Reactive Knox: Elevators

If you’ve ever wondered:

  • Why I’m militant when it comes to dogs being on leash in a building
  • Why I get extremely frustrated (and cry) when an elevator incident happens

Here is a post from Your Dog’s Friend that details how much time and effort we take in management the safety of OTHER dogs in the building in order for us to take the elevator with Knox. We only take the elevator between 7:30am to 7:35am on weekdays; if we’re late, we take the stairs from the 28th floor. In the evenings, we only take the elevators between 6:45pm to 7:00pm to avoid evening dog traffic.

Original source: Your Dog’s Friend: Reactive Dogs in Multi-Use Buildings


If you have a reactive dog in an apartment building or condo, you are probably anxious every time you take your dog out. You never know what will be around the corner or down the hall, and there’s usually no means of escape. This handout will provide some tips for living in such close quarters with other dogs. Consistent practice will help make these strategies habits, instead of hassles. A few safety measures will also help you feel more confident and less stressed when you are with your dog in public areas of dog-friendly buildings. Read More

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Reactive Knox: 12 month check-in

In January, we made the decision to join a reactive dog class because we were at our wit’s end with his lunging, barking, and all-round embarrassing behaviour.

As a reactive dog owner, you’ll reach a couple of dire moments of “I just can’t do it.. I want to give up.” Some may reach points of “positive reinforcement isn’t working so I’ll use punitive and aversive methods instead. I saw it on TV/read the books so it must work!”

We can reach training burn-out and when we do, it feels like nothing is working right and everything is horrible.

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Normal Dog Sociability Levels

Original by Bad Rap.

Paws Abilities

Just like people, dogs have many different levels of tolerance for other dogs. Most puppies and adolescents (up to about 12-18 months for most breeds) will enjoy most of the other dogs they meet. It is normal for adult dogs to be less interested in meeting and playing with new dogs. Just as we no longer play with new friends on the swings at the park, adult dogs may no longer want to meet a new bunch of rowdy dogs at the dog park. Most adult dogs prefer to hang out with other dogs they already know and like.

Below are the common levels of dog tolerance:
Dog Social: This is a dog who truly enjoys the company of other dogs. These dogs generally get along with all other dogs and can tolerate even very rude behavior. This group includes most puppies and a small percentage of socially…

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Red Zone Dogs

Imagine if every time you were scared, someone punches you in the face. Now imagine that you have to live with and depend on the assailant.

Working with reactive dogs is like working with people with a phobia. Slow and gradual exposure. You only move forward when you’ve learned to be comfortable and rationalize at that instance.

Glasgow Dog Training By Dog Behaviourist John McGuigan

I re-blogged a post by the wonderful Nicole Wilde yesterday discussing whether or not some dogs need a heavier approach to training meaning more physically aversive techniques. The answer to that is no, they don’t and I agree wholeheartedly with Nicole’s well educated opinion on the matter. It got me thinking about the term “Red Zone Dog” which has been popularised by Cesar Milan on his show “The Dog Whisperer”

I want you to imagine that you are frightened of something. You have also learned that screaming and shouting and acting like a crazy person generally makes the thing you are scared of go away. You also have no ability to rationalise things. Your screaming usually works either because the scary thing wants nothing to do with your insanity or that the scary thing was going to go on it’s merry way regardless of how you act. Now, lets say the scary thing is getting closer and closer. Having learned that…

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Fear Itself

The Science Dog

Last year, on the drive home from our annual vacation in Bar Harbor, Maine, our 11-year-old Brittany, Vinny suddenly and inexplicable awoke from a sound sleep and began to tremble, pant, pace, and obsessively lick at the sides of his travel crate. When I crawled back over the seat to find out what was wrong, Vinny’s eyes were “squinty” and he avoided looking at me as he continued to lick and pant. Mike immediately pulled over to a rest area and we got Vinny out of the car. As soon as he was on the ground and moving about, Vinny relaxed, looked at us calmly, gave each of us a nice Brittany hug, and off we went for a little walk. Perplexed, we thought that maybe he had to eliminate (nope, no urgency there), was feeling carsick (no signs), or had a bad dream (who knows?). Within less than a minute…

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My Dog is Friendly! A Public Service Announcement

My usual response: MINE’S NOT! And I’m not either.

Though you’d think that Knox’s barking and raised hackles would have told them otherwise.. (body language is an important lesson to learn for so many.)

Dogs in Need of Space

There is epidemic happening across the country and no one is safe. It’s occurring on crowded city sidewalks and spacious country walking trails. It doesn’t discriminate based on race, age, or economic status.

Innocent dogs and their owners are being terrorized, chased down the street, pinned into corners by…other dog owners.

But, you ask, don’t all dogs like to meet, greet, and play with other dogs, even unfamiliar ones? How rude of them not to greet me and my dog! Not so, kind hearted dog lovers, not so at all.

In every city, town, and suburb, loving, law abiding families share their lives with dogs that, for a variety of reasons, cannot or would rather not, socialize with other dogs.

Today I call on all dog lovers to take a stand on behalf of dogs that walk in public while they simultaneously cope with one or more of the following:

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Treats: Puree everything!

With a reactive dog, every walk can be a training opportunity (or rather, a prevention of an overreaction opportunity). So after realizing I was spending almost $50 every 10 days on high-value treats only to have Knox get bored of them, I started looking for more inexpensive options. I thought of buying a dehydrator but I also wanted to use things I already had on hand.

I love baking for dogs. They don’t care if the consistency is “off” – if it’s smelly, they’ll eat it. Precision and measurements hardly matter at all.

My criteria for each recipe:

  1. It must be easy to break into smaller pieces but not crumble into oblivion
  2. It must be soft but not too squishy (sustainable in a bait bag)
  3. It must be smelly enough to create value/motivation

Here are two recipes that have worked on both my reactive dog (proof: we walked beside a dog on the street without incident!) and the dogs (and puppies) I work with in class.

Some notes before the recipes:

Measurements are completely arbitrary. More flour means drier, less flavourful treats. Less flour means less viscous batter and longer bake time.

Ingredients are also pretty arbitrary. Different proteins cook at different times. I usually go with 5 minute intervals and add minutes as needed. I prefer the treats to have a softer inside and not have it cook completely through to maintain the smelliness. I use rice flour but you can use anything. Oat flour makes it a little less liquid but I wanted to make sure it’s gluten free for those allergenic pups. I also use coconut flour if I want drier treats. I grease the pans with coconut oil but you can use anything you’re comfortable with.

Keep extras in the freezer or fridge. Because there’s no preservatives, these will last about 1 to 2 weeks in the fridge – keep in mind, we make a new batch every weekend so we’ve never really made it past 7 days.

Beef Liver “Fudge”

Liver "fudge"

Homemade Liver “Fudge”

  • Pureed Liver
  • Flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Blend liver puree with flour 1/4 cup at a time until the consistency is a little more viscous.
  3. Oil your cookie pan.
  4. Spread liver across pan, about 1/4″ thick (doesn’t really matter)
  5. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes
  6. Slice (about 1″ x 1″) and wait until cool for storing

If your liver comes in slices, you’ll most likely end up with some chunkier bits. Make sure to blend this in a proper blender because it gets messy. Really bloody messy.

Fish “Fudge”

Homemade Salmon or Tuna "Fudge"

Homemade Salmon or Tuna “Fudge”

  • Canned fish in water (tuna, salmon – I use whatever’s on sale)
  • Flour
  • 1 whole egg per can
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Add fish and egg into bowl
  3. Blend with flour, 1/4 cup at a time until the consistency is a little more viscous
  4. Oil your cookie pan(s)
  5. Spread batter across pan, about 1/4″ thick (doesn’t really matter)
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes
  7. Slice (1″ x 1″) and wait until cool before storing

These are especially awesome for puppies – they’re soft, they’re smelly and you can give a lot of rewards without actually giving a lot of food. Each square in the picture above can be broken into 6 rewards.

So far, I’ve made about 5 batches of each. Total cost of 4 cans of tuna, a tub of liver, 4 eggs, 200g of flour: $10. Each batch lasts me about 5 days. I’d say this is a significant cost savings!

ReactiveKnox: Counter Conditioning

While we’ve had a little bit of progress with his reactivity, I’ve spent the last month wondering why all the counterconditioning work we’ve done has gone nowhere. Counterconditioning: how hard could it be, right?

Long story short, I’ve just taught my dog to like getting treats. The stimulus should be the predictor of high value food, not my hand in my pockets!

When they say humans learn ridiculously slow, they weren’t lying. You’d think 10 months into this, I would have figured it out sooner!

ReactiveKnox: Good Days, Bad Days

Knox came down with a bout of kennel cough this past weekend so he’s been isolated from other dogs (as much as I can, anyway) and coming to work with me.

We started the week off brilliantly: Knox walked past a few dogs (and a dog walker with 3 dogs) without incident. We worked on passing without a constant food lure – unless we’re too close and have no escape route – and it was awesome. There’s a few wonderful dog owners that have well-trained and calm dogs we encounter on our morning walks and have been willing participants in our passing practice. “Give him a chance to be a really good more for another minute!” * treat treat treat treat treat *

Perhaps he’s been going a bit stir crazy and bored of hanging out with the humans that ignore him for most of the day… the remainder of the week has been difficult. While we are able to walk past some dogs with lots of effort, his attention span has shortened (my fault, I’ve stopped training him daily) and it’s becoming easier (irony!) for him to go over-threshold. Because of the great weather we’ve been having, we’re encountering more and more off-leashed dogs which subsequently “allows” him to practice his over-reactions. So now we have new triggers: running dogs, playing dogs, off-leashed dogs. Faaaaantastic.

One step at a time, Knox dog.

Watch the World: Changing Fear or Reactivity

We’ve been playing this game (also mentioned in previous posts as “EYES!” and “Where’s the doggie?”) and it’s been mainly positive. Owners that walk their dog around the same time in the mornings are also starting to recognize us and have acknowledged our presence, moving closer or away when appropriate. 🙂

Paws Abilities

For some dogs, the world can be an overwhelming place. People, bikes, skateboards, other dogs… there’s a lot out there to take in. Whether your dog is frightened, worried, or just overly excited by these things, the Watch the World game is a wonderful way to help her deal with them.

Photo by Lori Greig

The Watch the World game teaches dogs to look at their owner when they see someone or something that would usually trigger them. This game is wonderful for any dog who is overly interested in novel stimuli, regardless of the reason for their interest.

In order to play this game, start with especially delectable treats. While I usually use the dog’s food to train him, this is a case where the “wow” value is important. Choose stinky, slimy treats such as roast beef, chicken, peanut butter, or blue cheese. If you use low-value treats for…

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