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How we Trained a Dog Reactive GSD:

By Thomas Magee
01.22.21

In this video you see Marcia who came to see us with her dog reactive German Shepherd Dog, Cooper. After many different trainers using a variety of methods had failed, lots of money invested and also some dangerous situations including being pulled over, they didn't know where to turn.
The situation that they were in is very common. Just because somebody knows more about training dogs than you do does not mean that they know enough to solve your dog aggression and lead reactivity problems.

You can see the transformation and feedback from Marcia in the video, this dramatic change in dog behaviour was achieved in less than 3 hours, its still gone today and I'd like to share a bit about how we did it.

So how do we solve dog reactivity in such a short time?

After over 17 years working in dog training, behaviourism, dog behaviour modification and building a deep understanding of dog psychology, not to mention over 3000 fully trained dogs supplied I know that to get extraordinary results, one needs to think differently.

You see we witnessed first-hand how easy and frequent it is for the average person to not only struggle to train a dog, but actually un-train a fully trained dog! This is why so many of you get success from a dog trainer on the day only to have it unravel when you get home.

So you see we found the route cause of the problem and worked backwards from there finding solutions at each point. Our dog training courses take a “handler first” approach. We spend time developing your skills in understanding your dog’s motivations and process in becoming reactive before tackling the issues in a practical manner.

It’s actually really simple – it just took a long time to make it this way, I’ll give you a overview of our steps in stopping dog reactivity and then I’ll break it down to this reactive German Shepherd.

1. Reinforcement – In really simple terms, dogs, like humans will naturally repeat what they are rewarded for and stop what they chastised for, be it negative or positive reinforcement, in order to change unwanted behaviour we need to make the reinforcement of the desired behaviour higher in competing motivators in an appropriate ethical manner.
2. Timing – The average handler is around 3 seconds to late in spotting the opportune moment to interrupt the behaviour chain and stop reactivity before it starts
3. The Behaviour Chain – a breakdown of your dog’s signals leading up to certain behaviour. For example, in reactivity the process may start with something as little as the dog scenting something in the air and raising it’s head, and finish with a display of reactivity. There are 10 steps here and the average dog handler only really notices the last 2 or 3 by which time it's too late to do anything.

WKD Online Dog Training Concepts - Competing motivation

4.Expecting it to go wrong – this is all about awareness, we can modify behaviour long term but we cannot modify natural instinct or temperament, therefore no matter how long it has been since successful training we always expect and are looking out for an issue to crop up again, this mindset underpins fantastic timing in interrupting the behaviour chain.
5.Competing Motivation – One must understand that if your dog values the action taking by it becoming reactive more than whatever incentives or disincentives you are trying to use to stop it, it will never happen! You must discover the most appropriate way to ensure the motivation to perform the desired behaviour is greater than the unwanted behaviour
6.Active vs Reactive Training – The best form of recall is a dog that never runs off! We train our customers to train their dogs to have fantastic attention on them, this means that rather than the dog doing what it wants until told not to, we have dogs who are actively checking in to see what and where their owner is.

WKD Online Dog Training Concepts - Word Association

7.Word Association – Sit, stay, lie down, roll over, hold, wait, stand, left, right, fetch, heel, away, paw, leave, take, eat, toilet. Say all that again without looking! Typically it takes up to xxx times for a dog to associates a word with a command….Assuming the timing is perfect to avoid confusion. How many average dog owners have the time to dedicate in properly implementing word association for all the common commands? Not many or we wouldn’t be doing this 6 days a week. We take a character based approach, teaching your dog to be calm and attentive at all times removing the need for so many commands, why tell your dog to sit in a restaurant when if they are calm, attentive and actively looking for your behaviours, when you stop, they will sit or lie down anyway.

WKD Online Dog Training Concepts - Repetition and Skill Fade

8.Repetition – We all know how important repetition is for learning, remember doing lines in school, I did! Now as with word association the amount of times needed to embed new behaviour and expectations surpasses most people’s ability and availability. We use techniques to gain maximum variable repetitions in a short period of time along with a plan to elongate the time needed between training
9.Finally – Skill fade – We get results really quickly, but it’s nothing unless one is aware of the need to plan for the relaxing of a handler’s attitude once we have succeeded. So many times, I see handlers have great success, consider the job and relax to the point of indifference. This typically results in the unwanted behaviour returning. We use a pre-planned timeline and structured techniques to ensure this doesn’t happen, mitigate skill fade and remove the need for constant training sessions or refreshers.
So how did we use the above training concepts in a practical, hands on training session with the reactive GSD in the video transformation video above?

To help Marcia and Cooper achieve such a life changing transformation we first helped her understand why Cooper was being dog reactive, then we explained what to look for before showing her how to interrupt his behaviour and replace it with a more desirable one (handler attention). Once we had done this (usually 15-20 minutes) the rest of the consultation was spent building Marcia's confidence and her handling ability to ensure she would easily be able to keep the results when she was home again and we weren't there to instruct her.

Training a dog to behave differently is one thing - training the average owner to be good enough to change their dogs behaviour themselves quickly, efficiently and in a manner which will last is a completely different challenge altogether! Luckily, it's one we have a huge mount of experience with at WKD!

You made it! How about some free dog training?

I want to give you something for nothing, how about 7 days free access to our online dog training platform to help you understand our conocepts further?

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