09 Jul Reactive Dog – Look at that
I 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.