A blog about dog training and dog breeding…and other sundry matters

Working with Reactive Dogs

Gretchen went out for socialization for the first time this week, yesterday to be exact.  It was a disaster.  She barked at people and I was most embarrassed because there are so few dog-friendly places in Jamaica, and whenever I take my dogs out I want them to be on their best behavior.  For 14 weeks, Gretchen has a big bark. 

Punishing her would only create greater aggression because she would associate humans with something negative–like being yelled at, or a leash pop.

I have taken, instead, a Pavlovian approach to helping her with this.  Whenever she sees humans, she gets clicked and a treat.  The idea is that she will associate humans with something good:  food.

The shopping mall parking lot, such as the one I went to both last night and tonight, were not suitable.  Gretchen was okay when the humans were a far distance from her.  Then she was sub-threshold and wouldn’t bark.  Once they got nearer, she would bark; she had then gone over threshold.  No one ever approached us directly, but people approached from many directions to get to their cars. 

Ideally, I should have kept her sub-threshold and simply sat with her and treated her.  That was what I did after it started getting late and most of the cars that were parked near us were gone.  She could see people several yards away remain calm and I would click and treat for no barking.

There is another shopping center that I can take her to tomorrow.  It has a HUGE parking lot that is rarely filled up.  I will take her to the furthest corner of the lot and just let her see people going into the stores from a far distance.

Thank God that I’m on vacation now (sort of), and can devote more time to training and socializing these puppies.  They learn so fast, but I’m feeling really worried about Gretchen.  I’m hoping that I will be able to help her with her reactivity towards humans.


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