Deferring to You-Part 2
Walks with your dog are supposed to be enjoyable, but if you have a reactive dog they can quickly turn into a nightmare. Dogs that are scared of the world can find walks overwhelming and may likely “freeze” and not move. They can also lash out and snarl, growl, bark, and lunge. There’s a solution for this-deferring to you!
Tasty treats are essential especially when you start out. First you must identify what triggers your dog (what makes them lunge, bark, etc). Make a list of everything that sets them up and try to be specific. If it’s other dogs what kind of dogs? Male dogs, white dogs, long haired dogs, barking dogs? Same thing with people-is your dog just afraid of children, adults, or people with hats? Now we work with some classical conditioning to get your dog to defer to you.
Every time your dog notices something scary (from a distance where they don’t react, just look), start feeding them those yummy treats. When the something disappears, stop feeding them the treats. This is conditioning them to expect treats when that scary thing shows up-thus…deferring to you-looking at you! Treats + scary thing=not so scary thing anymore! As an added bonus every time they see the scary thing they will look at you-you will become giver of treats (you should be already but hey, backup isnt’ so bad). This will help build your relationship and they will see you as something positive (as hopefully do they already, but sometimes we can be scary if your dog is very afraid of the world). Soon you will find on walks your dog is more attuned to you and looks at you when a scary thing is nearby.
No, I don’t mean your dog should be submissive or any of that humbo-jumbo about being dominant. Please…you know me better than that! I mean fearful dogs needs to look to you when they are unsure. This will give them something to focus on every time they are scared. It will make them more confident and successful.
I will be writing a series of articles on how to train your dog to defer to you (meaning check in with you if they are scared). The first is very basic-having your dog look up at you (not your treats) when you say their name.
First things first. When you call your dog’s name-they should look at you. If they don’t you need some name training. Have some yummy treats ready and a clicker. Have your dog stand or sit in front of you. Call your dog’s name and when they look up at your eyes (not your treats), click then treat. *Now when I say look at your eyes I don’t mean you are staring at them, I just mean they look up at your face area. If your dog is having problems making eye contact, wait a few seconds and see if the dog finds your eyes. If they do, click and treat. If your dog is REALLY having trouble you can try holding the treat near your face to start, but fade it out-you don’t want your dog to focus on the treat-you want them to focus on you. After 80% accuracy with this (8 out of 10 times the dog looks at your eyes), move on to extending your arm straight out to the side with a treat in hand. Your dog will most likely look at the treat, call their name and when they look at you (your face) click and treat. It may be slower in the beginning, but eventually your dog will know once your arm goes out they need to look at your face before you even say anything! When you get to 80% try with the opposite arm, then treats in both hands. There are many possibilities-but this activity allows you and your dog to bong-and teaches them to look and focus on you, which will come in handy in frightful situations.
**News update: A neighbor’s dog was 2 doors down (condos) and I was giving Oreo a haircut. The other dog was small but was putting on a show growling and kicking up dirt behind it. Oreo looked, licked her lips, then focused on me and was fine-yay! Also-WE SOLD OUR CONDO!! Yay! We are out on the road today looking for homes, can’t wait for a yard for Oreo (and for growing vegetables!).
Made Oreo some more treats!! It didn’t take as long this time and I had all the correct materials and ingredients. I made the biscuits thinner this time, so they are easy to put in my pocket and break during walks for rewards! Yay!
Also…anyone make homemade dog food? I’m thinking of doing that…Oreo’s ears are acting up…it may just be outdoor allergies, but I want to eliminate all chances it is the kibble. Also, I just gave her a bath (yes very productive today). She was very nervous with lots of lip licking, but she took treats and jumped into the bath herself! 🙂
So today I ventured to make gluten-free pumpkin dog treats. I got the recipe from this website http://simplysugarandglutenfree.com/gluten-free-pumpkin-dog-biscuits/ .
So I mixed everything today, rolled out my dough (okay I didn’t roll it…I didn’t have my rolling pin so I pressed it with my hands…not as accurate yes). Next I went to cut it and realized I didn’t have any of my cookie cutters (we don’t have much anymore, we are trying to sell the house-everything is in storage…even cookie cutters and rollers). Anyways, I cut them into squares and triangles and finished one tray only to realize I sprayed cooking spray on it WITH FLOUR. Yikes! Needless to say that batch will go to my sister’s dog. I left the treats in the oven for 20 minutes, a little too long for my oven so next time I will only do 15. Next I flipped them and left them in for 15 minutes.
I took them out and had Oreo spin around. I rewarded her with the treat. THE MOMENT OF TRUTH. Will she like the treats I worked on? Will it be worth it? YES!! First she put it on the ground and nosed it (she does this when something is new), next she ate it and came back for more! Good! I was buying treats that I knew for sure were gluten-free (some bigger brands claim to be gluten-free but in fact are not), but it was very expensive, so I decided to make my own. If your dog has a gluten or wheat allergy I recommend this recipe…the dogs love the pumpkin!