If your dog barks at things on walks, you’re not alone. Seriously, it’s extremely common. Dogs bark at cars, people, dogs and other animals. Why? There are many reasons. It can be caused by frustration, fear or herding. (And other reasons too.)
The two best training strategies to help curb the reactivity is teaching more appropriate behaviors and focusing on building a positive association which will then lead to a more appropriate behavior. Teaching more appropriate behaviors The first thing you’ll want to do is teach the behavior. “Watch” is a great example. Once you’ve taught this and practice in many environments, you’re ready to turn the distraction into the first cue of the behavior. This means, allow your dog to notice the distraction and then ask for a “watch” and follow up with a food reward. The order of events is very important. A big mistake that people make is asking for the behavior before their dog sees the distraction. It doesn’t take long before dogs start to realize that the behaviors we’re asking for actually predict the distraction which results in a reaction.
Building positive associations For this, you’ll need high value food, the correct order of events and a 1/1 ratio. If every time that your dog notices the distraction they receive high value food, eventually a positive association will be built. For this to work, the distraction must predict the food and it has to happen every time the distraction is present. Once your dog puts it together you’ll notice that your dog will start to look back at you for food once they notice the distraction. When we feed in these moments we end up rewarding that behavior and we get more of it. The end result is your dog will see the distraction and look back at you without you having to say anything. Pretty cool stuff! There are many parts to curbing leash reactivity. Distance is perhaps the biggest factor. If it’s early in your training and you’re too close to the distraction, what you’re trying to do isn’t likely to work. The next is consistency. If you’re not consistently turning the distractions into predictors of either being asked for a behavior or just being fed, you’re not going to see the results you’re looking for. Having patience is an understatement. It’s easy to lose your patience when you’re trying to have a leisurely walk and all of the sudden your arm is being pulled out of the socket. I get it. I’ve been there myself. Do your best though. Getting upset isn’t going to help anyone. Lastly, this blog post loosely explains two ways to do it. To get the fastest results, contact us so we can give you a formal plan to follow.