Desensitization of a Situation

Anything can cause a dog to become fearful of a situation or a “thing” living or not. The trick to easing the situation for the dog is to either avoid the circumstances totally or gradually desensitize the dog to the precursors and the actual event or object. An acquaintance has such a situation and the goal is to have the dog become desensitized to the situation and therefore be able to be left off the leash and able to run freely.

Leaving the dog at home, she is going to go to the park and take a video of the object/situation that causes her dog to freak. We are going to examine the video and determine what could be causing the situation. I owned a dog that was afraid of man hole covers. I spent months trying to unriddle why this was an issue. She had her vision checked to insure it wasn’t a health issue and after that was ruled out, we incrementally proceeded and successfully over come the fear. These fears are real and as the owner of these dogs we must be our dog’s best advocate. I’m not a master trainer what ever that claim is. I am simply a person who has worked dogs in Search and Rescue, have done a fair share of reading about behaviors and training. As to do nothing, I chose to make the attempt to solve the problem.

The threshold, or change between calm and fearful has to be identified. When this is reached, simply turn the other direction, close the door, make a wide path around the object, and so on. Be careful what you reward – you do not want to reward for the fearful behavior, you want to reward the dog for its calm attentive behavior. As to have a fearful response, you can ask for an opposing behavior, a behavior that is not conducive to being fearful or in that state.

I spent a lot of free time having my dogs look at me, look me in the eyes as to pay attention to the problem. Dogs do not generalize. This means you will have to reintroduce a skill and build the foundation in many new places. Don’t assume the dog will act the same out of his comfort zone of the home. Everything is expected to fall apart and as to have this happen, organize your gear, treats/rewards, clicker into an apron and take your training “on the road.” Every place is an opportunity to train or reinforce skills.

This topic will be revisited.

The finish of our afternoon walk.

The finish of our afternoon walk.

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