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I remember hearing a line in a movie once. The bad guy pulled a gun and pointed it inches from the hero’s nose.
The hero in the movie replied, “ I’m sorry to disappoint you but this isn’t the first time someone has pointed a gun on me”. On hearing this, the bad guy became a little confused, as he did not achieve the reaction he was looking for. The hero took mental control of the situation. In a sense the bad guy became impotent.
What does this story have to do with training dogs? It has everything to do with dog training. I will explain this in detail but first I want to tell you about a well known behavior that causes dogs bites world over. This condition is so serious entire breeds are banned in some countries because of the irreversible damage they cause. Fear-biting is caused when an external stimulus excites the dog into a basic fight or flight response. Essentially, the dog bites what it is afraid of. The common understanding is that the dog is thinking, “I’d better get you before you get me”.
It’s such a simple and innocent condition and most people think nothing of it when their Toy dog acts aggressively. Yes it’s all a bit of a joke when you see a Pomeranian barking frantically and trying to bite the postman’s bike but it’s not so funny trying to hold back a 60 pound Rottweiler doing the same thing. Or when the neighbor’s kid rolls past on skates and frightens your Doberman resulting in a dog bite and a lawsuit. It’s not funny then.
To create a fearless dog you need to expose your dog to the world in a controlled environment first. Socialization is extremely important. Extremely. I can’t say enough about this kind of conditioning. The way you do it is to expose your dog in increments. Let’s say you want to socialize your dog to gunshots. The last thing you want to do is to tie your dog to a tree and let off round after round until the dog is exhausted and collapses.
The way you should do it is as follows. Stand with your dog a good km away from the person firing the shots. Then without saying a word play with your dog gradually moving towards the shooter. As you approach the shooter you will see your dog more distracted by the loud sound. That’s fine as long as your dog is willing to play. If your dog is too concerned to play, then stop the process and move away and tray again tomorrow. In as little as 3 days you will have your dog wagging his tail and playing tug with you while a shooter fires shots right next to you. Your dog won’t think twice about this. In fact when your dog hears gunshots from then on your dog will probably think it’s playtime.
The same process is done with lawn mowers. Start your mower in the park 150 yards away and play with your dog moving towards it slowly until the dog finds the mower completely neutral. Ultimately have your dog jumping over the mower and approaching the mower without any concerns whatsoever.
The same goes for postman’s bikes, rollerbladers, heavy machinery, animals, small screaming children, vacuum cleaners, blenders, power tools, RC cars, car alarms, fire crackers.
A fearless dog is a safe dog.
In summary – Start at a distance and work your way in, slowly, continually playing until the object of fear becomes completely neutral to your dog.
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