Walking Dogs Together When One is Reactive Part 4: Training Around TriggersJun 15, 2021
Many of you have asked how to start walking your reactive dog with your other dog(s), after you’ve done some training with your reactive pup on their own. In Part 1 of this series, you learned how to start teaching your dogs to walk nicely together in a quiet location, with a helper handling one of the dogs . In Part 2, you taught your dogs to wait their turn for treats so that you can train them together more easily. Last week in Part 3, you practiced handling two leashes at once, in a quiet location like your back yard.
This week, in the final installment of this series, we showed you how to start training two dogs around “triggers” (the things your reactive dog barks at.)
Where and how should I train two dogs around triggers?
Select training location(s) where you can stay far away from triggers, and where you can see them coming from a distance. Open fields can be a good choice. If you don’t have access to large open areas, a quiet neighborhood, school campus on a weekend (if dogs are allowed), cemetery, or an empty office park can also work.
For best results, recruit a friend or family member (and their dog, if your dog reacts to other dogs) to serve as a practice “trigger.” You can then control how close the trigger comes to your dog, and ask them to go out of sight between repetitions.
WHAT should I train?
If you’ve been training one or more behaviors already with your reactive dog, these are the behaviors you’ll continue to practice. These could include “Look at me,” hand touch, “Find it,” or “Let’s go,” among others.
It’s also a great idea to reinforce any acceptable behaviors that your dogs offer on their own after they see a trigger, even if they’re not the specific behaviors you’ve pre-trained. Things like quietly looking at a trigger, turning and sniffing the ground, or looking away from the trigger are all much more desirable than barking and lunging. Don’t let those behaviors go without reinforcement!
How can I make it easier if training two dogs around triggers is too difficult?
Moving farther away from triggers is almost always a good way to decrease the difficulty of a training setup. Often hiding behind a visual barrier, like a parked car, between training repetitions also makes training easier.
Finally, bring a helper along on walks for as long as you need to start to feel more confident in your skills. I strongly recommend having your helper with you during the first few walks in which you try handling both leashes at once. If something goes wrong, or if you start feeling anxious, you can hand off one of the leashes to your helper.