Difficult Dog Class course is open to dogs whose behavior problems prevent them from attending a regular group training class. This class is most effective as part of a treatment and management program for reactivity to people or dogs. This class provides a supervised setting for desensitization and counterconditioning sessions. The course also covers installing useful behaviors such as "leave it" and "watch me"on cue in the presence of the stimulus that causes reactivity.
Students will develop advanced handling and management skills and learn how to use the clicker as a tool in treating behavior problems. And learn how to shape relaxation in their tense dogs. Each dog must have a behavior evaluation and training session before registering for class.
(See below for sample week one class exercises and homework.)
We also offer private online and drop off behavior modification programs for aggressive and or fearful dogs.
This behavior can help position your dog, prepare her to pay attention to you in a distracting environment, and condition her to tolerate an unpleasant stimulus (like a dog or stranger). In this class we can use it to get our dogs to focus upon entering and going to their areas. After doing several “find its” your dog can begin to work on attention exercises or settling into a relaxed position.
Say, “find it!” Toss a few treats away from other dogs and activity onto the floor. Click, or say, “yes!” the moment your dog begins to sniff the treats. Eating the treats is a reward in and of itself so you do not need to deliver a reward for this behavior. Move a foot or two away as soon as your dog has eaten all her treats/ Say, “Find it!” and toss the treats again. Say, “yes” as soon as your dog sniffs at the treats. Repeat.
You can do this as soon as your get to your spot in class each week. It is an easy exercise that can help your dog to begin to focus and train. Please work on this at home. After practicing in a quiet spot for a few moments daily you can try this: You can do Find its when you hear a noise in the hallway (tossing treats away from the door). Next week you can begin doing Find its as soon as you get settled in the class room.
Keeping Calm without Carrying On
Feed your dog from her Kong/Treat Toob during clicker demo. Remember, you can use these tools during walks or other times when it is difficult to deliver treats.
Introduction to the Clicker The clicker is a marker you will use to let your dog know she is about to get a treat. You can se the clicker to communicate to your dog that she has just done a “correct” behavior or to let her know that a certain stimulus predicts treats. You can click every time a man in a hat walks by, and then quickly give her a treat after each click. This will change how she feels about men in hats. Or you can click every time she looks at you and then she will begin to look at you more frequently.
Classroom Challenge: Try the Find it Exercise as Described above, but with the clicker, Say Find it, toss treats, Click as soon as she sniffs treats. Repeat…now you will segue into…
Automatic Attention You dog should be looking at you now, waiting for more Find its. Click the second she makes eye contact. Then toss the treat reward on the ground. Wait for her to orient towards you (eye contact is not necessary) and click. Toss the treat reward on the ground or hand it to her. You can make a kissy noise or say her name to get her attention. Click and alternate between rewarding her from your hand and tossing treats. Spend the next few minutes working with your dog with the clicker, you can work on clicking and treating her for Looking at you, or you can do Find its.
Classroom Challenge: Keeping Calm. You can feed your dog again, or give her a chewy, or massage her as she relaxes while I do a demo with the mats.
Introduction to Mat work
Go To Your Spot (Go Lie Down, Go To Bed, etc.) Toss a treat onto your dog’s mat and click when she steps on it. She will eat the treat you’ve tossed. Repeat 20 times or so. Do this for a few minutes one or two times before going on to the next step: Say, “go to your spot” and then toss the treat and click when she walks towards the treat. Just continue to mark and reward your dog for setting paw on the bed/mat you are teaching her to "go to". Repeat 20 times and then stop the exercise for the day. You can sit on the floor next to the mat. Click and treat your dog for sitting or lying down on the mat. The goal is for your dog to eventually choose to go to her mat and calm down. A mat is a portable item that can be used as part of a relaxation protocol for your dog. However, she will not have to have access to the mat in order to relax.
Homework: Please Practice feeding your dog treats, and clicking and treating if possible, when your dog gets on her mat at home. You can do this for 2 minutes daily.
PLEASE NOTE: You can also opt to simply massage, feed your dog from a long lasting container (Kong, etc), or massage her while she chews when she on the mat. Some dogs find active training exercises on the mat too stimulating.
Classroom Challenge Look with Distractions
Warm up by simply saying “yes” or clicking when your dog looks at you. Reward quickly after each click. Now begin to cue attention. Say, “Look,” and mark the moment your dog looks at you, then reward. Repeat. Now the assistant trainers and I will provide additional distraction (the classroom setting already provides some distraction!)
Homework: This week, please practice clicking and treating attention in a mildly distracting setting. On a quiet block during your walk, say “yes!” (Or click) each time your dog checks in with you. Give her a treat after each yes/click. Next week we will do this on cue.
Hey! There’s a Dog/Bike/Scary Thing/Man in Hat
Classroom Challenge: In this scenario I am the scary thing. I will approach you and your dog from a distance and as soon as you see me you will tell your dog in a very happy tone of voice, ”Hey! There’s a Scary Thing!” (or another phrase). And then you will feed your dog from your hand or Kong or Treat Toob as you manage the exposure to the scary stimulus by body blocking your dog or walking away.
Homework: When you are rested and in the mood, try this on a walks this week. When you see a calm dog at a safe distance, say, “Hey! There’s a dog!” and simply feed your dog before quickly moving on.
We're Outta Here
Classroom Challenge (Warm Up): Spread out a bit a round the room (if possible)so you have sufficient space to practice a little loose leash walking. Walk your dog and then say, again in a happy voice, “We’re Outta here!” and do an about turn. You can feed your dog as your turn and give her a click and a treat at the end of the turn. Or you can do the turn and jackpot her with a handful of treats when completed.
Classroom Challenge (Advanced): Approach a trainer with your dog on leash, when you get within 3 feet or so of trainer, cue, "We're outta here!" while gleefully putting food in your dog's mouth and do an about turn. Walk away from trainer. In upcoming weeks we will do this with a trainer with a neutral dog.
Homework: Please practice this inside on leash this week at least 2 times for a minute or two. This will end up being a fun way to diffuse a situation and get your dog away from an environment you cannot control.
Notes: If your dog has a bite history I recommend you get a Baskerville brand basket muzzle. I like the Ultra muzzle. We will work on teaching your dog to like wearing the muzzle. The muzzle affords us extra flexibility in training and behavior modification exercises. We will be able to safely work much more closely to people and dogs if your dog can wear a muzzle. Also, if your dog lunges at people or dogs on walks I recommend your purchase a Halti head halter. This training tool makes in easier for your dog to remain on all fours and look at you on walks.