Therapy Dogs International Testing Part 9Posted: February 6, 2012
TEST 9: REACTIONS TO DISTRACTIONS
This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations, such as the dropping of a large book or a jogger running in front of the dog. The dog may express a natural interest and curiosity and/or appear slightly startled, but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark.
The key to this test is your dog’s ability to recover if your he has an initial reaction to the stimuli (assuming it isn’t an aggressive reaction).
If you have a noise sensitive dog you want to very gradually desensitize him to a wide range of noises. For example, let’s say your dog hates the vacuum cleaner. He either is afraid of it or wants to attack it. The easiest way to desensitize him to it is to set up this scenario: 2 people — one with the vacuum in room A and one with the dog & some tasty treats in room B. Make sure that the dog starts out in a relaxed state.
Have the person in room A start the vacuum, immediately upon hearing the vacuum the person in room B should see if the dog will eat some tasty treats. If the dog will eat the treats and is not making a fuss about the vacuum you are on the way to desensitizing the dog to the noise of the vacuum. If the dog is still agitated or afraid, you will need to move the vacuum to a further location in the house. Assuming the dog was calm the handler continues to feed tasty treats until the vacuum is turned off. When the noise stops so does the feeding. Continue on at this distance for a day or two. Work up until the point where the vacuum is in the next room. If your dog can handle the noise this close you will then move your dog into the same room as the vacuum, with the vacuum off. As soon as the vacuum is turned on, feeding starts again. If the dog gets agitated or won’t eat, quickly take the dog back into the adjacent room and turn the vacuum off. You will have to work at a greater distance for a little longer.
Once your dog can handle being in the same room with the running vacuum you’ll see if you can walk your dog up toward the running vacuum (while feeding him tasty treats), being careful not to pull or force the issue. If the dog gets agitated you’ve moved too quickly, so add some more space.
These same methods can be used to desensitize your dog to almost any stimuli he has reactions to.
Good luck 🙂