- Lack of or insufficient correct exposure to other balanced dogs or a bad experience with another dog
- Dog is disengaged from owner
- Dog learns to focus on other dogs
- Dog displays calming signals which are ignored by owner
- Frustration and fear builds
- Reactivity is displayed
- Owner over compensates and panics
- Pattern is created and repeated by both dog and handler!
- = My dog is reactive to other dogs.
People mostly associated the word socialisation with puppies and of course to get off on the right foot with your new dog it’s an imperative part of their development. I call it EXPOSURE and I believe that it doesn’t matter how old your dog is, exposure should and does happen daily. When we expose a dog to many different experiences and show them what is expected at that time and train in that environment we ensure stability and calm with the experience in the future.
With each experience or ritual, you take your dog through you should already have an expectation of what you want from the dog at that time and then train to achieve it. Don’t just expect it to happen smoothly because you will often be disappointed. If you dog is offering you a good calm attitude reward it using markers and food so that the dog is more likely to continue to offer the same attitude, the dog will also learn that the experience is positive and giving you engagement is positive and to be repeated. I am a great believer in little and often so don’t overwhelm your dog or allow boredom to set in.
Attending a puppy class is not a necessity and can cause more problems in their future because it’s a false set up. Training puppies with other puppies is not something that happens daily for them and they are likely to meet full grown dogs of all ages more regularly and should therefore be taught from the start that play is not the most important action when around other dogs. A puppy should be taught to focus on his owner and ignore other dogs. Does this mean they can’t play with other dogs? Of course not. But it should not be the priority when introductions are made. You must be the most important motivator in any circumstance. This does not mean that all trainers who take “puppy classes” are bad but if they prioritise play please beware. Most clients I have that have poor recall and excitability in general around other dogs often tell me the same story.
When working with our dogs it’s important that we have engagement. What does this mean?
We must be the strongest motivator in their environment.
How is this achieved?
Through play, positive reinforcement, fun and positive energy.
What can I do to get my dog to engage or to improve the engagement I have?
Use food, use toys, all eye contact is rewarded with a primary reinforcer.
How often do I need to practice this?
Practice engagement whenever and wherever you are with your dog and they chose you.
This may all sound straight forward and generally it is if you start as you should with minimal distraction, where do you start?
At home, in the garden, on the drive, in the street, at distance from other dogs until your dog chooses you over all other distractions.
If you are disciplined with this exercise you dog’s focus will also lengthen.
Most people become frustrated with lack of progress in training because they do not have their dogs attention!