Therapy Dogs International Testing Part 9

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 🙂

 

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2 Comments on “Therapy Dogs International Testing Part 9”

  1. What are some ideas for the doorbell? I like the vacuum ideas :).

    • bdorancpdt says:

      Hi, Glad you liked the vacuum ideas. You can use the same principles with the doorbell. However, I’ll give you a few other ideas also —
      the first one works really well if you don’t have an established “get crazy” when the doorbell rings behavior, for instance when you have a new puppy. Note: before you start training the “doorbell” you may want to teach your puppy to sit or down, so you have a behavior you can ask your puppy to do when the doorbell rings. What you’ll want to do is have a “puppy party”. Invite all of your friends over (it would be better for them if it’s a nice day). Have a basket of tasty treats just outside the front door. One at a time have your friends ring the doorbell, you will calmly go answer the door having your puppy come with you (on or off leash). See if you can get your puppy to sit just before you answer the door. Don’t let your friend get your puppy all excited, but instead your friend will ask your puppy for a nice “sit” (or down). When the puppy sits your friend should give your puppy one of the treats from the basket. Your friend now goes on into the kitchen to get refreshments and see your other friends. Another friend leaves the kitchen goes outside (through a different door) and goes to ring the doorbell. Perhaps have 2 doorbell opportunities every minute and keep it up for about 5 minutes. Take a break and try it all over again in a half hour or so. You want to make sure that you are rewarding calm behavior!
      If you have a dog that already gets crazy at hearing the doorbell you either can put him in his crate when you’re expecting company (to manage the behavior) or you can try to retrain. With retraining you’ll need a helper (to ring the doorbell, at first your helper should ideally ring the bell and go away — not be there for the dog to see coming or going). When the doorbell rings proceed to the door, you should remain calm. Have lots of tasty treats at hand. Ask your dog for a sit or down. Give him a treat and ask for a stay. If your dog moves to get up as you go to open the door, give him a quick “oops” and re-cue him to sit or down. This could take a while, patience is a virtue and critical in dog training. You will NOT open the door unless your dog’s in the sit or down. And since there’s no one outside, there’s really nothing for your dog to get excited about. Practice like this until your dog can easily hold his position while you open the door. Then you will ask the doorbell ringer (ideally someone your dog knows & likes) to remain at the door while you open it. Again, you only actually open the door if your dog remains in position. DO NOT allow your helper to get your dog excited. They can ask for a sit or down & reward that, but otherwise it’s a non-event.
      Hope this is helpful!


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