The process used to get Betty and Nell together, for Admin..
To begin, the reactive dog is stationary, with or without the owner, tied to a secure line so there's a defined barrier (such as the end of the lead or leash) that he cannot cross. The non-reactive or person will be who walks back and forth.
Well, as for the program, it works like this. First you have to find the dogs reactive zone. This is the area where your dog isn't fully reactive and lunging, but the place where the dog starts becoming a bit aggitated by you being too close. What you will be doing is walking up to that point, and just stand there until you get a good behavior, then walk away. You repeat this over and over until the dog is no longer aggitated, and then the next time you do it, you come about 1 step closer, and draw a new line, then repeat. With more reactive dogs, you might find that 1 step closer may be too much. In this case, you might only move closer at 3-6 inch increments. Yes, a dog can tell you are 3 inches closer, much more than a person could.
Now you might ask if this encourages the bad behavior by walking away? No, it doesn't. That's Operant Conditioning at work. Basically, what you are telling the dog is is that if you want me or this dog to go away, you will have to be good, or give a good behavior, such as a head turn, walk away, blinking of the eyes, laying down, etc. Anything that is a good behavior that you want to shape the aggression into. Some dogs you will have to start as far as 30 yards or even farther, and some only about 5-10 feet. And if you think that the process is boring, well, then it's working, lol. You do not want the reactive dog to be reacting, just at a point that's close to it where he can actually think, and doesn't go over the line. Sometimes this process takes an hour, and sometimes as long as 3-4 hours. And it's always good that if you have success and the dog is a really reactive dog, you may want to do a second session a day later. But if you have great success on the first try, like I did with Betty and Nell, then you want to keep the dogs together, playing for a while, to reinforce that dogs are good. Then you can repeat this process with other dogs until the reactive dog starts to generalize, and not be reactive to any dogs.
Now that we covered the first part, now to go to the next, what happens when you get close to the reactive dog's safe zone? What I mean by safe zone is the barrier in which he cannot cross, such as the end of his leash, or lead, whether he's tied out in the yard or attached to an unmovable object or attached to the wall. When you are getting close to this point, you will notice something changing in the dog. This is called the Switch Over. What you will see in the Switch Over is the reactive dog starting to act differently. It will be like, do I really want them to go away? Would it be funner if they would just stay and play with me? This is what you are looking for, the Switch Over is what you want. It's the ultimate goal. When you are getting close to the barrier, if you are using another dog, you will sit the dog at the barrier, and when the reactive dog gives a good behavior, walk away again. Do this a couple times. Then the next step would be to get a good sniff, nose to nose. If you do, immediately walk away. Walk up again, get a good sniff, and walk away. Do this a few times. Then you can proceed a little closer and let them sniff the side of the head and ears, then walk away again. When you walk away, you are going back to your original starting point. Once you get a few good sniffs in, then you are ready to try walking side-by-side, allowing the dogs to get a couple sniffs, and walk away again. Since I had no other person, I had Betty on her 15ft lead, and we walked the parimeter, let them sniff a couple times, then we walked away.
Then the next step I took with Betty was I kept her on the lead, and let Nell off the leash, and let Nel go at her own pace. Nell went to the perimeter a couple times, got a couple sniffs and walked away. Then, when she felt comfortable, she actually went into the perimeter and Betty got behind her, sniffed Nell's behind, and Nell slowly circled around and back out of Betty's perimeter. She did this a couple times. And the whole time, I was near Betty's lead so if anything happened, I could quickly respond to Betty. But all went great. After Nell was going in comfortably on her own, then I let Betty off her lead, and they've been playing ever since. I let them play in the yard for about 2 hours, then let them in the house, and they continued to romp all over the house, lol. Nearly destroyed my bed covers, lol. But they were having a blast.
Now, at any time during this process, you can take breaks whenever you want. You do not need to run straight through. Also, when you walk away, you don't always have to come right back to the line. You can wait a fwe seconds or a couple minutes, depending on how you feel the dog is doing. Also, you do not want the reactive dog to get the zombies, as in fall asleep. He can lay down, but he must always be alert. If he zombies, it may be time for a food/water break, or a short walk. The nice thing about this program is you go at your own pace, and take breaks as you feel is necessary, or just want to. Breaks will not cause an interruption in the process, as long as you end it on a good note, with a really good behavior and walk away, you are ready for the break. Don't end it on a bad note, try repeating one more run and if it's a good run, then take your break.
Then the last thing, if you walk up to your line, and the reactive dog does nothing, just sit there a couple minutes. If he still doesn't do anything, as in just stares at you or the dog, just walk away and repeat. This will happen on occacion, where the dog will be zoned out. You just break this zoning by walking away and repeating.
Well, there you have it. It works very well. And it works for anything, dog-dog, dog-human, dog-child, dog-skateboard, dog-bike, dog-anything. Also, if you don't have an aggressive dog, but a dog that over-greets and is wild and jumpy, you can do this process in reverse. What you do is you only get closer if the dog calms down. Then if the dog becomes excited, walk away. Works very well.
So, what do you think? When you complete it with one dog, then you can work on it with another dog. After a few dogs, the reactive dog will then start to generalize, and have no problems with any dogs. They had a video of this on the DVD that they worked with a dog that was highly reactive and aggressive to other dogs. They did this in a store, not sure if it was PetSmart, or something like that. They did this process with 3 different dogs, by the time they got to the 3rd dog, he had very little reaction at all. Then, after all 3 were walking, they had 3 other dogs, which they did not know were coming around the corner, and the dog went up to the 3 new dogs and greeted them with a friendly greeting, and continued walking with the other dogs. They could not believe their eyes. It was a total success. And with all the study they have done on this treatment, they found that the process is permanent. With all their trial dogs, none have ever reverted to a bad behavior, even under stress and change of location. Other programs that use Classical Conditioning, as in when the dog gives you a good behavior, you reward them, many dogs revert back to their old behavior when under stress, or something major changes in their lives. The reason it doesn't with the new program is you are shaping the bad behavior into a good behavior, and the other programs just works on trying to decrease the bad behavior and increase the good behavior. If you shape the bad to the good, then there's nothing to go back to because you left the aggression as it is and didn't try to decrease it. Instead, you re-shaped it.
Let me know if this makes sense to you. And if you have any questions, feel free to ask.
Much kinder and easier than the old "bad dog" routine. A much more humane method than exercising the "alpha technique", where the owner "forces" the dog to submit, I must say.
And works much faster and much more reliable..... ;)
Very interesting. It sounds like a great technique to use to make a dog comfortable with a person or another dog. I suppose that two people would be required to acclimate the reacting dog to a person? If the lead or leash needed to be shortened, the person who can't get close enough to the dog without it reacting might have a hard time shortening it's lead...
I'm surprised to hear that it can work after a single session, albeit potentially a 3-4 hour one. I would probably spend a few days doing it before assuming all's well, regardless - I've seen one too many "When Animals Attack" compilations on TV! I guess it's another matter if the dog is already comfortable with you and you are acclimating the dog to another dog. In that case you know the dog you're dealing with and can be reasonably assured that it won't suddenly lash out at you or the other dog.
Extreme circumstances such as a history of abuse aside, does the second part, the Switch Over, always happen? I used to have a dog that never liked other dogs. I wish I'd thought to try a technique like the one you've described. I can't imagine her deciding it would be more fun to play with other dogs than attack them, but that would have been great. I suppose after several hours of the first phase the reacting dog may be exhausted of its aggression. I've seen small children have tantrums only to have a Switch Over afterwards!
When acclimating to another person, you do need 2 people, since you would not be able to handle the reactive dog. Once the person has the dog secure (tied to something that won't move like a fence post), you no longer need the 2nd person. No need to shorten the leash, you want at least 6ft of space so the dog can move around, as in a walk-away for a good behavior. Also, you can have the person handling the dog make a line that represents the barrier that the reactive dog will not be able to go past. One person can do the job, just walking in to the reaction line, wait for a good behavior and walk away. Repeat until you get a good behavior consistantly. Then you can move the line closer until you get to the barrier line.
Now with a person, once you get to the barrier and the Switch over happens, what the person can then do is drop a treat on the ground and walk away if the dog eats the treat and offers a good behavior. Repeat a couple times. Then, if you feel comfortable, you can try giving the treat from your hand. Do this a few times. Then you can try a petting on the head or scratch under the chin. Then walk away again. Keep repeating, and then you can move in closer to let him sniff your legs and body, then walk away. Once this is accomplished, you can then take him on a walk on the leash.
As for the "When Animals Attack", that occurs when you work with the animal to lower their aggression levels. According to the studies they've done with this program, that has never occurred yet, as you are not lowering the aggression levels, but rather re-shaping the aggression to a good behavior. You are doing nothing to lower any aggression.
Also, according to the guy that's doing the study, the Switch Over always happens. Sometimes it takes a little more time, or a break for the day and do a second session the next day, it will happen. You should have seen one of the videos on the DVD, where the dog is dog-human aggressive, and the only person that can go near him is the owner only, and no family members. This dog was beyond extreme. He was one that I would have thought the only place he would end up is on death row, there was no fixing him. In less than 3 hours, the gal that was conducting the treatment was able to pet the dog with zero issues, and were friends. Then, she came back 3 months later to see how the dog was progressing, and he came up to her with a friendly greeting, but was real uneasy with the new person that she had with her, so they repeated it with the new person, and it took less time.
Overall, I think it's a fantastic program. The DVD is called Constructional Aggression Treatment. It's kind of spendy, as it's got 10.5 hours of solid training and videos, as well as a live demo on the last DVD, it's packed full of great info.
That's really interesting and not something I've ever heard of.
I know what you mean about the classical training. My mum has boarding kennels and breeds Yorkshire Terriers, and when they are young she starts out with the "if you sit nice when I ask you to you'll get a toy or a treat" thing. It does work to an extent but like you mentioned, under times of stress etc they forget it. Examples of this are if they are really excited to see you and they are asked to sit. Yes, they might get a chocolate button if they sit but their mum's just appeared through the door! Who wants a chocolate button when mum's just appeared through the door?
I know Betty was really uncomfortable around dogs to start with but I'm curious. Was she actively agressive towards them?
The reason I ask is that my mum has 2 dogs that just hate each other. They are not agressive towards other dogs in general but towards each other they are very agressive and have been in a few fights, which have resulted in trips to the vet. It all started when one of them had pups and the other got too close. I'm wondering if this method could work for them, even though I understand it would be a very lengthy one because of the degree of agression.
Thanks for sharing. That has been really good to read through.
Yes, when on leash, she is actively aggressive towards other dogs. She get's really bad, and her eyes turn red, and wants to rip the dog apart. But off leash, she does well with several dogs. Now with Nell, she's done phenominal, both off leash and on leash. I can have Betty on leash, and she has no issues at all with Nell, because Betty was on leash when we ran her through the program. It also helped some that Nell is a Border Collie, and Betty's had some good experiences with them. But when on leash, all that would normally go out the door. Now the challenge is, my friend may be coming over from Seattle, and he'll be bringing his Chiwawa. Betty is really bad with small dogs, both on leash and off. We plan on walking through the program, step by step, and I'll be teaching my friend what exactly to look for, as well as how to do the program from beginning to end. This will be my first experience doing this with another persons dog, one in which is a small dog that Betty is known to not be very fond of.
As for your moms 2 dogs that fight, go for it. It doesn't matter if they are dogs that have never met before, or have lived together for a long time with known aggression issues. What you want to do is reshape that aggression, not minimize it, and that is the purpose of this program. You reshape their behavior, and not minimize the bad like you do in Classical Conditioning. Also, with the degree of aggression, that doesn't have a lot to do with it. Because they have been together for a while, that may actually benefit the process. What I would do is put the one that has the most aggression issues on the secure leash, and use the dog that has less issues as the dummy dog that walks with you on leash to each line, working on the other dog.
One small dog that Betty did well with off leash is a Min Pin. It was about the only small dog she actually played with. Most others she wanted to get through the fence and pounce on them, she would be showing teeth.
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