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Hi everyone,

 

I have a 1.5 year old female BC who is very nervous around new people. Not all people, some she warms up to quite quickly, where as others she never gets comfortable around. I have had her since 10 weeks, and she has come from a great litter and her breeders are wonderful. She has been well socialized with family dogs, dog parks, training class (foundation work plus agility) and off leash walks. She LOVES other dogs, but she does have some on-leash reactivity, when off the leash she shows no reactivity at all, and she is getting very good about waiting until I give her release word to go up to a dog.

However, with humans sometimes she runs up to them barking, sometimes she couldn't care less. If i make her sit and stay until the people walk by, she has taken to running after the person barking, once they've already gone by. She is very nervous around my partners family, even though she has known them since we got her. They are very friendly and love her, but she is so nervous. Anytime any of them get up out of their chair, she runs away and barks. She will go up and take treats, but she leaves her back feet planted and stretches her body till she can just grab the treat, then high tails it out of there. And it doesn't matter if where we are, she is still so nervous. Looking for some tips to help this, as we want her to come out of her shell. We are doing agility and working on trick training to build confidence.

 

I've never had a dog who was this particular about her humans before!

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I have had a dog react somewhat similar to that. What worked for her was me tieing her in the room where she could not get away so she had to figure out for herself that things were not as scary in reality as she thought. tie her where she could not get under furniture or hide and we went about 'living' normally. She was corrected for unwanted behavior and occasionally spoken to, slight pet on on the way past. Didn't take her long to come around.

 

I think the more they feel they have chased the scary people away or gotten away they reinforce that in their minds. Without allowing that option it makes them think about things differently. "Hiding" in a crate I do not think helps even if the crate is in a busy part of the house. The more dogs I am around the more convinced I am that it is just part of their personality and not lack of socialization ect. You can do all you can to expose her and help her but she has to make some of those changes and come to understand everything is not scary. I have learned to correct behavior even if comes from fear - you can be concerned but barking and chasing people is not acceptable. It is a bit of fine line.

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This section is for training dogs for herding.

 

You should receive more answers if you re-post in the General Border Collie Discussion section.

 

If Eileen sees this, she will probably move it, but until then ^^^^

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Normally I would wait until the question appeared in the proper forum, but I feel I have to respond to the advice given above.

 

What's described is known as "flooding," a behavioral treatment approach largely eschewed by both human psychologists and animal behaviorists as outdated and not as effective as desensitization because it can actually make things worse instead of better. What I prefer in a situation like this is desensitization and counter conditioning.

 

You mention her stretching to get treats offered by your partner's family members. I might approach this a little differently. Instead of them offering her treats with outstretched hands, presumably while looking at her, which can be intimidating for a fearful dog, they might try seeming to ignore her while tossing especially delicious treats away from them. Figure out how close she's comfortable getting to them and toss the treats just beyond that point, but not looking directly at her. Gradually she'll start looking for the treats and they can toss them just incrementally closer, but still not looking at her. If she doesn't come close enough to get the treat, they can still seem to ignore her but stay where they are.

 

Eventually the distance where she's willing to approach will close and she should be coming right up to them. Then they can begin to offer the treats from their hands, still avoiding eye contact.

 

I've done this as a group exercise with shy dogs where people sit in a large circle on the ground (making them appear less intimidating than standing up) armed with very smelly, delicious treats. No one looks at the dog, and at first tosses the treat into the middle of the circle, away from all the people. Gradually the tosses were made a little closer until finally the dog was cautiously coming up to outstretched hands for treats and eventually accepting brief eye contact and eventually some petting.

 

You might be able to enlist people at the training classes to do this as well. At the very least, have them totally ignore her while they're going about their business and toss her a treat (away from themselves) every once in a while.

 

The key is letting the dog work at her own pace and not try to rush it or force it. Looks for stress signals like whale eye, yawning or lip licking. When you see them you know that it's too soon to close the distance yet. The people can also yawn. It's a non threatening signal and tends to diffuse tension for the dog as well.

 

Best wishes as you help her through this.

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I do not envision being at a training class where a dog is uncomfortable around people and activity for a period of time and not allowed to go hide any different than tieing a dog in a spot in a house. Gentle Lake maybe you are assuming that the dog is never untied or in other situations and the uncomfortable situation is endless which I can see would be overly stressful.

Obviously with each dog in each situation you need to pay attention to the particulars and adjust. Not one thing will work with every dog. I find many fearful dogs will not want treats bad enough for them to be very helpful in training, some dogs are chow hounds and it works well.

I have found allowing the dog to continually 'escape' the threat of uncomfortable situation only reinforces it in their mind. Once the dog relaxes some and you remove it from the situation for a period it seems to be very different in their minds. Gradually they relax faster with continued exposure again not unlike going to a training class but I can do it any time an opportunity for teaching presents itself.

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Having a dog that is like this (maybe even more particular- we have seen some aggressive lunging with strangers), we have found that a training class, with a trained professional monitoring our interactions, is less stressful than being tied in our house with visitors, who we have limited control over. I can give my family/my partner's family all the guidelines I want about interacting with the dog, but I can't guarantee they'll be followed. Training classes help Gabe tremendously with being a place where he's being set up for success, meets new people and dogs, and does something he likes (training). It also avoids making a negative association with being leashed in our house.

 

We work on it at home too, but it's different.

 

What has worked well for us at home is first and foremost meeting new people OUTSIDE of the house. When people are coming over, we ask them to let us know when they get there, bring Gabe outside so he can meet them outside of our house, and take a walk around the block with them. Once inside, I'll treat him for calm behavior around the guests, since bringing him too close to guests before he's comfortable could great a bite risk. If he gets close to get the treat, then decides he's conflicted, it could end up in a sticky situation. So I handle the treating. We usually encourage guests to play with a ball or something that allows him to run away, and also engage.

 

Once he's comfortable with someone, they're "in his circle" and all is good, but we work pretty hard on managing it and letting him take it at his pace until we're there. If he's having a particularly tough time, he's crated with something delicious in a closed room with a white noise machine until guests are gone. His mental well-being is our top priority, and if he can't deal with guests, he doesn't need to.

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I don't really understand the current fad for throwing treats at dogs or on the ground for dogs. I can see where that method might work over time in a situation like this, but it seems unnecessary and disrespectful to me.

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I don't really understand the current fad for throwing treats at dogs or on the ground for dogs. I can see where that method might work over time in a situation like this, but it seems unnecessary and disrespectful to me.

 

I was pretty shocked when someone suggested that to me for Kieran, as well.

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I don't really understand the current fad for throwing treats at dogs or on the ground for dogs. I can see where that method might work over time in a situation like this, but it seems unnecessary and disrespectful to me.

 

It was explained to me as letting the dog keep space from whatever the "scary" object is, and not putting him in a situation where he is enticed enough by the food to get up close enough to make contact with the person (in our case), takes the food, then is still that close without the presence of food. Throwing a ball is a similar "getting to know you activity" for him- most of the interaction is him running away from the thing he's not so thrilled about after something he LOVES. I'm sure there are lots of ways to deal with this, these things have worked pretty well for us.

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I don't really understand the current fad for throwing treats at dogs or on the ground for dogs. I can see where that method might work over time in a situation like this, but it seems unnecessary and disrespectful to me.

Throwing treats at an undersocialized/fearful/feral dog worked well for me. I can't quite understand how it is disrespectful.

 

I fostered one of the dogs from the Sprakers, NY puppy mill (~2 years ago). She was about 2-3 years old and had spent her entire life living in a group of dogs where the kibble was thrown on the ground at feeding time, and if the owner wanted to catch a dog, he used a pole with a hook at the end to grab their collar and drag them over to him. Needless to say, she was fearful of humans, interior spaces, you name it.

 

By throwing treats on the ground/floor, she began to believe that humans were not all bad. Strategically throwing them closer and closer, allowed her to approach me by her own choice - and it was at least 6 weeks before she would approach within 3 feet of me even with the food treats. Sure, she was bribed by a treat, but she did not have to take it if she was too fearful.

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I don't really understand the current fad for throwing treats at dogs or on the ground for dogs. I can see where that method might work over time in a situation like this, but it seems unnecessary and disrespectful to me.

 

How is it disrespectful?

 

It seems to work well for a lot of dogs and without putting a lot of pressure on them (which I would consider disrespectful).

 

How would you prefer to help a dog through its fear of people?

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Responding only to the OP - I would recommend teaching your dog the Look at That Game from Control Unleashed, and then working on that with people at enough of a distance that she is comfortable. It can really work wonders.

Actually, I would recommend the entire Control Unleashed program - you and your dog would probably benefit from it a great deal.


There is a book called "Control Unleashed, the Puppy Program". I recommend that over the regular book, even if your dog is not a puppy. The author just does a better job of explaining everything in the puppy book.

 

I really think LAT would work very well for you. If you aren't interested in the book, you might be able to find instructions for the game online through google search, too.

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Throwing treats at an undersocialized/fearful/feral dog worked well for me. I can't quite understand how it is disrespectful.

 

Same here. And I don't really understand why throwing treats on the floor for a dog would be disrespectful, either. I throw treats on the floor for my dogs on a fairly regular basis, actually. They enjoy "hunting" for them when they are scattered around. Often when I do training, I put the dogs that I am not working with in a room and scatter treats just for their enjoyment. How, exactly, is that disrespectful? (Not being nasty here - I am seriously very curious - I have never heard anyone express this particular idea in all my years working with dogs, and I find that point of view surprising)

 

When I adopted Tessa, I started training her precisely by tossing treats for her. She was too afraid of me to interact with me directly. So, I would toss a treat away, and when she turned back to me, even slightly, I would toss another away. Gradually she chose to come closer. She started to learn trust that way.

 

When I started teaching her to interact with Agility equipment, I allowed her to approach the new obstacle by her own choice and then tossed treats away to reinforce her choice. Very quickly, she was interacting with new items.

 

I am really not sure how this would have "disrespected" her. She gained trust for me, and gained the confidence she needed to get started on her way to playing a game that is one of the greatest joys in her life.

 

Or, do you mean it is disrespectful to the people that one is working to desensitize the dog to? That is easily remedied by explaining the purpose of the exercise and getting permission to play the game. Most people are happy to help.

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I have found allowing the dog to continually 'escape' the threat of uncomfortable situation only reinforces it in their mind.

 

I have actually found the opposite. That not only allowing, but encouraging "escape" actually builds trust and the desire to start to explore situations more confidently. Once the dog truly understands there is an "out", I have observed that the dog starts to develop resilience and more of a tendency not to choose to "escape".

 

It's counterintuitive to us as humans, but I've had success with this approach with different dogs who struggled with different fears.

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I have actually found the opposite. That not only allowing, but encouraging "escape" actually builds trust and the desire to start to explore situations more confidently. Once the dog truly understands there is an "out", I have observed that the dog starts to develop resilience and more of a tendency not to choose to "escape".

 

It's counterintuitive to us as humans, but I've had success with this approach with different dogs who struggled with different fears.

 

I'm not sure it's counterintuitive to humans, really, either. "Flooding" isn't a method most psychs use - because not being able to escape the phobia can actually result in much more fear and isn't really considered beneficial.

 

Feeling in control helps, both animals and people.

 

Being in control involves, yeah, being able to 'escape' if necessary. That's hugely empowering in the best possible way. Forced exposure just makes everyone (human and canines) MORE afraid.

 

I mean maybe if we're talking minor discomfort type stuff where the dog (or person) is mostly unsure then pushing the issue to demonstrate there's nothing to be afraid of. But if there's real fear there? Like real, honest to god, I AM AFRAID? Knowing you have an avenue of escape is enormously important.

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Throwing treats at an undersocialized/fearful/feral dog worked well for me. I can't quite understand how it is disrespectful.

 

I fostered one of the dogs from the Sprakers, NY puppy mill (~2 years ago). She was about 2-3 years old and had spent her entire life living in a group of dogs where the kibble was thrown on the ground at feeding time, and if the owner wanted to catch a dog, he used a pole with a hook at the end to grab their collar and drag them over to him. Needless to say, she was fearful of humans, interior spaces, you name it.

 

By throwing treats on the ground/floor, she began to believe that humans were not all bad. Strategically throwing them closer and closer, allowed her to approach me by her own choice - and it was at least 6 weeks before she would approach within 3 feet of me even with the food treats. Sure, she was bribed by a treat, but she did not have to take it if she was too fearful.

 

I can understand it in a very extreme case, such as the one you describe. But the OP's dog doesn't seem to be in that category, and I believe Denice's suggestion would work at least as well in that case. As well as the methods I would be inclined to try, such as having the "scary" person offer treats out to the side while continuing talking with you and ignoring the dog. And this treat-throwing fashion doesn't seem to be confined to scared dogs. "Throw a treat near him if he does what you want" -- as Root Beer describes -- seems to be a recommendation in ordinary training situations nowadays.

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^^ I'm still interested in knowing why you consider tossing treats for a fearful dog disrespectful.

 

There are a number of reasons for tossing a treat away from a dog. For fearful dogs it helps to create the association that good things come from people while at the same time not creating more anxiety by asking them to approach the object of their fear until they become more desensitized.

 

In other training situations it can cause the dog to break from her current behavior so that the trainer can request that or another behavior to reward again. It's pretty hard, for instance, to ask a dog to go to his mat if he's lying planted firmly on the mat hoping to get another treat. By tossing a treat away from the mat, the dog leaves to get it and you can ask for that behavior again to proof it or another one to move on.

 

I'm just trying to understand how any of these things would be perceived as disrespectful.

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Gentle Lake, Root Beer, CptJack:

 

flooding: There is a whole spectrum of conduct that tends to get described as "flooding" (and flooding = bad). An approach that overwhelms or terrifies a dog is obviously not a good thing. An approach that causes a dog to be exposed to something that he irrationally fears so he can learn that it's not scary can be a very good thing. It's a matter of degree. You need to evaluate the dog and act accordingly.

 

why it seems disrespectful: Well, this is a feeling on my part, not a dogmatic statement that it IS disrespectful, but I'll try to analyze my feeling (and no, I don't mean that it's disrespectful to other people, I mean it's disrespectful to the dog). When I give a treat to a dog (which I do much more sparingly than a treat-trainer would, I'm sure), I regard it as an interaction between me and the dog. I am giving him the treat, and he is accepting it from me. (Similarly, if he licks my hand or nestles against me, he is giving that to me, and I am accepting it from him.) Throwing a treat on the ground takes away from that, and makes the treat something else in the dog's mind -- something he gets from the ground, without contact with me. It makes it much more food focused and less interaction focused. And you are the one deciding that there is to be no direct contact between you, not the dog. And in a training situation it's his wages -- as many have observed -- with all the impersonality that implies. It seems to me that IF you can get that direct interaction quality right from the start with a dog scared of people, it's better than having intermediate throw-on-the-ground steps. And in my experience, you usually can.

 

what I would do: Depends on the dog, of course. But not focusing attention on him is key in my mind. It makes such a difference to how a dog reacts. I would have no problem with what Denice proposed (so long as activity in the room wasn't beyond what the dog could take), but I would be observing the dog to gauge its reaction. I would sit and read in a fairly small room with the dog and hold out a treat without looking at the dog (with something to rest my arm on, because it would be up to the dog how long it would take for him to take the treat). Then do the same with other people. I have had good results from having my big, scary husband lie on the floor, on his stomach with his face turned away from the dog, until the dog decided it was safe to approach and sniff him. Stuff like that.

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I can understand it in a very extreme case, such as the one you describe. But the OP's dog doesn't seem to be in that category, and I believe Denice's suggestion would work at least as well in that case. As well as the methods I would be inclined to try, such as having the "scary" person offer treats out to the side while continuing talking with you and ignoring the dog. And this treat-throwing fashion doesn't seem to be confined to scared dogs. "Throw a treat near him if he does what you want" -- as Root Beer describes -- seems to be a recommendation in ordinary training situations nowadays.

 

Yeah. When Molly was having problems with people we were at a dog training thing, with supposedly dog savvy people. We'd gone before, it was fine. She would growl and back off but was mostly okay and warmed up fast. Someone asked if they could help us since we were hanging back. I said sure, toss her a treat. This person decided 'offer the treat to the side' of them was the way to go.

 

Molly took the treat, then hit the ground with her tail tucked, stayed hugging the ground and snarling (and peeing herself) while I nearly lost my crap at this helpful person and struggled to get my dog away. She was not that terrified before, but she sure was after 'respectful' woman decided her method was the way to go because throwing dogs to the dog was just rude.

 

Molly went from mildly wary of people but mostly okay to a wreck for MONTHS. She admittedly has temperament issues, but we were doing well and ... just *seriously*?

 

The benefit of tossing the treat to fearful dogs is NOT encroaching their space and risking the dog freaking out and/or biting the hand that's feeding them. I was an idiot for not body blocking sooner. Silly me, I expected the human to respect at least the owner, but no. We're past most of her people issues again but I am *still* angry.

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Yeah. When Molly was having problems with people we were at a dog training thing, with supposedly dog savvy people. We'd gone before, it was fine. She would growl and back off but was mostly okay and warmed up fast. Someone asked if they could help us since we were hanging back. I said sure, toss her a treat. This person decided 'offer the treat to the side' of them was the way to go.

 

Molly took the treat, then hit the ground with her tail tucked, stayed hugging the ground and snarling (and peeing herself) while I nearly lost my crap at this helpful person and struggled to get my dog away. She was not that terrified before, but she sure was after 'respectful' woman decided her method was the way to go because throwing dogs to the dog was just rude.

 

Molly went from mildly wary of people but mostly okay to a wreck for MONTHS. She admittedly has temperament issues, but we were doing well and ... just *seriously*?

 

The benefit of tossing the treat to fearful dogs is NOT encroaching their space and risking the dog freaking out and/or biting the hand that's feeding them. I was an idiot for not body blocking sooner. Silly me, I expected the human to respect at least the owner, but no. We're past most of her people issues again but I am *still* angry.

 

Well, I guess if I had had this experience, I might feel as you do. But my experiences have been very different.

 

Still, I'm not sure why you emphasize that tossing the treat "is NOT encroaching their space." My methods do not encroach their space either. They are free to approach and take the treat or not, in their own time.

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In other training situations it can cause the dog to break from her current behavior so that the trainer can request that or another behavior to reward again. It's pretty hard, for instance, to ask a dog to go to his mat if he's lying planted firmly on the mat hoping to get another treat. By tossing a treat away from the mat, the dog leaves to get it and you can ask for that behavior again to proof it or another one to move on.

 

Why couldn't you just call the dog, give him a pat, and then ask him to go to his mat?

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An approach that causes a dog to be exposed to something that he irrationally fears so he can learn that it's not scary can be a very good thing.

 

The approach I and others proposed is exactly that, though in no way does it fit the definition of flooding.

 

Throwing a treat on the ground takes away from that [interaction between me and the dog], and makes the treat something else in the dog's mind -- something he gets from the ground, without contact with me. It makes it much more food focused and less interaction focused.

 

With respect (not meant sarcastically), have you ever watched dogs working with trainers who toss treats away from themselves? The dogs know exactly where those treats are coming from and I haven't noticed that they start magically expecting the floor to be a treat dispenser. Instead, they happily come back to the trainer to do some more training, which translates to me as the very definition of "interaction" . . . with the trainer and not the floor. And not Some random other trainer or person in the room. They always come back to their own trainers in my observations. That's pretty interactive and pretty personal IMO.

 

 

It seems to me that IF you can get that interaction quality right from the start with a dog scared of people, it's better than having intermediate throw-on-the-ground steps. And in my experience, you usually can.

 

The example I cited above working with some fearful rescues was one where we couldn't get the dogs to interact with people, at least not in any sort of reasonable time. It was in the rescue's (and the dogs' of course) best interest to acclimate these dogs to people as quickly as was humanely possible. We had some of the dogs approaching people in the space of an afternoon or two, without putting undue pressure on them and without increasing their fear in the process. (Actually the cortisone produced by stress tends to make it more difficult for an animal to move beyond the fear.) And I've seen or known of this same thing happening over and over with other rescues. (There does have to be a certain level of acceptance of proximity to humans; it wouldn't have worked for some of the Sprakers or Swafford dogs for example when they were initially brought in, but then flooding would most likely have made them even worse than they already were.) Working with them the way we did with the "intermediate throw-on-the-ground steps" allowed them to realize that good things could come from people even though the people were still there but not doing anything to them or wanting anything from them, so they gradually began to relax and their natural curiosity began to take over.

 

To me that seems much more respectful than subjecting them to overwhelming fear in the hopes that they'll just get over it. I know how terrifying heights can be to me and how I'd feel if I were swooped up high and told it was for my own good so I could just gt over it (actually, my dad tried this with me several times when I was a kid and it not only didn't help but made it worse). I'd definitely appreciate a more gentle and respectful approach.

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The approach I and others proposed is exactly that, though in no way does it fit the definition of flooding.

 

Yes, but there are things you would call flooding which would also do that, and are effective and humane.

 

With respect (not meant sarcastically), have you ever watched dogs working with trainers who toss treats away from themselves? The dogs know exactly where those treats are coming from and I haven't noticed that they start magically expecting the floor to be a treat dispenser. Instead, they happily come back to the trainer to do some more training, which translates to me as the very definition of "interaction" . . . with the trainer and not the floor. And not Some random other trainer or person in the room. They always come back to their own trainers in my observations. That's pretty interactive and pretty personal IMO.

 

Did you really understand me to be saying that dogs would magically expect the floor to be a treat dispenser? I know that dogs accustomed to working with trainers who throw treats (and usually it doesn't take them more than a few minutes to get accustomed to this) know that the trainer is dispensing the treats. I know they want the treats. I know they're happy to work with trainers to get them to throw the treats. But when your whole purpose is to get a scared dog interacting with people, IMO it works better to focus on more direct interaction, not to act in a way that forecloses it at the start.

 

To me that seems much more respectful than subjecting them to overwhelming fear in the hopes that they'll just get over it. I know how terrifying heights can be to me and how I'd feel if I were swooped up high and told it was for my own good so I could just gt over it (actually, my dad tried this with me several times when I was a kid and it not only didn't help but made it worse). I'd definitely appreciate a more gentle and respectful approach.

 

I was not suggesting that dogs be subjected to overwhelming fear in the hopes that they'll just get over it. Sorry it came across that way.

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why it seems disrespectful: Well, this is a feeling on my part, not a dogmatic statement that it IS disrespectful, but I'll try to analyze my feeling (and no, I don't mean that it's disrespectful to other people, I mean it's disrespectful to the dog). When I give a treat to a dog (which I do much more sparingly than a treat-trainer would, I'm sure), I regard it as an interaction between me and the dog. I am giving him the treat, and he is accepting it from me. (Similarly, if he licks my hand or nestles against me, he is giving that to me, and I am accepting it from him.) Throwing a treat on the ground takes away from that, and makes the treat something else in the dog's mind -- something he gets from the ground, without contact with me. It makes it much more food focused and less interaction focused. And you are the one deciding that there is to be no direct contact between you, not the dog. And in a training situation it's his wages -- as many have observed -- with all the impersonality that implies. It seems to me that IF you can get that direct interaction quality right from the start with a dog scared of people, it's better than having intermediate throw-on-the-ground steps. And in my experience, you usually can.

 

When working with a fearful dogs, at times, minimizing direct contact can be the most respectful thing you can do.

 

Had I insisted on direct contact with Tessa at that point, I would have confirmed her fear that I was trying to "do something to her". Instead, I used an impersonal approach (not even making eye contact), to give her the opportunity to learn that choosing to interact with me was something safe for her.

 

Interestingly, there has never been another dog that I have worked with who has inspired such a sense of profound respect for my dog as an individual in his or her own right as Tessa has. Especially when I first started working with her.

 

That aside, I guess I see a lot more room for versatility in the delivery of treats. Sometimes delivery of a treat is a very personal thing. Sometimes I am using the treat to draw the dog's attention to something that isn't me (a piece of Agility equipment, perhaps). Sometimes I am using the treat to build confidence working at a distance (I finally managed to train Tessa to go out and work at a distance using a special kind of ball that I could put food in to toss to her). Sometimes the treat becomes the object of a game between the dog and myself. Bandit loves is when I make the treat "dance around" and toss it for him to chase. That is actually quite interactive between us. And yes - sometimes throwing a treat is an attempt to be impersonal. But it need not be.

 

Use of food in training is an art, and throwing treats can be a valuable way to communicate with the dog.

 

I would argue, though, that tossing treats is never completely impersonal. These dogs are so perceptive. They know exactly where this thrown food has come from. Just as many of us build rapport with our dogs through games with toys, games with food can achieve the same kind of relationship building.

 

I actually don't consider treats in training to be "wages" (many +R trainers are moving away from that terminology, BTW, because it does imply an impersonal aspect to training that is contrary to what we are actually doing). I consider them information. They are like words. They aren't the only words we use, but they can be powerful ones.

 

Thrown treats can communicate: "That's right!", "Over there", "Keep going", "Good choice", "WOOOOOOOOOHOOOOO!!", "Excellent effort", "Set up to do that again", "Straight ahead", "I'm not going to force this", "That is safe", etc.

 

It's all in how they are used. And in intention. I do hold that dogs perceive intention. If it is my intention to be impersonal (which is appropriate at times), I trust that my dog is able to get that idea. And if it is my intention to be interactive, playful, connected, encouraging, patient, etc., I trust that my dog is able to perceive that.

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Why couldn't you just call the dog, give him a pat, and then ask him to go to his mat?

 

I know you asked Gentle Lake this, but if I may . . . (this has nothing to do with fearful dogs, but with the potential advantages of tossing treats in this scenario). This is a fun question.

 

You might want to work on sending the dog from different locations, other than where you are. Tossing treats can set the dog up to go to the mat from any part of the area.

 

You might want to reinforce the release with a treat toss because the dog enjoys chasing treats. It adds an "energy" to the picture that calling the dog to you generally doesn't.

 

The dog might be more focused on you than the mat and you might want to give the dog the opportunity to choose the mat.

 

You might want to communicate the value of working at a particular distance from you. Tossing the treat back behind the dog can do this very effectively.

 

You might be working toward building a behavior chain that necessitates that the dog stay out at the mat (and not come back to you) before the next directive.

 

It might be the quickest and easiest way to set the dog up for the next repetition.

 

I'm sure there are more reasons, but those are the ones that come most readily to mind.

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