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Dog/Dog Reactivity Training: 10 Day Challenge

Posted by Amanda Beasley on Sunday, January 2, 2011 Under: Dog Training
I have found that our new dog Kenzie is quite dog reactive. This means that she has a strong reaction when she sees other dogs, and in my opinion, it is not a favorable one. She usually gets very stiff, her tail goes straight up, and she barks ferociously. Without any of my secret weapons, she ignores me completely, and I have to pretty much drag her away from the dog to get her to calm down. Now, what about these secret weapons, you may be asking: well, if we are far enough from the dog, and the dog was not barking at her, I found that she would pay attention to either her tennis ball, or a squeaker toy. She would also work for very high value treats once she got past the initial entrance of the dog.

I decided to use these secret weapons to my advantage, and every time she looked at another dog (whether she locked eyes on him or not) I would squeak the toy and/or toss her the tennis ball. I did this in the different pet stores around town a couple times a week for three weeks. While there was improvement, there were so few dogs in the store while we were there, it was more distraction training than reactivity training. Also, we were going to be moving 45 minutes from town soon, and I knew that it was going to be much harder to get her out multiple times a week, so I wanted to take full advantage of the 10 days we still had living in town. So I decided to try taking her to the dog park, were there were more likely to be other dogs, but staying as far from the actual fenced in area with the dogs as possible. This was the ticket to success! She was able to pay attention to me if we were really far from the dogs, and so I would just throw the tennis ball over and over, and squeaking the little toy if she started to focus in on the the dogs on the other side of the field. I found her threshold of attention, where if she went any closer, she would have a hard time staying focused on me and the ball, so we just stayed right within it, so that she was able to be successful. 

I decided to challenge myself with a 10 day challenge: get Kenzie out and around other dogs every single day for 10 days straight. This is how it has gone so far:

Day one:
Dog Park, whining and focusing on dogs in dog park if she got 200ft from fence. 

Day two: 
Pet Store, saw 2 dogs, the first dog she barked at and got all stiff, but recovered when I squeaked the toy. We continued to work in the store for about 30 minutes and then saw another. She got stiff but I squeaked the toy soon enough for her not to bark.

Day three:
Dog park, was able to focus up to 200ft from fence. Did not want to go within 150ft of the fence to get the ball. Up to this point, it felt like there had been no progress.

Day four:
Dog park, was able to focus up to 50ft from the fence, and willingly went up to the fence and touched noses with another dog through the fence, without getting defensive or nervous! This was a breakthrough; obvious improvement.

Day five:

Day six:
Dog park, she was able to focus up to 100ft, but that was because there was a dog whining at the fence at her. She did not bark or get defensive, she just had a hard time focusing. There was another dog in the same field as us, his owner was also throwing the ball for him. We stayed pretty far from them, but she at no point got tense or growly, which is wonderful. She even tried a couple of times to go play ball with them, which was great. I want her to want to, even though I'm not going to let her at this point.

In : Dog Training 

Tags: reactivity  kenzie 
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