Lulu – When She is Nervous

The Popcorn Game 🛸👀🍿

As your puppy begins maturing, they will naturally start to become more wary of “weird” things. This is a natural survival mechanism! Unfortunately, starting at times to bark, growl, and lunge and “weird things” is also a survival mechanism. Instead of leaving our dogs to feel like they have to interpret and then respond to all of the “weird things,” we can do a simple behavior modification game in these moments to completely change the game.

Instead of freaking out at alien sightings (skateboards, cars, buses, lawnmowers, hats, you name it… 🛸) we want to turn our dogs into relaxed observers! 👀🍿

Practice

  • First distance yourself from the “weird thing,” and then begin practicing. Do not move closer. Watch your dog’s body language. If they are having a lot of trouble put more space in between yourselves and the “weird thing.”

Items Needed

  • Treats in treat pouch – always bring on walks!!!

The Game

  • Try to be at a distance where your dog won’t panic or get over excited.
  • Allow your dog to notice and look at the thing. If they seem relaxed and you expect they will stay that way, allow them to just be. If you think they may be a little unsure, if the thing is very new, or if they have reacted with anxiety etc. in the past, move to the next step!
  • When you sense they might be breathing heavier, stiffening, or any tiny sign of stress, say a very calming “yes” and give them a treat. If they ignore you that is okay! Going over threshold is okay too, we just want to try our best to set them up at a distance they can handle. But nothing is lost if they do go over threshold.
  • Repeat for 5-20 minutes.

Very Helpful Supplemental Reading

Sitting Still in Exciting Environments: A Simple & Positive Exercise for High-Drive Dogs

This is a modified version of a game I made up many years ago that won a Maxwell Medallion for best dog training article from the Dog Writer’s Association of America. You can check that article and the video within in out (but please follow the above protocol) to get any idea of why this type of trigger training is valuable. The dog is desensitized to the the trigger by practicing safe exposure, counter conditioned to the trigger through food, learns to defer to human moderation rather than freak out, and learns to decompress all at the same time

The Power of Simple Preventive Dog Training

This article explains many contexts where this sort of training is profoundly important.

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