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Auto Watch: Creating Attention and the Proper Focus in your Dog

Attention is important to keep your dog focused and thinking.

When your dog is experiencing fear and/or reacting, they are in a high state of arousal. They are in flight or fight mode and their body is full of adrenaline. During this time, it is impossible for learning to happen and their focus will be directed towards whatever is causing this stress. This is not the time to work the dog as they are in an emotional state. We must first get them thinking and then work from there. To do this, we begin with the auto watch. When we get our dogs focused on us, we trigger the cognitive part of their brain and learning can begin to happen. It slows the dog down and enables us to have much more success in training! Read more

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Oh Behave! How our Behaviour Influences our Dogs

We have discussed how to make our dogs calmly accept handling and to enjoy it, but what about how we handle them? Let’s face it: we can be jerks when we have our dogs on leash through yanking or keeping constant tension on the leash, and we can be very reactive as well! We often begin to anticipate that our dogs will react in certain situations, so we begin to react. This may be through pulling up on the leash, we may raise our shoulders with tension, we may begin breathing fast (or stop breathing!) or any type of response from being anxious. This all travels down the leash to our dogs and indicates something bad is about to happen. We easily influence our dog’s behaviour and with fearful or reactive dogs, it’s more often than not, for the worse. Read more

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Ding Dong: How to Handle the Chaos When the Doorbell Rings

Most dog owners dread the chaos that ensues when the doorbell rings, but this can be especially stressful when you live with a fearful and/or reactive dog. Having people over may be so stressful that we avoid this entirely, or when it does happen your dog may embarrass you with their reactive behaviour or not even allow your guest to move within your house! It can be a stressful and discouraging situation, but the below information outlines how to set it up to have a successful visit and teach your dog a better response for when that doorbell rings!

To begin, let’s go through the steps for when family members come home and how to deal with your dog’s excitement levels. We must teach them that hellos are calm and that sit and calm behaviour is what gets them attention. This is a critical step because as always with our fearful/reactive dog, we must work on calm behaviours first to ensure we keep arousal levels low. Read more

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Self Control: Creating Calm Behaviour and Coping Mechanisms for our Reactive Dogs

We have discussed the importance of calming our reactive dogs and the effects of stress on them. Self control is a critical part of modifying reactive behaviour in dogs as many of them do not handle their emotions well and frustrate easily. Working through self control concerns allows us to be working on the foundation of their arousal levels to enable them to better settle themselves when they see other dogs or triggers that cause a reactive response. As we see their self control improve, we will also begin to see their threshold increase and make great progress in resolving their reactivity concerns. Read more

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Proactive vs Reactive: Setting your Dog up for Success

If you struggle with your dog reacting too often out on walks or find each venture outside too stressful, you are being reactive vs proactive with your training. Please review our post on Prevention and Management to understand how important this is when we are working through a treatment plan for our fearful/reactive dogs. We must understand how to set our dog up for success and become proactive in our training! This not only allows your dog to progress through the program faster, but also makes it much more enjoyable for yourself and your dog! Read more

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What Do I Do Now? How to Apply the Auto Watch and Focus Skills to the Training

Now that you and your dog understand auto watch, the emergency u-turn and stepping down on the leash, how do you put it all together? You must start all of these skills in a controlled setting (at home and in the classroom) and now it’s time to take them out into the real world and apply them in those settings. As you introduce the skills, it is ok to avoid your dog’s triggers outside (people, dogs, rabbits, etc), but now you must begin to expose them to these items. Review our posts on Prevention and Management and Proactive vs Reactive to understand how to best set these up. Read more

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Handling: For Fearful Dogs

If your dog is fearful of people, then teaching it to calmly accept, and even enjoy touch, can be a challenge. It may even seem impossible at this point! But, with the right steps, building their confidence and understanding your dog’s body language, you can create a dog that seeks out touch – even from strangers!

To start, please read The dogma of Handling to learn about the importance of teaching this to your dog and the introduction steps for you to work on with handling your dog. If they are unsure or fussy about handling from you, then do not expect them to be comfortable with a stranger touching them. Read more