17 Jul How To Train Your Dog To Be Less Timid…
Many dogs are timid, whether they’re from a shelter or a breeder. Often it’s a personality trait ingrained in their DNA while other times it’s a learned behavior from their past history. Whatever the case may be I have a unique method that has gotten many dogs over their timidity. As with any dog there are many ways to get results but the one I’m sharing with you today I learned in my early 20’s while training dogs for television and commercials. Every time I’d have a new dog I was preparing for a life of working on a movie set I’d have to acclimate them for all the scary moving objects, sounds and people on set. I leaned the hard way a couple times by taking dogs on set that were a bit timid only to find out that stage made them twice as bad because they weren’t ready for the situations being thrown at them. I quickly devised a method to acclimate them to the worst of situations. Let’s break this down…
First thing’s first; you’ll need a few tools. You’re gonna need a bag of desirable treats, a regular leash (4 or 6 ft), and a clicker. (be sure your dog is hungry) Please note you’ll need to make sure your dog is fully clicker trained before training this. Next you’ll need the training location and this is where the magic will happen. You’ll need to go to a large hardware store like a Home Depot or Lowes. (Be sure they allow dogs. Many do, some don’t) This will be the training ground that will acclimate your dog and get them over their fears.
I want you to walk your dog to the front doors and stand outside for about 15 minutes. You’ll see a variety of possible situations that will make your dog react. Maybe it’s a person or even a shopping cart. Whatever the case may be keep a close eye on your dog, making sure to talk them through situations. When you see them react timidly to something, CALMLY talk them through it and wait them out till they settle down. Do not give them any physical affection through this as you want them to learn to stand on their own 4 paws and work through situations. When they’re tense keep waiting them out. When you see them calm down for a couple seconds quickly click, treat and praise them. This is when you can give them affection. This is teaching them the theory of problem solving. Repeat this process several times for the remainder of the session by the front door.
Next we’re gonna walk inside the store. This is where things get tricky because now you’re taking your dog completely out of their element. Choose an isle with some light activity going on. Perhaps its where there’s a crowd of people walking or workers moving lumber. Walk your dog up to the situation keeping about 10 to 15 ft of distance and simply stand there. Again we’re gonna repeat the same process of keeping an eye on them, waiting for their reactions. When that leash goes tight and they go tense, CALMLY talk them through it. Once you see them settle down for at least a couple seconds go ahead and click, treat and praise. Let them know everything is alright only when they’re calm. That’s enough for 1 day. Let’s give them a break and pick it up tomorrow.
Now we’ve given them a rest let’s walk them back into the hardware store and take them right to an isle with a little more action. Possibly an isle with skill saws going off or any other large machines moving. The same rules will apply as before. Talking them through situations while keeping a slight distance, waiting for them to calm down and the leash to have slack. From there we click, treat and praise when they do.
This process will continue indefinitely as dogs learn at different speeds. The process here is acclimation. Exposing your dog to extreme situations in an uncontrolled environment. Acclimation is the simple process of accepting and getting used to an unknown and unfamiliar situation. The first time we dove off the high dive as kids we were scared. Once we did it once we weren’t so afraid so we did it twice. Twice led to three times; and so on and so forth. We acclimated to the height and in turn gained confidence, eliminating our fear. In this situation the elements of the hardware store is the high dive. If they can acclimate to these sights and sounds then the rest of the world is a walk in the park.
Keep in mind a few things here. It’s vital you don’t allow your dog to jump in your lap when training this. You need them to learn to work through the situations. Furthermore notice how I kept emphasis on the word “Calmly.” As I always say with animals “The face you show is the face that’s shown back to you.” By remaining calm you’re showing your dog the situation isn’t as bad as they think. If you get tense, that tension will translate right down that leash making the situation worse. Also build up to bigger, louder and scarier situations. You don’t wanna go right to the isle with loud, heavy machinery moving. Acclimation is a building process that takes time and patience. Keep in mind what that clicker is doing. When properly trained before hand the clicker becomes a bridge in the process. The clicker is 100% positive re-enforcement and reminds the dog what it’s doing right. A verbal praise in these situations is often drowned out by the dog’s fear but a clicker tends to penetrate through any of those walls the dog tends to put up in turn teaching the dog more effectively. Also be sure to use common sense when walking through the hardware store. Avoid isles where they’re cutting metal and scattering shards all over the floor. Most of the big stores are pretty good about keeping the isles well maintained but you be the final judge. And always remember patience wins the game. Some situations your dog will be in might look a bit stressful but we can’t forget the main goal here. We’re in the training ground to give your dog a better quality of life. Training grounds are always a bit difficult and that’s what will make them twice the dog when they come out on the other side. Any athlete will tell you their training camps are tough and that’s why they win the game. Try it out and let me know how it’s going. Your testimonials will be continuous as this training process will be indefinite. Progress is all we’re going for here. Ruff.