Tag Archives: dog cat training

Annyong chill in the car

Clicker Training for Dog Reactivity

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! 🙂

Annyong happy on couch

Proof Our Program Works!


Practicing down/stay with meat on the floor.

So here is my 90 day update on my new dog, Annyong. Proof our program works. He has been on “probation” for 90 days in my house. He gets walked, socialized & trained every day. A little affection of course, but no excitement or freedom. He’s been out of the crate more & more as time goes on, always on a drop leash. Now we are starting to trust him off leash. We still have to work him through his cat issue, but he is SO much better than even a month ago. The other day he ran into the house & went chasing the cat & I called him (no leash, no e-collar) & he came! I was very proud! He will still be on probation for many months I imagine as he learns how to behave in the house. And learning he has to listen to me when I say his name. The more he listens/obeys/behaves, the longer he is out of the crate.

a well-behaved dog has EARNED the PRIVILEGE of couch time!

I think most dog owners fail their dog by first not having high enough standards for their dogs. They start off giving the dog too much freedom & then try to (partially) reign him in when trouble ensues (which it always does). They think of the crate as a punishment tool & therefore use it reluctantly. They think of leashes & collars are only for when outside. The more we use these tools (crate, leash, e-collar) IN the home, the more conditioned our dogs are to listening/obeying us. The better behaved they are inside the  more likely are to behave outside.

snuggles on the couch

I’d like the APO (average pet owner) to start with the end in mind. What do you want from your dog? And WHY do you want it? I want my dog to listen to me 99% of the time I say his name or give him a command. I want my dog to not pester my older dog. I want my dog not to chase my cat. I want my dog not to pick up items & guard them. All these things are unacceptable to me. And because they are unacceptable I will not allow them. The big picture of having a well behaved dog is what you allow & what you disallow. I use these tools to teach him manners so he will be safe & not embarrass me. (he still embarrasses me often in public! but better than before & we are working on that!).

Practicing down/stay while I’m doing dishes

A new question I ask dog owners in my class is “how confident are you your dog would listen to you if he was running into traffic & you called him?” I’m 99% confident Ziva will listen to me even charging after a cat/skunk/motorcycle- it’s happened & I have a lot of faith she will obey. I practice often with her. Annyong is NO WHERE NEAR THIS YET. But it is my goal. And he will get there someday soon. 🙂

Day 4 progress. Dog v. Cat

I haven’t been able to practice this for a few days… I got further than before, however I didn’t have all my tools (prong & ecollar) with me. If I had I could have gotten further today. It was the first time he was out of the crate not eating looking at the cat, laying down, so that is good progress. His face wasn’t relaxed though.

That’s our next milestone to be achieved.

Day 3 progress. Dog v cat

So as you can see I’m not rushing anything. As a matter of fact I hadn’t thought of introducing them until I noticed Monday my cat wasn’t hiding any more. That indicated to me the dog wasn’t sending off a dangerous vibe anymore. So each day this week I’ve been feeding them closer & closer, challenging Annyong’s impulse control & focus. I want him to choose to make good decisions, not tell him all the time what he should be doing “come sit down stay” blah blah blah.  (video below)

Could I have moved this along faster? Did I have to wait a month, 5 weeks to be exact? Sure I could have brought him to the cat or the cat to him. What would have happened? Dog would have lit up (like he did on day 1) & cat would have ran. Dog would have gotten harsh physical correction to override his strength & intensity on the cat. (This dog was almost impossible to handle when I was just training him under his previous owner). So I would have been forced to be heavy handed with him had I rushed things ahead of their timetable. Cat would have hid longer. Both animals would lose trust in me.

So by going at their pace I’m able to achieve more. Better results with softer handling. They are speaking to us all the time. Are you listening?