Simply wanting your dog to respond differently to sights and sounds is not enough. In the last Blog, I talked about having a plan, going slow and being in a good emotional place yourself.
Please keep in mind, when your dog becomes afraid or anxious his emotional state is responding to one or more triggers in the environment, which will cause a physical response. The better you can read your dogs body language the more success you will have in desensitizing him to his triggers. What do I mean: desensitization is defined as the diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative or aversive stimulus after repeated exposure to it. It also occurs when an emotional response is repeatedly evoked in situations in which the action tendency that is associated with the emotion proves irrelevant or unnecessary. Desensitization is a process primarily used to assist individuals unlearn phobias and anxieties.
For example, you may see your dog respond by barking and lunging at a trigger, however before this, look for signs of stiffness, body freeze, standing tall on toes, closed mouth with a hard stare, ear twitching, sniffing high in the air, whining, pacing or beginning to bark. These are also, your dogs physical responses to his unsettled emotional state. I believe with training you will get better at responding more quickly and thoughtfully to your dogs change in body language.
Now think simple, maybe even fun!
Two games you can use to desensitize your dog to a trigger:
1. Find it: In this video you will see a slightly reactive Miniature Pincher playing a fun hunting game in the grass we call “find it”, while a boy moves slowly in the distance. To teach your dog to play find it, simply take a few pieces of your dogs kibble or treats, show him the food, say “find it” and toss the food near you on the floor. Repeat in the quiet of your home where there are no distractions. This Miniature Pincher knew how to play this game several weeks before we added the trigger of a child talking and moving about in the distance.