Raising A Creative Canine

The introduction of a new puppy into a reactive multi-dog household

Kayden and Austyn (Part 3)

The Preliminary Clicker Trained Behaviors No Comments »

In order to retain control of the household while this process was (and is) in progress, Kayden had to know the following foundation behaviors reliably: Back Up, Go Touch, Stay, and a solid recall cue. I will explain below how I integrated them.

The “Back Up” was taught originally as a Doggy Zen behavior taken to the extreme. I would hold food in my hand, and when he would turn away, then I would click and feed him. With each repetition, he would move farther and farther away from my hand, backing up to do so. From there, I put it on the verbal cue of “Back Up.” I would have him back up away from many different obstacles. The most noted here was backing away from the baby gate as well as backing away from Austyn’s crate.

Kayden always loves to be in the middle of things and this is where things can get out of hand. If Kayden gets over-stimulated, he will easily launch himself into a reactive episode! And please note: although Kayden has never actually bitten another dog, he flies into these rampages where he will attack the other dog instantly, with absolutely no regard as to whether or not the other dog is surrendering. Once he starts, he physically cannot stop! Like Ben, Kayden is blind to the other dog’s body language. I only mention it here because, in the beginning, if there was any kind of commotion that the puppy created, whether on the other side of the baby gate or going in and out of his crate, Kayden was always at risk for flying into one of these episodes. Being able to control Kayden’s distance to these things helped immensely. (I could not control the puppy’s exuberance but I could control Kayden’s proximity to it, and hence, his reactivity level.)

‘Go Touch” was a simple behavior to teach. I started out with holding up an object of some kind and clicked and fed Kayden for touching this object with his nose. When this behavior became more reliable, I started moving the object farther and farther away.

Kayden is a dog that is reactive to many different kinds of triggers. One day it could be a lone person walking in the field and the next it could be a trash bag blowing in the wind. What I like about this cue is that it teaches Kayden to move toward the scary stimulus himself. He can determine how close he wants to go instead of me trying to coax him (or lure him) to it. Over the years, he has learned that these situations are always safe.

This was one of the most important behaviors in Kayden’s repertoire. In this way I was able to have Greg hold Austyn in his lap and then I could cue Kayden to “Go Touch” the puppy. We started with Austyn’s feet and then slowly made our way up. Kayden had so much trust in this cue that he very slowly started to touch Austyn gently without any anxiety. If Austyn moved, Kayden would quickly back away but in a few seconds, he would venture out again. Sometimes Kayden would do a “fly-by” touch which I would click as well as the actual touches themselves.

Below is a video of one of our sessions. This session was taken about a month ago where Kayden is touching Austyn’s body parts. Please note that Kayden has an extremely high energy level so he tends to move really fast. Because of his nature, all training sessions carry a certain amount of tension in them. Scattered amid the “Touch the Puppy” behavior are other movements like backing up and downs. These were default behaviors that were captured at an earlier date. (If Kayden was in a situation that I felt was dangerous, I would cue him to back up away from the excitement and/or tell him to lie down and stay.)

Stay behavior is any behavior where the dog’s body is motionless and it stays that way until the handler releases the dog from whatever body position the dog was in. I cannot overemphasize how important this behavior is especially if you have a reactive dog of any kind. Sometimes the only way that you can protect yourself, and your dog, is to put your dog in a stay behind you, or in a safe space, while you deal with the challenging situation before you. You cannot run the risk of the dog jumping up or moving forward! Patty Ruzzo, my former competition obedience instructor, used to say to me, “When I ask my dogs to stay, they stay like a rock! They do not move unless I release them.” I have always taken this advice to heart and it has saved me from countless potentially damaging situations throughout the years.

The importance of the recall behavior is the same. The benefits of teaching a really reliable recall are many. Leslie Nelson has a wonderful dvd out called “The Really Reliable Recall” (DVD/ BOOKLET)and it can be purchased at Dogwise.com. It explains in depth how to build a recall that is super reliable even in the most challenging of circumstances.

If you have any questions regarding how to build either a solid sit or down stay and/or a really reliable recall, I would be happy to answer them. There are so many excellent resources to reference that I felt that I did not have to explain it here.