When working with human-reactive dogs, it’s important that we prevent scary incidents, build trust, and create positive associations with people for our dogs. In this game, we will be using a trusted (compliant) person to give our dog the power of choice, which is the most important part of the curriculum.
This game is only to be used if the dog is fearful but not showing signs of aggressive behaviour such as growling, snarling, lunging, snapping, or biting. If your dog is showing these signs, calmly remove them from the situation and end the session, then call us to book a session to work on changing your dog’s emotional response.
The trusted person needs to be prepared prior to the session so there are no surprises.
- Avoid eye contact, talking to them, loud noises, fast or sudden movements.
- When throwing the treats, practice flicking them from the wrist or fingers to reduce big arm movements. Hold your hands near the centre of your body. It’s an art!
- Use high value, small treats – make sure they’re easy to see on the floor.
- If the dog comes toward the person, toss the treat when they stop.
- Start with your dog in another room, out of view. The trusted person should sit on a chair in the middle of the room with plenty of space around them and with their side to the dog. The dog can then be released into the room (dragging a leash if you’re more comfortable).
- As soon as the dog sees the seated person, the person can toss a small treat over the dog’s head and away so that the dog has to run away to get the food.
- The dog will then make a choice – stay where I am, move a little closer, or move farther away. Whatever that decision is, the person should toss food over the dog’s head, away from them.
We will repeat this for 1 minute, max, and then you should remove the dog from the room while the person stays exactly where they are. Both get a break!
- Never try to feed the dog the treat, hand to mouth! Not even if you think they’d take it – this is too much social pressure and when dogs tend to bite because they get scared
- Never toss the treat between you and the dog – you always want them moving away from you
- Keep sessions short and sweet – 1 minute at a time is great!
- Any signs of stress, remove the dog from the room rather than asking the trusted person to leave the room – movement is a huge trigger that can cause many dogs to be pushed past their threshold.