social repertoire. This is the dog’s way of saying I’m not in a social mood. When the dog is lunging or barking it is because somewhere in time they learned that got them what they wanted: SPACE. These are the 3 ways I see it.

  1. Dog is aggressive - wants the person or other dog to leave.

  2. Dog is fearful - wants to leave

  3. Dog is frustrated - combination of both

Without boring you guys with dog training terms, space is used as a functional reinforcer. To make things simple, look at it like this.

Dogs and humans learn to behave a certain way because it gets them what they want.

A dog barks at the mailman, then the mailman leaves and gives the dog what it wants: space. A boy acts out at school and his parents start to scold him or yell at him. He received what he wanted: attention. A woman nags and complains to her husband about getting her car fixed. He complies and she gets what she wants. These are all negative behaviors, but they achieved a goal.

Reasons why dogs stop using cut off cues

Dogs stop using cut off cues when they don’t work. When your dog is signaling a cut off cue like turning away and another dog attacks them, they learn that cut off cues dont work.

Another problem that a lot of people do is punish cut off cues.

Ex: You are walking your dog in the park and you see someone walking their dog. You stop and talk with them for a moment and want the two dogs to meet and sniff because you heard that its important to socialize your dog( your a right by the way). Your dog proceeds to start licking his lips and sniff the ground. Instead of rewarding that behavior and giving the dog space, you try to force your dog to interact with the other dog. This increases the social pressure and makes your dog not trust your judgment.

Another reason dogs won’t give cut off cues is because the dog is too stressed out. When I work with reactive dogs it is important to keep them under threshold. Threshold is the point before a dog explodes and charges at someone or something. In a stressful state a dog can’t think

. Are you afraid of heights? I dare you to climb Mount Everest and say the alphabet backwards. That is a difficult tasks because it is hard to think if you are too stressed out worrying about what will happen if you miss one step.

What we want to teach our dogs is that there are more appropriate ways to express themselves. We want to build their confidence in us to trust that we will handle the situation.

There are a bunch of drills I do that I wont get into here but that helps us earn that trust back. When our dogs are showing positive behavior that we want then we need to reward them. We need to let our dogs know that they did good.

Reactivity is a symptom of a greater problem in your dog. Don’t let it go unchecked or it will get worse. This is just the “why” your dog behaves like that. Be mindful that I have never seen your dog and your dog could be displaying predatory aggression, resource guarding, territorial aggression amongst others issues. We don’t have enough time to go down that rabbit hole but feel free to contact me if you have any issues.

If you guys have any specific questions you can comment or email me at Fraternityk9@gmail.com

Reactive dog case study

My sister has an older dog who i have been taking care of. She is a pit bull mix and she is 11yrs old. She has hip problems, so you can imagine how hard it is for her to sit. She is a highly food motivated dog but she has a hard time with the body positions.

I wanted to do a lot of obedience with her just for practice, but I realized she had an even bigger problem. She was a reactive dog. I decided not to do obedience training and took her for a walk. We encountered several dogs along the walk. She would pull a little on the walk, but she calm down after a while.

I taught her how to walk loosely on the leash first.  Then we walked down blocks where I knew there were dogs. As we approached about 25 feet from an all white pit bull behind a fence, she begin to stare. After the stare I heard a low growl followed by her galloping sideways while intensely staring. She then started barking.

I just broke this down for you but this process literally takes seconds to happen. I was working with Tyril Frith, another dog trainer, who taught me some things of how to attack this issue. I started implementing some e collar conditioning. One thing I want to say is that I never just punish a dog with the collar.I condition them

I wanted to work below her threshold so that I wouldn't take her over the edge. The threshold is the line between a dog who is calm and a dog that is wildly out of control. Once a dog gets wildly out of control it is best to excuse yourself and the dog out of the situation because anything you say will go in one ear and out the other. 

Back to the walk:

As soon as she even started staring at the dog with intent, I corrected that behavior. The earlier I can correct the behavior the better. After the walk I realized where the threshold for this particular dog was and what level of correction she needed at that level. Next I taught the dog to look at me.( This is very important with reactive dogs). Once she knew how to look at me I used this when encountering other dogs.

 

The whole idea is to teach the dog what you expect and discourage unwanted behavior. It sounds simple, but the timing is the most important factor in this equation. This dog showed tremendous progress as we worked on this for several days in a row. She would see a dog and immediately look away.

 

Now that she understands what I don't want, I had to let her know when she did a good job. I can't always focus on the negative or it will ruin my relationship with the dog. I gave her a lot of praise and verbal marker (YES!!!) when she was calm around dogs or she looked up at me. This is a long process but we will continue to make progress as she has.

 

If you have a dog that is not just reactive, but you know might bite a person or another dog, then I would seek out a professional dog trainer who will probably work through with a muzzle for safety reasons. Stay safe and enjoy the process.