Wednesday, July 20, 2011

More reactive dog ideas

Some more reactive dog training tips are offered on this site. Thanks to Francine for passing it on!

This is from Kathy Cascade, one of the T-Touch instructors who works with Linda Tellington-Jones herself. I really like the mindful presentation, the consideration of equipment, and the step-by-step instructions. Though the description is of how to use a "T Touch labyrinth" and other formal setups we may not all have access to, the general ideas can be adapted to any situation. 

To paraphrase and reiterate:
  • Reactivity is most often based on fear. Work with it by building confidence and reducing stress
  • Reduce tension on the neck, which increases stress. Dual points of contact--head halter plus no-pull harness--are a great way to do this.
  • Allow adequate space (work sub-threshold)
  • Allow the dog to look at other dogs, but not stare
  • Start by following a neutral dog at a safe distance
  • Graduate to parallel walking with a neutral dog--at a safe distance!
  • Reward calming signals--looking at the ground, sniffing, shaking it out, yawning.
Note that there is some controversy about Turid Rugas' notion of "Calming Signals"...some will say that these signals, which Rugas says are signs of calm that can be rewarded and encouraged, are actually signs of stress of which the dog does not have so much conscious control. 

I think the key, as always, is whether the dog is sub-threshold--if we become experts at observing our dogs' body language, we will know whether the yawn/sniff/shake is a sign of stress or of calm...and whether the dog is in a mental state conducive to learning or whether we just need to turn tail and go somewhere safer!


  1. Small world -- we did a single session with Francine for my former foster Gonzo Bunny-Ears, who would go absolutely tazmanian devil crazy on walks when a car would drive by. NOTHING could calm him. She helped A LOT in getting him under control.

  2. Stopping by from Love and a leash! I love reading about training ideas... the more tools you have, the more able you are to handle situations and dogs that come up! I'm a foster mom, so I never know what type of dog will walk in the door next.

  3. Hi! Found your blog through Love and a Six Foot Leash.
    Darwin can be sometimes reactive while on leash so I'll be excited to read through your posts about it! Hopefully we'll learn something new to work with her on!

  4. Yay, Alex! Francine is great, isn't she? Fozzie's prey drive kicks in with passing vehicles too--I will have to find out what you and Francine recommend!

    Thanks Corbin! That's so awesome you're fostering all sorts of dogs in need. I got into training through fostering--I swear its the best way to learn. They are all such individuals, and I've felt like I really needed to be creative to help them with their "issues."

    Hi Brooke! I have a feeling I will be posting a lot about reactive dog training in the upcoming weeks, so hopefully some of it will be useful. It is such a fascinating and vital area of training--helping the most frazzled dogs and their people feel more balanced and calm :) Please keep me posted!


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