Rover Achiever | Reactive Dog – Look at that
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Reactive Dog – Look at that

Reactive Dog – Look at that

IMG_3405I used to teach Tyson that if he saw something he didn’t like, to look at me. The goal being, if you don’t look at it, you won’t know it’s there. I would get excellent eye contact, feed with the best treats, and always feel slightly dissapointed that even after several minutes he would turn back to see if the trigger was still there. In other words he hadn’t forgotten about it and my technique was more of a bandaid than a solution. And maybe, not being able to look at it is worse — almost building up tension, or perhaps making him put together a picture of the trigger that was worse than it actually was based on the fact that I was preventing him from looking at it. In Leslie McDevitt’s book Control Unleashed, she teaches the Look at That game. In Tyson’s case I used it for Look at the dog over there.

So here’s how it goes…
Working with a handful of treats, click and feed your dog for noticing the trigger. If he barks, move farther away*. Continue to click and treat in the presence of the trigger (you are pairing a good thing – yummy treat, with the person/dog your dog is afraid of). When your dog sees the trigger and looks away from it and at you in anticipation of his reward, Click and Jackpot him with several treats in a row. He is now learning this rule: When I see something I am uncomfortable with, instead of barking and lunging, I can look at my handler and get a treat.

*We always want to work with the dog below threshold. Our goal is that he notices the trigger but you can get his attention and teach him and alternative behaviour.

  • rockwatching
    Posted at 03:15h, 11 July Reply

    Interesting thoughts. I have a great big golden who’d do anything for treats, but he loves chasing squirels.

    • Julie
      Posted at 02:44h, 12 July Reply

      Thanks for your comment. I play the Look At That game for dogs that are nervous of other dogs or people. I think with squirrel’s are a little different as they are not making your dog ‘uncomfortable’ but more excited. For squirrel chasing specifically, I definitely recommend you read up on Premack Principle if you haven’t already. Check out for more info. This article talks about using the Premack Principle with squirrels. Because squirrel chasing is such a high level of distraction, your foundation training will have to take place where there are no squirrels around so you can teach your dog basic attention exercises in the presence of no distractions and slowly work up to higher levels of distractions. Try working with your golden in a tennis court and school yard that doesn’t have squirrels. When your dog is under excellent control you can start to add the squirrels to your training. The goal being that the dog notices a squirrel, he will look at you for permission to chase before he does anything. You wait until the squirrel is totally safe then release your dog to go chase – his reward for being good. This way squirrel chasing is totally under control. Lucky for you, your golden is food motivated. That should make the first stages of training a breeze.

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