BDBN 19 | Fix Reactivity

One Strategy To Fix Reactivity!

What is the perfect strategy to deal with your dog’s reactivity? In this episode, Doug Poynter provides insights for Enfinatie Phillips, the owner of a pit bull named Maya, to learn the strategy to fix reactivity. Doug teaches us how to use a clicker and some treats properly to train our dogs into getting along with other dogs they meet. Tune in to this episode and get more ideas on how you can fix your dog’s reactivity.

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One Strategy To Fix Reactivity!

I am the Owner of Better Dog Behavior Now. That’s a business that’s located in Central Virginia. I specialize in solving canine behavior problems. I use positive reinforcement, marker training, and clicker training. I do a behavioral modification. I work with aggressive, reactive, and fearful dogs. I work with dogs with separation anxiety. I work with unruly and wound-up dogs. I work with all kinds of behavior problems. Canine behavior problems are not just canine problems. They’re also human problems. There has never been a canine behavior problem I’ve seen that didn’t have a human component involved with it.

I’d like to train dogs, train people to help dogs, and help people here with my business in Central Virginia. I service Central Virginia and all over the state of Virginia. I also have clients that I’ve worked with through Zoom in Southern California, Nicaragua, and around the world. I’m not going to travel to Nicaragua to work with the dog. We do that on Zoom. We’re going to do that in this episode.

I have a special guest. Her name is Enfinatie Phillips. She is from Virginia like I am. She contacted me about her dog. What I’m going to do is we’re going to get started and do this session. I’m going to ask her a few questions and then we’re going to see where it goes. Tell me about your dog. What’s her name? What kind of dog?

Her name is Maya. She is a pitbull mixed with a bulldog. I got her on April 18, 2022. She’s three years old.

She’s a rescue dog. Did we know anything about her background?

The only thing I was told about her is that she does not get along with small dogs very much. She grew up with another male dog named Biscuit. When he passed away, that’s when all her issues started.

When you first contacted me in 2022, you were a student at the time. We set up a session for me to come and work with you guys individually and in person, but we couldn’t do it. You had something going on.

I just had started a new job and I was in training pretty much the entire day.

Enfinatie and I have spoken several times over the telephone. What we’re going to do in this episode is we’re going to do a Zoom session the way I do it with folks. Enfinatie, tell us what the behavior problem is that you’re dealing with with your dog.

I feel like Maya has bad reactivity when she’s on the leash and especially when she’s with me. I’ve noticed that when I take her out and she’s around other dogs, she’s very hyper. She wants to bark at them, but when she gets a chance to interact with them, she’s perfectly fine. Not all dogs want a dog to interact with them. My main issue was getting her to be able to go past other dogs without it being such an overwhelming situation for her.

Let me ask you a question before we get started. You said that if she’s off-leash, then she’s okay with the other dogs. Tell me your experience with that. When have you seen that? One of the things we need to be careful of when we’re dealing with the American Pit Bull Terrier is sometimes they cannot be really happy with other dogs. They were bred originally to fight other dogs. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a pit bull that gets along with other dogs, but it wouldn’t be unusual if they did not. Tell me about your experience having her get along with other dogs off-leash. Where have you seen that?

We were at the dog park. I had her in there. I was in this fencing area and a guy walked up and he had his dog with him. I let him know like, “I’m not too sure how she is with other dogs.” He was like, “I’m confident with my dog.” He’s very much like a teacher-ish type of dog is how he explained it. He was like, “If you want, we can try to introduce them. If anything happens, it’s not your fault.” I was apprehensive about it. His dog seemed well-mannered. Maya was in her own little world. She wasn’t paying attention. He came in and they played forever. They were running around. They were having a good time.

She never tried to bite him and didn’t growl at him. That’s when I realized maybe it’s more her being on a leash. My stepdad has several dogs. He also introduced her to one of his dogs, and they did perfectly fine. I also noticed that maybe it was me because when we were in the field, I was on the other side having a conversation with the guy and the dogs were just running. I felt like maybe it was my anxious energy that was giving her that extra energy that she was having.

When you have her on a leash and you see another dog, do you get anxious about that?

I do. The first time I took her to get her shots and there were dogs in the line and she lost her mind, I get very weary when I see other dogs. I don’t want that reaction out of her.

This is very interesting because it gives us a little bit of a foothold here when we know that she doesn’t have a problem with other dogs as long as the other dog is polite and we’re off-leash. Let’s talk a little bit about that, and then maybe we’ll talk about an exercise you can do when you have her on a leash so that the reactivity seems to go down a bit and have a little bit of a calmer scenario. When you have her on a leash and she reacts to other dogs, what is your response?

I’ve been working on her “Leave it” command and then we turn around. We go in the opposite direction.

Prior to that, what were you doing?

I was trying to pull her in the opposite direction to get her out of the eyesight of the other dog.

Can you give me a typical scenario where there would be a problem? Can you think back to a specific situation where she had a problem with another dog on a leash, and describe it for me?

I was a college student. I lived close to Longwood’s campus. I would walk her around the perimeter of it, versus going on campus. On this specific day, I was walking with my friends and there was a dog in front of us. I was like, “That’s fine. We’re going to turn around,” and there was a dog behind us as well. My only other option was to cross the street, Either way, she was still going to see one and she lost her mind. She went crazy and was barking. It was a lot of energy.

Your response to that was to go the other direction. Did you scold her? Did you try to calm her down verbally? What did you do?

I tried to put her in a sit and then stand in front of her because I felt like the only way I could stop her from seeing the other dogs is by blocking her myself. I essentially put my body in between her and the other dog she was seeing.

You probably noticed that that didn’t work very well.

It did not work at all.

I want you to imagine that you’re at home and you’re a kid. You’re mom and dad put your favorite dessert in front of you. What’s your favorite dessert?

I love little Starburst. I was not a cake-chocolate type of person.

They put Starburst in front of you and then tell you not to look at it. What would that make you want to do?

It would make me want to get to it.

You look at it even more. One of the things that we don’t want to do is try to keep her from leaving the “Leave it” command where she can’t look at another dog. It tends to make the dog tensor because we’re telling her not to look at something that she’s intent on looking at. What I’d like to do is, first of all, encourage you to do two things.

One is if you can get some play dates with other dogs that you know are like the guy’s dog that you know you met up with, or like your dad’s dogs that you know she gets along with. We can have play dates with those dogs under scenarios that you know from past experience are going to work. One of the great things that you can do is keep that process going. Is that possible?

Yeah.

Keep that going so she continually has good experiences with other dogs. Here’s one thing I’m going to suggest that you definitely do not do. This might fly in the face of some things that you hear. Do not take her to the dog park.

That wasn’t going to happen.

The reason why I say that is because there’s always somebody at the dog park who doesn’t have control over his or her dog. We get into scenarios that create problems. I had a session with a client with an Australian Shepherd whom I’ve worked with before and had suggested that they didn’t take the dog to the dog park, but they took the dog to the dog park and another dog jumped on him. Now, he’s very reactive with other dogs.

There will always be somebody at the dog park who doesn't have control over their dog. We get into scenarios that create problems. Share on X

We were 300 yards minimum from the dog park, and he was uptight and nervous at that distance from the dog park. All of this happened because of what occurred in the dog park. What I’m going to suggest, especially, given the fact that Maya has got a pitbull in her, and we don’t want to excite any tendencies to fight with another dog, is that we limit these play dates to dogs that you know that Maya gets along with them, you know the person who has the dog and you know the dog that you’re working with is well-behaved and can create a great play date for her.

Let me give you some exercises to do when we got a scenario in which you know there’s going to typically be reactivity and that is when you’re walking on her on a leash. When we’ve spoken before, we talked about using markers and a clicker. Tell everybody what it was you noticed when you used a clicker with Maya.

It was much going on around her that she could not respond to the clicker, but she would respond to me.

I want to make sure that we’re clear in terms of how to use the clicker. The click happens in the instant that you are getting what you want from the dog. It’s not used to tell her to do something or distract her from doing anything. It’s used to say, “That thing you’re doing right now is the thing that I want you to do.” I want you to keep something in mind. If you are out in public with her and she is wound up and excited, that is not the time to click. Could you have possibly clicked in the wrong instance with her?

Absolutely, like clicking when she was already wound up. She has 1,000 things going on. She’s not going to pay attention. I’m not going to get the reaction I want out of her.

If you click while she’s wound up, you are marking being wound up. It’s like you’re saying being wound up is a good thing. Remember, the click happens during the behavior that we want and then a food treat follows. What’s happening is that click is marking the behavior and the food treat that follows is saying the behavior is good, but she makes an association, “I hear that click and something good’s going to happen, I’m going to get a food treat. Whatever I’m doing, when I hear the click, I will keep doing it.” We definitely would not want to be clicking when she’s wound up. I’m going to suggest something to you. We try the clicker again, but I want you to go at it with the idea that “I’m only going to click when she’s doing exactly what I want.” How could you get some practice doing that?

I’m walking her a lot more now that it’s warmer outside. I can maybe incorporate taking her more onto the campus versus walking her around outside of the campus.

Let’s make it even easier for you. How about if you practice with the clicker in the house where there are no distractions?

That’s even better.

Does she know sit?

Yes.

Let’s think about this. You ask her to sit. When her butt hits the ground, you click and then you give her a food treat. The sequence is to click, pause, food treat. There’s a trainer in San Diego named Emily Larlham. I’m hoping to have her as a guest. She’s good at this. She’s got a great way of describing it. She says, “The sequence is click, pause, food treat.” Everybody gets all worried about the food. Put food treats in your pocket and don’t worry about the food. What you’re looking for is the timing of the click. It’s when she’s doing exactly what you want. If what we want now is a sit, ask her to sit. As her butt hits the floor, click and then reach into your pocket and give her a food treat.

BDBN 19 | Fix Reactivity

Fix Reactivity: Put food treats in your pocket, and don’t worry about the food. What you’re looking for is the timing of the click. It’s when your dog is exactly doing what you want.

 

I feel like I started to use that clicker like, “Once you hear the click, you do what I’m asking you to do,” versus using it as a marker of, “You did what I asked you. Thank you.”

The reason it works as a marker is that it happens in the instant. It’s like you grabbing a sliver of time and saying, “That’s the thing I want you to do.” The other thing that I want you to do is to practice calling her to you and rewarding her with a food treat, but marking it with a clicker. An easy way to do that is to face her and then back up. As she comes to you, click and treat. What you’re teaching her is to come to you.

You’re going to use the cue as she’s moving toward you. Don’t look at it like, “I’ve got to tell her to do it and then she has to do it.” We want to create an association. When mom says, “Come to me,” I’m walking to her. She starts walking towards you, and as she moves in your direction, let her hear you calmly say, “Come.” As she gets to you, click and then give her a food treat.

The easy way to get her to come to you is to face her and then back up. You can even cheat a little bit by having a food treat in your hand and extending it outwards towards her, and then back up while keeping it extended. She sees that food treat. As you back up, she wants to follow you. You’re facing her when you back up. As she comes to you and gets to you, click and then give her that food treat.

You’re facing her. You back up as she starts to move. She hears you say, “Come.” When she gets to you, you click and treat. One of the things that you can then add to that a sit. When she’s coming to you really easily, when she gets there, instead of clicking right away, just say, “Sit.” When she sits, click and treat.

If you find that that’s not working as well as you’d like, what you can do is do the “Come to me” and the backing up. When she gets close to you, click and treat, and then ask her to sit and then click and treat. That’s two separate activities. When she starts getting good at that, then when she starts coming to you, she’ll probably automatically sit and you can click and treat. Why do you think I’m asking you to do this stuff in the house?

It’s so when we get to the public, she’s more focused. It’s easier for me to communicate with her pretty much.

She understands what the process is. I don’t want to reign on the parade, but let me say this to you. Right now, if a dog is too close, it doesn’t matter what you did in the house. If we’re going to make this work, one of the things that I want you to do is get some idea as to what distance she can be from a dog, see the dog, and notice the dog, but not go into her reactivity. Do you have any idea how far away that is?

It honestly depends. If we’re near the beginning of our walk and she has all her energy, they could be like a football field away and she’s reactive. If she’s tired near the end, she’s like, “I want to get in the car.” It really depends.

When you say she could be a football field away and she gets reactive at the beginning of the wall, is that activity as severe as what you see, or is it hyped up?

It’s just more hyped up.

Let’s see if we can begin to determine when you have her out, what that distance might be, at which point she can see a dog, notice it, but doesn’t get reactive. Do you have anyone that you could use that would help you who’s got a dog where we can have some controlled circumstances?

Yes, I do.

Do you have a place where you can go where you have plenty of room to work and then be reasonably assured that you’re not going to have some strange dog run up on you that you can’t see? In other words, there’s plenty of open space. if you see somebody with another dog coming near you, you can get moving out of the way because you’ve got plenty of notice. Do you have a place like that?

Yes.

I’m going to give you this exercise. I’m going to give you a little twist on it that seems to make it work pretty well. What I’d like you to do is try it and then contact me back. Maybe we’ll do a follow-up session so everyone can hear about Maya’s progress. Here’s the exercise. You get at that distance where you know she can see the dog, and she sees the dog. Here’s where your timing has to come into play, and this is why I want you to practice with the clicker in the house. As soon as you see her see the dog before she has a chance to react, I want you to click.

I want to make sure that you’re following what I’m suggesting because what I’m not suggesting here is that the clicker is a distraction. It’s not distracting her from seeing the other dog. Notice we’re also not saying, “Leave it.” We’re not trying to get her not to look at the other dog because it’s much the same as you sitting at a table with Starburst in front of you, and your parents saying, “Don’t look at it, leave it.” That would make you want it even more. If you try to keep her from looking at a dog, it is going to make her want to look at the dog even more. That’s not what we’re doing here.

Let me show you a way that can maybe facilitate this and make it a little bit easier for you. That is if the person who’s helping you can be with his or her dog out of sight and let you get set up on the field, wherever you want to get set up on the field, and then you give a visual signal like you raise your hand and then they walk out from behind something, then we’ve got control over the situation so that you can do your primary responsibility, which is this. Once you raise your hand and you know they’re walking out, you don’t need to be looking at that dog. You need to look at Maya. When you see her head turn in the direction of that dog, you click immediately.

Here’s how we know your distance is good or not good. When you click, if she does not turn her head to get a food treat from your hand, then you’re too close to the other dog. In other words, if you click and she keeps staring bullet holes in the other dog, that means you’re too close. You need to back the exercise up.

I don’t want you to worry about how far that might be. I have had to do this before when I was easily on a football field or away from the other dog so that the dog that I was working with would only notice and not react. Don’t worry about what the distance is. The distance is what it is. Here’s the next piece. It sounds like I’m running on and on here, but I want you to get all this. When she looks at the other dog, you’re going to click and treat.

BDBN 19 | Fix Reactivity

Fix Reactivity: You will click and give treats when your dog looks at the other dog. You marked your dog looking at the other dog without a reaction.

 

When you do that, you marked her looking at the other dog without a reaction. You marked a polite look, which is what we want. She’s got to be able to look at other dogs. Don’t you think? Here’s what’s going to happen in all likelihood if you have the distance right. She’s going to see the other dog. You click, she turns her head to get the food treat, and then she’s going to look back at the other dog. Why do you think she’ll look back at the dog again?

That’s what she’s interested in at the moment.

No, it’s because you marked it and rewarded her for looking at the other dog. She’s going to look at the other dog again. The clicker marks behavior, then the food treat rewards it. Any behavior that’s rewarded is going to be repeated. If she looks at the other dog, you mark it and give her a food treat, she’s going to look at the other dog again. That’s why we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the distance right so when she’s looking at the other dog, she’s not reacting.

It feels like I have to get out of my head that her seeing another dog is such a negative thing.

Keep in mind, because we’ve got a distance and because hopefully, the other person’s dog is going to be on a leash and Maya is going to be on a leash, we have control. There’s not going to be a problem. When you do that, she’s going to look at the other dog again. You immediately click again and food treat, then she’s going to look at the dog again. You might click twenty times and she looks at the other dog, then she gets a click and a food treat. I’ve been out there where it’s like click, treat. When I help people with this live, I can be a real pain in the butt on this exercise because I won’t be clicking and I’ll be telling you, “Go ahead and click. Don’t wait, click,” so that you know how soon you’ve got to click.

There may be one other thing that occurs, which would be a good thing. After you do that, if she looks at that dog maybe 4 or 5 times and she’s getting clicked and treated for it, there is a real good chance at that distance that what she’s going to do is stop looking at the other dog and just look at you. What do you think you need to do then?

Click.

Click and treat to keep her looking at you because now she voluntarily said, “I’d rather look at you than the other dog.” It’d be like you going, “I don’t want to look at Starburst anymore. I’m going to look out the window.” Your parents go, “Great,” instead of trying to make you not look at Starburst. If she voluntarily turns her head and starts to focus on you, then click and treat for that. Here is what you need to get straight with the person with the other dog. If that happens, then you raise your hand again and he or she takes their dog back behind the shelter or whatever they were behind where Maya couldn’t see the other dog. Why do you think we’re doing that?

To restart the situation.

No, I want you to think about it for a second. Maya is barking at another dog. What typically happens when that person is walking his or her dog and Maya barks at that dog, where does that dog typically go?

Towards Maya.

Does the dog go towards Maya or walk away from Maya?

They walk away. In my head, they’re walking toward her.

They end up walking away. Would you agree with me that any behavior that’s rewarded is going to be reinforced and therefore repeated?

Yes.

What happens when Maya barks and the dog walks away? Isn’t that a reward? In her little dog brain, what caused it to happen?

Her barking caused the dog to leave.

Barking is going to continue because it’s being rewarded. This exercise is called Engage Disengage. She looks at the dog and gets a mark and a food treat. As she looks away from the dog to get the food treat, she’s disengaging from that dog. When she disengages voluntarily and starts looking at you, and you keep her looking at you, clicking and treating, and you raise your hand to tell the guy or the girl that you’re working with to get out of sight, when she looks back, the dog is gone. What made the dog go away is focusing on mom not barking at the dog. Do you think that you can do this exercise?

Absolutely.

Suppose the distance that you’re working with is 50 yards and you do this a bunch of times and she gets good at looking at the dog and then looking back for clicks. She looks at the dog, you click and she looks back for a treat, and then she does that 3 or 4 times, and then she starts focusing on you. She gets good at that exercise. What is your next step?

Closing up that distance a little bit.

A little bit is not. We’re at 50 yards and now we’re going to go to 10 or 25 yards. A little bit is we’re at 50 yards and now we’re going to do it from 45 yards or 40 yards. The slower you go with this, the faster this will work itself out. You got to practice it regularly. A couple of little hints for you. When you walk with her and you get surprised by another dog, your idea of turning her around and going someplace else is a great idea. Let’s do it by teaching her that exercise away from the scenario. Take her out in the yard and she’s going in one direction, and you go this way. When she turns to look at you, click and treat, then walk in the other direction, and click and treat when she’s walking with you.

BDBN 19 | Fix Reactivity

Fix Reactivity: The slower you go with this, the faster this will work itself out.

 

You can even do that in the house if you’d like so that you can teach her when she’s going in one direction, you go, “Let’s go this way.” She’ll turn and look at you. You give her a click and have her. When you give her the click, hold the food treat so she has to walk to you to get it, and then keep walking away. As she’s walking with you, click and treat, all the way away.

We have to understand real life is going to happen. You’re not going to always be in a scenario where you have total control over the situation. Sometimes dogs will appear out of nowhere. You’ve got to be able to get her away and have her understand when you say, “Let’s go this way,” that she’s going to turn and walk with you. The best way to do that is to train that completely separate from the scenario in which it would happen.

Real life is going to happen. You're not always going to have total control over the situation. Share on X

I’m going to give you this in case what you see with that 50-yard exercise, the first one that we talked about, the engage and disengage, is it’s not working exactly the way you want it to. You got to be patient. I know that the world says we got to do everything fast. I know because you’re out of school that you’re used to doing everything fast. This is not going to go fast. It’s not supposed to go fast. it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong if it doesn’t go fast. It’s also not a produced TV show. On a TV, show you see the problem and then you see a little bit about the solution, and then in five minutes, you see it’s done. That’s not the way it works.

If stuff changes happen quickly for dogs, there’s a really good chance somebody did something bad to that dog so that we could see something we could get on camera, and make it look like we fixed it. That’s not the way it works. If it’s done right, it takes a while. Here’s the deal. If you are out there and you’re finding, “I’m at 50 yards. She’s looking at the dog. I’m clicking and treating, but she’s still staring at the dog and there’s only so much distance I can get.” What you might do is this. When she looks at the dog and you mark it with a click, you back up away from the dog holding that food treat in your hand, and back up for her to come to get it.

We’re taking her farther away from the thing that distresses her. If you’ve been practicing teaching her to come to you in the house the way we described, then she’ll know that exercise. When you back her up and she gets the food treat, then she turns around and looks at the dog again. You can click and treat and back up a little bit more, then you can slowly, during the exercise, work your way back up to the original line where you started. You might be doing multiple of having her engage there. You click and treat, but you back up.

If you’re putting that back up into it, I would do several of those and then wave your guy to take the dog that he or she has got out that Maya is looking at that your help her. Take that dog behind something as you’re backing up with Maya. When she turns around and looks, the dog is not there. Go back to the line and hold your hand up again, and then he or she appears with the dog and you start all over again. You might not have to do that backup exercise because it might work the way it is, but if you’re finding that’s not working, then do the backup exercise. Do you have any questions? Is there anything you’re going, “I don’t understand what you’re talking about?” Are you clear?

You’re very clear. I realized that the reason I thought the clicker wasn’t working was because I wasn’t necessarily using it in the correct manner. Now that we’ve talked about it, I realize there are some things I need to reevaluate and reintroduce, but being more aware and more knowledgeable about how to use it again.

Let me show you a way that you can get the clicker started. You don’t have to do it now but if you grab seven food treats and stand in front of Maya or be seated wherever. It doesn’t matter where it is in the house though. It doesn’t matter what she’s doing as long as she’s not misbehaving badly. All you do is click and then give her a food treat. Remember, the sequences, click, pause, food treat.

Do that seven times. What you did was created the association for her. It’s called loading the clicker or charging the mark. You created the association for her that, “When I hear that noise, something good is going to happen.” She understands that the clicker means something good. That’s why we have to make sure we’re only clicking when she’s doing what we want because she knows something good is going to happen after that clicker. Whatever she’s doing, when you click, she’s going to repeat it. How do you think you could teach her to lie down?

I’ve tried and I don’t think her legs are long enough.

Does she ever lie down?

She does, but she rolls on her side.

That’s fine, but how do you think you could teach her to do that?

I’m assuming using the treat and luring her to the ground. Once she hits the ground, click.

That’s one way you could do it. There might be an even easier way. If you can get used to carrying some food treats in your pocket and having the clicker in your hand, you say, “This evening I’m going to teach her to lie down.” Let’s think about it. Suppose you’re watching TV or you’re doing some work and you’re watching her and she comes into the room and lies down. As she lies down, click and then treat.

She may get up to go get the food treat, that’s fine, just wait. At some point you’re going to see her go, “Maybe I need to lie down,” then when she starts to offer the lying down because you’ve clicked and treated her every time she’s laid down, when she starts to voluntarily lay down, that’s when you let her hear you calmly say down as she’s going down, then when she’s fully down, you click and treat. That’s how you can teach it. Do you see how easy this is?

That is a lot easier than what I was trying to do.

That’s why this is such a good way to train because it’s pretty easy and you teach your dog to think. You’ll see her looking at you like, “What do you want from me?” You’re waiting. When you see her voluntarily lie down, you click and give a treat. It’s the same thing with the sit. I said one more thing but there is one more thing after the one more thing. Here’s what it is.

When you are working with obedience in the house, a regular food treat is okay. Some people use Cheerios. Some people go online and buy the little tiny food treats. You can get them made out of liver, salmon, or cheddar. That’s okay for in the house. When we are out there working on a behavior problem, we need to have a very high-value food treat. The highest-value food treat is also the cheapest. What do you think it is?

BDBN 19 | Fix Reactivity

Fix Reactivity: Hotdog is the highest-value food treat and is also the cheapest.

 

Hot dogs. Slice them like a loaf of bread and then slice them in half again. You’re going to need a treat bag if you’re going to use hot dogs simply because hot dogs are greasy. You probably don’t want to put them in your pocket. A treat bag would be good for hot dogs. Remember, one click, pause, food treat. Not click and click. Keep in mind, as long as you follow that formula at the beginning here, when we are marking her politely looking at the other dog, there’s a very high rate of reinforcement, meaning you’re doing a lot of clicking and treating.

I have a client. I feel bad for her because she lost her female Great Dane. Six months before that, she lost her male Great Dane. Unfortunately, Great Danes many times don’t live a long time. The female that she lost had been attacked by a dog when she was little and almost killed. From that distance that you’re describing 40 or 50 yards, the Great Dane would go ballistic that she had dragged her owner down the road, not on her feet, but laying in the road, dragging her because she was big, strong and her owner is tiny.

We did this exercise that I’m telling you, engage, disengaged. We started from that distance. It was about 60 or 70 yards. It was at the end of the block. My client lived at the top of a hill in a cul-de-sac, all the way at the end of the block and at the end of the street, we had a friend of hers brought her dog out, and that was the distance at which her dog could look at another dog and only notice, and get slightly excited, not reactive.

That’s when we started to mark and treat. Click and then she would look back and get the food treat click. Over a period of months, we were able to get closer and closer. Before she lost her dog, she would bring her out on dog walks that I would do for my clients. Her dog could walk down the street with 3 or 4 other dogs within 20 feet of her. She would look at them, wag her tail, and look at her owner with no reaction whatsoever. Her owner told me that she’d had dogs run out of their yard and run at them in the street. While she got a little tense, which would be a normal dog reaction, she didn’t have a reactivity and didn’t try to go get the dogs. We did this exercise that I’m describing to you.

I need to try that. That’s my overall goal with Maya. I don’t feel like she has to be friends with every dog, but at least be able to coexist with any dog.

We’ve got a plan here. What we’re going to do if we’re going to follow this plan is you’re going to do play dates with her with the dogs she gets along with, and then we’re going to work the engage disengage exercise with someone who can help you with his or her dog. That dog should probably be relatively calm. If that dog is way hyped up, then this is not going to work. That dog that helps you with the exercise should be relatively calm, then we’re going to slowly close the distance as we have success with that exercise. We’re going to be working with Maya in the house doing obedience with the clicker and treats.

Now I know more about how to properly use a clicker. I’ll definitely do that.

Are we good for this episode?

We are.

Will you come back and let us know the progress?

Absolutely.

Touch base with me back in several weeks, and let me know how it’s going. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call. I’d rather you call me and let me talk you through it than do something that throws our progress back. Guys, I hope this has been helpful. For any of you who have reactive dogs like that, this is a good exercise, Engage Disengage. I hope it was clear what the steps are. I will talk to you next time.