2. Short training sessions (3-5 minute sessions at first). Reactivity involves clicking and treating every time a reactive dog sees another dog. The reactive dog is typically on leash (on a head-collar if they accept one), as far away from the other dog as possible so that they can be below threshold, and receiving high value delicious treats. The dog should be mostly focused on you and ready to work, just like in this picture from Twin Cities Pack Walk.
Adequate space and exact timing are really important–if you aren’t familiar with training reactive dogs I recommend you take a force-free reactive dog class first so that you know what you are reinforcing and how to train properly. The force-free part is important because with punishment (yelling, choke chain, alpha roll, Cesar Milan) training, a fearful, anxious dog is likely to get more fearful and anxious.
Short training sessions regarding reactivity are super important–but don’t forget extremely basic obedience either. Here is a tiny list of obedience items I try to teach every dog in my house:
- Come: This is the most important one. It is INVALUABLE to have a dog has a reliable recall. Of course, if they are outside and running away for you, you can ask them to come and they can avoid being lost. But more importantly, if things get out of hand during an introduction or a dog gets through a barrier, ‘come’ can avert potential disaster.
- Loose-leash walking is fantastic because it makes you more likely to take your dog on a walk because they aren’t dragging you everywhere. It helps reduce their anxiety level on walks, and keeps their trachea from harm secondary to pulling on the leash. It keeps your dog safe because you are in control.
- Mat training: Having a safe space your dog can go to to relax–no mater where you are–can help relax your dog and allow them to feel comfortable in a variety of settings. Above is a video of me training the foundations of mat work to one of our old fosters, Lois, from Save-a-Bull Rescue.