Wits End Dog Training: helping you to help your dog be the best it can be

Wits End Dog Training, helping you to help your dog be the best it can be.

Wits End Dog Training | Specifics

8. Dog to dog manners

My dog will be well mannered around other dogs, will show no more than casual interest and will not go to the other dog or its owner. My dog will communicate a peaceful nature and avoid confrontation.


There are a couple of things you can do to help this behavior and the first is to teach your dog the “look” command which is the label we use for our dog to “look at me”, expect your dog to give you very steady eye contact for a significant length of time until you say differently. The advantage of having a solid “look” command is that simply the act of turning its head to the side and up at you is a non-confrontational gesture of communication to both your own dog (who is unable to maintain an assertive eye with the other dog, this is particularly useful with the herding breeds who use assertive eye contact naturally and often subconsciously) and also is a calming gesture to the other dog.

"The easiest way to start teaching the look command
will be slightly different depending whether your dog
is confident or shy."

If your dog is confident then a food lure is probably the easiest way to start the behavior, take a piece of warm roast chicken and hold it between thumb and forefinger. Now show it to the dog, he will probably fixate on it and then you can just slowly raise it to your forehead touching the bridge of your nose between your eyes. Hold it there, talking sweetly to your dog for a second or two, then toss the food for him to catch. Now gradually work the movement for a longer and longer pause.

"Label the perfect performance 'LOOK' "

Firstly with the food then swap the food to the other hand, do the gesture (hand signal) with one hand and toss the food with the other on completion of the perfect behavior. Then change to intermittent reinforcement and variable timing reinforcement to strengthen the habit. If your dog is shy he probably will avert his gaze the moment you catch eye contact. In the dog world this is polite behavior and avoids confrontation. He will take your stare to be intimidating so please understand that he is not being difficult or dissing you if he will not look back. In fact you have to soften your gaze or you will never gain his confidence!

The additional work you will need to do will also include systematic progressive desensitization to the presence of other dogs. It can be useful, particularly if you have a growly dog, to do this work outside the dog park. Start from a long way away, so that the distance manages the intensity of the distraction. Now train “sit”, “down”, “stay” and “look”. You will notice that the energy in the dog park rises and falls.

"Make sure you have a solid performance,
move closer only very gradually as the dog performs perfect behavior time after time."

Do not move closer each time until he reacts, because you will train him to react sooner and sooner. Again you want to work solidly underneath the threshold for a reactive response.

Your goal is NO REACTIVE FLURRIES at all. This will, in turn, raise the threshold.

"Magic Formula – as a by product of this work you will get better and better at reading your dog!"



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