Addressing On-Leash Dog-Dog Reactivity
Feb 21, 2015
Addressing Lola’s Dog Reactivity
Lola was mostly neglected by her initial owner, who agreed to re-home Lola to someone who would provide Lola more quality time. When Maureen rescued Lola at l-year of age, Lola exhibited reactive behavior on-leash when meeting unfamiliar people or dogs. Maureen had difficulty walking or socializing Lola, due to Lola’s vigorous pulling, barking, and lunging.
CPT then worked with Maureen privately. In one thorough private lesson, we switched Lola to a Gentle Leader and worked on clicker conditioning, sit, doorway behavior, leash walking, and proactive stimulation. Lola consequently improved to where Maureen felt comfortable transferring Lola to her sister in Maryland, who has a larger property.
Unfortunately, Maureen’s sister struggled managing Lola. Maureen’s sister thereby employed a trainer that emphasized electronic collar training. However, Lola’s behavior did not improve. Consequently, Lola was returned to Maureen, who again sought CPT’s services for Lola’s training.
We assessed Lola as excitable and lacking impulse control, but non-aggressive. Nevertheless, Lola’s high arousal state made it grueling for Maureen to control Lola. Moreover, Lola’s behavior frightened unfamiliar people and dogs.
Lola needed to learn that calm behavior better accomplished her objective to meet a nearby person or leashed dog and that pulling, barking, and lunging were unsuccessful alternatives that we would response block. Thus, we began an impulse control, counterconditioning, and systematic desensitization leash walking program that encompassed any spatial perspective in which Lola may encounter a person or dog while on a walk. In simple terms, Lola needed to learn to await direction, rather than take initiative. Furthermore, Lola needed to understand that “slow is fast” and “fast is slow,” whereby she comprehends that patient behavior on a loose-leash will more quickly bring her the opportunity to greet a person or dog.
The following video shows Lola performing the CPT Single Approach- Volunteer Stationary Drill, whereby she is allowed increasing proximity, provided she remains calm on a loose leash and sits with focused attention whenever the handler stops. This video was taken after about an hour of instruction with another volunteer dog. More significantly, the progress occurred during Lola’s first CPT appointment after returning to GA.
To see further videos, please review the CPT Facebook Page. There are a series of 3 videos posted on February 21, 2015. The “Lola Series” encompasses a number of spatial perspectives in which Lola may encounter dogs in practical situations, with relevant cognitive desensitization drills specific to each situation.
The second video (available only on Facebook) shows the more difficult CPT Single Approach- Subject Stationary Drill, where the volunteer incrementally approaches the subject’s territory, provided the subject is calm and attentive. Please note that when first working with an excitable or aggressively reactive dog we accelerate progress by using obedient, composed, well-tempered volunteer dogs. That is why the volunteer handler is CPT Trainer Patricia King and the volunteer dog is one of our service dogs-in-training.
The next set of drills that we perform with reactive dogs are the CPT Walking in Pack Drills- Dog Behind, Dog in Front, and Dog Alongside. The third set of drills are the CPT Dual Approach Drills. The third video (available only on Facebook) shows the Dual Approach- Handlers Adjacent Drill. The subsequent drill is the Dual Approach- Dogs Adjacent Drill. The 3 drill sets and 7 total drills aid in conditioning a reactive dog to walk calmly amidst unfamiliar people and/or dogs.
After a client dog performs well with the initial drill sets at CPT, the dog may meet all client goals and not require further instruction. However, sometimes clients desire a more difficult environment at CPT before again walking their dog in their neighborhood or at a park. In such cases, we provide a multiple volunteer dog environment. Moreover, on occasion client dogs perform brilliantly at CPT, but fail to generalize behavioral advances to environments where they historically misbehaved. In such cases, the client may also require in-home or remote private instruction before observing goal-level outcomes.
In the third video, Lola is excellent until reaching a position within just 2 or 3 feet of the volunteer dog. Thus, we have significantly reduced her threshold distance, but have yet to reach goal level, which is zero reactivity, regardless of distance.
The other notable part of the training process is education for the human end of the leash. Notice how confident and calm Maureen remains throughout the video. The handler learning no-force leadership communication and proper leash mechanics is just as essential to the success of the program as are the drills for modifying the arousal state of the dog.
At the completion of this drill, to reward Lola for an excellent session, we repeated the CPT Single Approach- Volunteer Stationary Drill with Lola and Sookie and then allowed Lola to interact with Sookie off-leash. After a long, productive session with food, interaction with Sookie became more rewarding to Lola than were additional food treats. An understanding of dynamic drive levels and reward valuations is beneficial when designing a behavior modification program intended to calm reactive dogs.
Overall, excellent progress in reducing dog reactivity, especially for just one session!
(Sandy Springs/Atlanta, GA)