Grace is a 4.5 year old, spayed, female German Shepherd Dog that Brenda has owned since Grace was a 7-week old puppy. When Brenda first contacted CPT, she stated that when on-leash Grace was reactively lunging at 75% of the neighborhood dogs she visually encountered while on a walk and when off-leash Grace bit her daughter’s Papillon. Grace was behaving reactively despite completing both group and private training with an inferior training company.
Due to fear of being pulled to the ground and concern about Grace injuring a neighbor’s dog, Brenda became hesitant to walk Grace. Consequently, multiple daily walks diminished to no more than 2 to 3 total walks per week. Brenda realized that to experience more joy from Grace’s company she needed to resolve Grace’s on-leash reactivity. Moreover, she realized that if she resolved the behavior Grace would in turn experience a higher quality of life, as she would become more relaxed as well as receive more quality time outdoors.
Therefore, Brenda scheduled Grace for private behavior modification training with CPT Head Trainer Mark Spivak and CPT Trainer Patricia King. During the first appointment, Mark acquired a thorough chronological, behavioral, health, and training history, acclimated Grace to a Gentle Leader head halter collar, taught leash walking to Grace, taught leash walking mechanics to Brenda, and conducted 7 counterconditioning and systematic desensitization drills using a volunteer dog handled by Patricia.
The process involves scaffolding, where each training step sequences to a higher-level step. The ultimate step is the performance of the 7 drills, which in total encompass any spatial perspective that one may meet a dog while on a walk. During the drills we use response blocking, leadership communication, systematic desensitization, and positive reinforcement to teach the subject dog to perform a replacement behavior in lieu of staring, barking, and/or lunging at the volunteer dog. The replacement behavior is simply walking on a loose leash and looking at the owner when the volunteer dog becomes proximal.
The first appointment focused on determining the correct technique for modifying Grace’s behavior, prepping Grace to perform the replacement behavior, and then teaching Brenda how to handle Grace and perform homework assignments. Brenda was impressed with Grace’s headway, but still wanted her to return for a second appointment to confirm Grace’s progress and to receive extra pointers.
As you can see from the videos, Brenda and Grace have made terrific strides after just 2 appointments! Brenda can now walk Grace comfortably without apprehension, which has vastly improved the quality of life for both Brenda and Grace.
The videos demonstrate CPT Reactivity Drill IIb- Dual Approach- Dogs Adjacent. This drill is usually the most difficult of the 7 drills. Nevertheless, Grace performs admirably and comfortably, as she remains calm walking within a foot of Patricia and Jordan.
If you own a reactive dog and wish to achieve similar progress, please contact CPT by email or phone (404-236-2150) to schedule a private behavior modification appointment with a CPT Head Trainer. Just like Brenda, you will be glad that you contacted CPT.