Sunday, February 9, 2014

Clicker Expo 2014: Emma Parsons: Creativity as Therapy for the Reactive Dog

Emma Parsons is putting out a new book! It will be called something like "Leading the Journey from Reactivity to Reliability". I plan to buy it.

benefits for the reactive dog
dogs can experiment with their behavior without fear
dogs can learn how to deal with the frustration and confusion that comes with the learning process
dog feels more confident in trying new things
can strengthen themselves without being in the presence of the trigger but still reap the benefits

benefits for the reactive human
humans can experiment with the timing of the click and learn how to make training decisions quickly
learn to deal with the frustration and confusion that comes with the learning process

isolate a body part (unfreezing)
sit down while training
if you stand up, c/t your down movement; don't take it for granted that any dog will be comfortable with your movement
pretend your elbow is glued at your side, small motion toss/drop treat
don't think about the end product
pick a body part you have not worked with before

working spot: we moved to a spot away from other people and I tried to c/t Cai for moving his ears. You would think this would be easy since they are so huge, but I was tired and frazzled and he was confused so it didn't work very well. Afterwards Emma asked the teams how it went, and I commented that Cai had offered some other behaviors. She said that with a new dog, that's good info - see what the dog knows and where you can go.

shaping with an object (shape something never before attempted with the working dogs)
I picked up a giraffe-headed plastic bowling pin toy and started to click for any interaction, without having a goal in mind (as I would with a brand new dog who I wanted to "unfreeze"). Cai sniffed it, then knocked it over with his nose, then nose targeted it a few times, and then suprisingly switched entirely to targeting it with his paws. I think that touching things with his paws feels safer than touching with his nose. The times that I've tried to get him to nose target something that he was unsure about, it was hard to get rid of the pawing behavior he kept offering instead. With the giraffe pin, he ended up standing on it with his front feet, and attempting to balance on it with all four feet. This got lots of "awww!"s from the nearby audience.

My mentor was big on doing shaping games with reactive dogs, especially ones which increased body awareness. She also had the humans doing "urban agility" with their dogs during walks - hopping up and down off curbs, going up and down stairs one step at a time to increase awareness of individual movements, going in circles around trees or weaving between trees. I still like this approach, although I only bring it up with clients who aren't overwhelmed by the DS/CC, LAT, and BAT we primarily work on.

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