Clicker Training for Dog Reactivity

Annyong chill in the car

How I got Annyong past charging at dogs in the car.

It used to be people too. I got past the people & then it was just dogs he would react to. Now it’s just cats & we are making huge strides. I mean mind-blowing speed huge strides, not just the “we’re working on it” lip service I often hear. I’ve been using a clicker. Yes, you heard it right, a clicker. I know people say verbal markers work as good & you always have your voice (I used to say this too). But I feel the clarity & consistency of the clicker sound to be so unique, that that is why it is so much more effective.

First you need to give the sound meaning. “Load the clicker” they say. So for a complete meal, say dog’s NAME, get eye contact, “click” the moment you get it as you calmly say good & give a kibble. Do this for at least one meal.
Next I was click/feeding him just in the car for no reason. Just to keep building on the association. He needed to be chill, not freaking on anyone. I would just randomly click & feed. This alone kind of settled him a bit too. He was less pacy in the car & more at ease.
Then when I saw a person I would use the food as a distraction. I would NAME/click/feed ahead of the trigger, waving my hand at first if I had to to control his attention. I did this a lot & then started the process the moment he saw a person. NAME/click/feed. Then as we made progress with that, I would give him the chance to see a person, count a second in my head & then NAME/click/feed. Now I’m just clicking/feeding after he ignores a trigger.
I drive him to & from work each day so it is the only time he is getting fed right now. He’s got to be in the car, ignoring a trigger. I actively seek triggers to challenge him. When I was trying to get past people, I would stop at Cumby’s on my way to work & click/feed him with all the people going past us. It was more challenging there, but it helped speed this along.
Then today I found some people walking their dogs together in my quiet neighborhood & I sort of stalked them. At a distance where my dog would start to light up, I would put in park & click/feed until he could handle seeing them without freaking. Then I would drive around & get a little closer & do the same. Each time trying to get a little closer. He started to just watch & not obsess/freak.
I did that with neighborhood outdoor cats this week too. I saw him start to freak when he saw one. Did the NAME/click/feed & it was awesome because the cats were less apt to run, so his reaction wasn’t as intense. They didn’t feel much danger since he was in a car. So again, I put it in park & tried to get him to focus on me for click/feed & then got it so he could look at a cat without freaking out.
I will continue to feed him only in the car until this is a thing of the past. I already feel close to that goal. And I’m just floored at how easy it was once I started the clicker. I may be a new convert. Before you try this, please read through my last article, Who Feeds You? for some better background & understanding of our Work4Food program.

If you are not in the New England area & are in need of a professional trainer, please visit the IACP International Association of Canine Professionals. Remember not all dog trainers are the same, so if you have not gotten the results you want, please do not give up on your dog. Find a competent, qualified trainer near you. And be sure to tell them Laurie Wagner sent you! 🙂

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