Wednesday, February 19, 2014

3 Simple Tips for Using an Old Collar to Help Your Reactive Dog

 Any time we can lower our dogs stress and  arousal levels we should do it, especially if we have a reactive or fearful dog.  The following tips are simple and have the potential to make a big impact on your dog.Try it and report back!

One -
Desensitize and Counter Condition your dog to the jingle of collar tags.

It is so easy to do this. You MUST start below threshold, at the sound level to which your dog does not react.
For dogs,  life is about associations.  What does your dog think when he hears a collar jingle?
Many dogs equate  jingling tags  with A DOG IS COMING.
Change the association, change the emotion, and make life easier and more predicable for your dog!

  Pair the hidden collar jingle with super high value tasty food.  Do not use kibble for this.  Use  canned dog food, chicken, hot dogs, liverwurst or other equally vile smelly goodness.  Don't skimp here. 

Think open bar, closed bar. When the bar is open, the dog is hearing the jingle and eating.   If the dog stops eating, you have gone over threshold and need to make it softer and or move the collar further away.  You may need a helper for this.

 Step two,   the jingle of the collar is then followed closely by the food. We are changing the dog's association to the noise. It will no longer mean "oh S*#t here comes a big scary dog that may eat me" ,  to "oh goody, something good is coming my way!"  You will need to do this first in your house starting at a low almost too soft hear level and gradually getting louder and louder.  Take your cues from your dogs and go slow! 
 Be sure to bring high value food with you on walks and be prepared for the real thing.

Tape your own dogs tags so they don't jingle,  or buy a pouch that your dog's tags fit into.
 With much thanks to a client in class whose tags we had to tape because her dog was freaking out another dog in my reactive dog class for this one.  She realized that OTHER DOGS were reacting to her dog less on walks when she walked with the tape on, which in turn helped to keep her dog from getting aroused and upset by another reactive dog!  Genius!

Teach your dog to nose or paw target a collar with tags, and or to fetch it.
 I use my dead dog's collars  in class to teach this, and while it used to freak me out, I  now love the idea that my beloved dogs are  still with me in spirit helping other dogs.
 It is a fun game to teach a "send" to the collar.  Your dog will become empowered. The goal of changing the association, and lowering stress and arousal  is achieved via a game, and we all know dogs love games.
                                                                Happy Training!

This post was written for my Gooddogz Training reactive dog students.  You are encouraged to share.