Addressing On-Leash Dog-Dog Reactivity- Part 2- CPT Surround Dog Drills

Dog Reactivity- CPT Surround Dog Drills- Dog in Front and Behind

Addressing Bruin’s Dog Reactivity


The videos and text describing our work with Lola explained the seven CPT counterconditioning and desensitization drills that we commonly perform in cases of on-leash conspecific excitability or aggression.  Once dogs excel at the seven initial drills we have several alternatives for furthering their training.  One alternative is the CPT “Surround Dog Drills.”  Another alternative, is moving locations from CPT to the venue in which the owner typically walks his/her dog and where the dog has historically exhibited problematic reactive behavior.  In some cases, we need to include both forms of advanced reactivity training to ensure the highest probability of successful behavior modification and owner satisfaction.

The videos in this post show the CPT Surround Dog Drills.  The Surround Dog Drills literally surround the subject dog with two or more volunteer dogs.  Therefore, the amount of stimulation is multiplied from the initial set of CPT Dog Reactivity Drills.  The Surround Dog Drills are very similar to the Reactivity Drills that incorporate one volunteer, except for the Walking in Pack Drills we will place a volunteer simultaneously in front and in back of the subject dog or on each side of the subject dog.  In the Dual Approach Drills volunteer dogs will approach on each side.  Consequently, the Surround Dog drills are vastly more difficult.


Bruin is a 2-year old, intact, male, German Shepherd that was described by the owner, Rachel, as friendly with dogs, but unmanageable on the leash amidst other dogs. Despite Rachel being a former D1 athlete and despite two 8-week group classes at a big box retailer, Rachel remained concerned that Bruin might cause her inadvertent physical injury, as sometimes he literally dragged her when wanting to meet other dogs.

In one private lesson, CPT switched Bruin’s equipment from a fur saver collar and nylon leash to a Gentle Leader collar and a high-quality leather leash, acclimated Bruin to the equipment, taught Bruin how to walk properly on a loose leash in heel position, taught Rachel proper leash walking mechanics, and then proceeded with multiple counterconditioning and systematic desensitization drills with individual volunteer dogs. Whereas we often use a clicker when conducting dog-dog behavior modification, Rachel was concerned about prior aversive conditioning to the clicker. Therefore, we instead used a distinctive verbal reward marker, an elongated, whisper-voiced “Yessss.”

Rachel and Bruin flew through the individual drills with our volunteer team of CPT Trainer Patricia King and service dog-in-training Sookie. Consequently, we progressed to the next level by introducing a “surround-dog” environment consisting of both Patricia/Sookie and CPT Apprentice Trainer Dan Koss and Jordan, another service dog-in-training.

The video shows the CPT Walking in Pack- Dog Behind and Dog in Front Drills in a surround-dog environment. As seen in the video, in just one appointment Bruin and Rachel made outstanding progress. Using the CPT leash walking protocols, Rachel could walk Bruin with control throughout, even with Sookie and Jordan 1 – 3 feet away. Moreover, a majority of the time Bruin was on a completely loose leash and a notable part of the time he focused on Rachel, rather than on the volunteer dogs.

After Bruin excelled at the CPT Surround Dog Walking in Pack- Dog in Front and Behind Drills, we progressed to the CPT Surround Dog Walking in Pack- Dogs Alongside Drill. Each of the drills encompasses a different spatial perspective in which a client dog may encounter another dog (or multiple dogs) while on a walk.

Which drill is most difficult depends on the dog. Anxious dogs are often most perturbed by a dog coming toward them from behind, whereas excitable dogs and highly dominant or territorial dogs are often most aroused by direct approaches. As observed in the video, Bruin was obviously more aroused walking alongside in a surround drill, where the volunteer dogs were simultaneously lateral to his right and left, than he was in the previous surround drill, where dogs were simultaneously positioned to his front and rear. Eye contact, especially from Jordan, tended to stimulate Bruin.

Bruin did very well initially in the CPT Surround Dog Walking in Pack- Dogs Alongside Drill, when the distances between the dogs was greater. However, as we progressed with systematic desensitization and diminished distances, we approached Bruin’s threshold, whereby Rachel had a harder time walking Bruin with a loose leash and he paid less attention to Rachel than he did to Jordan. Nevertheless, we accomplished significant improvement in just one appointment.

In future sessions and/or during client homework, we may further diminish distance as Bruin’s threshold improves, incorporate less calm volunteer dogs, use more volunteer dogs that cover more positions, require superior performance for Bruin to earn a “Yesss” and food reward, reduce the frequency of food rewards, add the CPT Surround Dog- Dual Approach Drills, and practice with Bruin in historically difficult environments.

Yet, although there is more to do to achieve our ultimate objective, in just one session we certainly exceeded our first-stage objective of enabling Rachel to safely walk Bruin on a loose leash without being dragged around the neighborhood.

For additional information on canine behavior modification please review the Dog Training Articles and Instructional Tips sections of or check out the CPT Facebook Page.


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