Does your dog have a negative association with something or someone? Does he/she always bark or growl at a neighbor, mailman, motorcycle, cars, strangers, dogs? Would you like to change it?
Try simple classical conditioning (make a new association) to whatever it is your dog fears or growls at. It is helpful if you know the trigger, which can be something your dog hears, sees, tastes or even smells.
Introduce the “scary stimuli” at a distance that makes your dog curious but not reactive, then add something positive like food, play or a game. Over time and with repetition, the scary stimuli will make your dog feel good instead of the current fear emotion.
With strangers, have them toss treats from a safe distance for weeks until you see your dogs behavior change.
|My boys helping change Digs association|
If a motorcycle sets your dog into a crazy fit, let him see a stationary one and reward him with a high value food treat! Repeat this with the motorcycle moving, but with no sound. Again, reward with a high value treat for calm behavior, then start the bike but do not move it. Have someone toss treats while sitting on the bike. You may need several repetitions of this progression before your dog feels good each time he/she hears the sound of a motorcycle. Start the motorcycle, toss cheese, repeat this process over and over again. Soon, the sound of the motorcycle will elicit your dog to drool rather than the old emotional response! Hence your dog will have a new association to this trigger.
Changing an association sometimes happens quickly, while others may take more time depending on how much practice the dog has to barking or chasing the stimuli. So for the best results, practice this classical conditioning for months, and for some dogs maybe even a lifetime. But remember, behavior that is not practiced will fade. So add Classical Conditioning to your daily life, make it part of your routine! You will have a more confident and less anxious dog.