Our classes and workshops for reactive dogs focus on working on human-only drills first so that handlers can first gain the efficiency of movement needed to provide clear direction to their dogs and to make the exercise fun regardless of whether the food reward is super-yummy or average. Then once each human-only drill has been performed, handlers practice the same skills with their dog.
Veterinarians, technicians and other dog enthusiasts often ask me about the most efficient way to learn about animal training or to become a trainer. Currently, my best recommendation is the Karen Pryor Academy and others agree. Just ask veterinary technician Debbie Martin, a KPA graduate and co-author of Puppy Start Right: Foundation Training for the Companion Dog.
If you have a reactive dog and already know the patterns for keeping your dog focused on you and can perform these in the presence of distractions relatively close by, you’re 80% there. Here are examples of how you can apply these exercises to situations where you see a human or dog approaching on a path and need to keep your dog focused so he won’t bark, jump or lunge at them.
Do you have a reactive dog? You might think the answer is that if you try treats and they don’t work you should move to a method that’s more severe, such as yanking with a choke chain or pinch collar or something so aversive that it makes the dog want to stop. What you really should do is improve your technique and work at the distance from the distraction where you can keep the reactive Rover focused on you.
One of the major issues with teaching dogs to walk well on lead is that they want to rush ahead to see the sights. Walking next to you, and especially stopping to wait, is boring to them compared to exploring. How do we remedy the situation? We make sticking next to you and stopping a fun game—one that’s as exciting as the people, sounds and smells on a walk.