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Penny's Anti-Aggression Exercises

luckypenny
February 8th, 2008, 12:02 AM
I couldn't think of a better title :o . For those of you who are curious, I'll start a few threads (every week or so) on the different exercises that were recommended to us by our behaviorist/aggression specialist. These were suggested based on Penny's issues in particular so they don't necessarily mean it will work for every dog. She is not aggressive towards me, only strangers when we are outside of our home (on and off-leash).

Each one is done a minimum of 4 times per day.

Exercise #1, desensitizing Penny to direct eye contact: Using tiny treats, Penny sits in front of me. I hold one in my right fist at about belly button level. Normally, it would be my hand she would focus on. When she realizes I won't release it, she very briefly looks at my eyes. I instantly give her the treat as she makes eye contact. Repeat about 30-40 times. If, at any time, she decides to try to take it out of my hand, I don't move it away at all (she can't get it if my fist is closed around it tight and will eventually just sit back and wait for me to release it). As we're doing this exercise, I'm to take note of her comfort level. When we first began, her ears went all the way back as she made eye contact, had dilated pupils, and would take the treat hastily from my hand (all signs of unease). She also sat about 2 feet away from me. As we continue these exercises every hour or so throughout the last several days, she's sits closer to me, ears are relaxed, pupils are normal, and she's takes the treats more gently.

Exercise #2: Another version of Exercise #1 with the exception that I hold my right arm outstretched at a 90 degree angle from my body (treat closed in my hand). Initially, Penny focussed on my hand and would sometimes jump at it. I held it still (did not pull away) and she would eventually give up and return to sitting in front of me. As soon as she makes eye contact, I bring my hand down to her and release treat. Repeat 30-40 times. When we did our exercises this evening, she didn't once look at my hand but looked directly at my eyes instead. Improvement!!

Exercise #3: Desensitizing Penny to hand movements in her space and eventually to hand contact: As in Exercise #1, I hold a treat in my right hand as Penny sits in front of me. I don't necessarily have to wait for eye contact. As I release the treat, I outstretch my left hand about 1 foot away from the side of her head then bring it back down to my side. Repeat 30-40 times. As she gets comfortable ie, relaxed ears, no "whale eyes," etc., I can move my left hand closer and eventually pass it over her head.

If there's interest, I'll try to get some of this on video and post here when I can get some extra hands to hold the camera.

The goal of these exercises is to teach Penny to associate direct eye and hand contact with "rewards" or positive reinforcement. She normally reacts aggressively when strangers look at, or attempt to touch her. Once I've mastered these and she's totally at ease, we'll progress to other immediate members of our family, then to friends that she's familiar with, and eventually to neighbors and strangers :fingerscr . The trick is to read her body language to guage her comfort levels and to slow down when she becomes aroused.

These are just a few that we are practicing; I'll start other threads shortly on the exercises we're doing to teach her 'soft mouth,' distracting/re-directing her from reacting to stimuli, how to teach her that the best place to be is next to me, that she would want to be there (as opposed to that's where she has to be) while we are out, teaching her to relax when we, or strangers, enter our home, etc, etc..

TeriM
February 8th, 2008, 12:08 AM
Sounds great :thumbs up. We actually did a version of that in puppy class with a "watch me" command to teach them to make eye contact. I think I will dust off that lesson and work on it with Riley a bit :lightbulb:.

growler~GateKeeper
February 8th, 2008, 12:10 AM
LP do you give her commands or talk to her at all during these excercises?

luckypenny
February 8th, 2008, 12:17 AM
No commands at all. We don't use any verbal cues because 1) strangers wouldn't use them with her :o and 2) these aren't training exercises as they are rather de-sensitizing exercises. For praise, I was told to stop with the "Goooood Girrrrrrrl" as my voice tends to get high-pitched :o and only serves to arouse her further. I'm to say words like "won-der-ful" in a calm low voice, stretching each syllable. Maybe later on I may be told to give her verbal cues :shrug: but this is how we are supposed to do them for now. We have another appointment in three weeks so I'll know where we go to from there.

growler~GateKeeper
February 8th, 2008, 12:27 AM
I was wondering if you would use something like "look at me", plus when I see dogs I don't know & they look @ me I'll talk to them (usually hi darlin' or hi pup) before asking the owners if I can pet them

Sounds like a great routine & Penny already making great progress :highfive:

luckypenny
February 8th, 2008, 12:33 AM
The behaviorist gave several explanations why not to use commands but I forgot some of it :o (there are so many details to remember). I'll make a note of it, and add it to the ever growing list of questions I have for her :o, and ask her 'why not' again at our next appointment.

allymack
February 8th, 2008, 06:32 AM
If there's interest, I'll try to get some of this on video and post here when I can get some extra hands to hold the camera.


you could put the camera on a table and let it record while you do the work:shrug: just a thought..

and thanks alot for posting about this!:thumbs up i am going to start doing these with enzo, to see if i can help his aggression a bit, we did the first two exercises you said in his obdience class, so i think he will catch on quick to that.

hazelrunpack
February 8th, 2008, 08:14 AM
Definitely interested in seeing video if you can get it, LP! How wonderful that you're seeing progress so quickly! :grouphug:

I wish I were closer so I could be one of the 'strangers' when you get to that level. :D

growler~GateKeeper
February 8th, 2008, 11:39 PM
The behaviorist gave several explanations why not to use commands but I forgot some of it :o (there are so many details to remember). I'll make a note of it, and add it to the ever growing list of questions I have for her :o, and ask her 'why not' again at our next appointment.

maybe it's because the dog would be focusing on what you are saying & not just reacting to the situation - that is what you want - their unaltered reaction, so they can make the change themselves & feel comfortable with the results

JanM
February 9th, 2008, 08:18 AM
Thanks for posting these, luckypenny - they are very interesting exercises and I'm sure will be helpful to many of us! I'm going to try a couple with Amber and see her reaction..

Ford Girl
February 13th, 2008, 03:13 PM
Me too me too!!! LOL! Now that all the B.A.R.K members are practicing these things who's going to be left to show their teeth and boss the other dogs around? :shrug: :laughing:

Good job LP, very interesting stuff indeed. I work with the eye contact too, and the low tones and voice, trying to calm things down. Everything you wrote makes sense to me, and most of it is taught to the volunteers at the HS. Did you happen to see the video called Bite-O-Meter? Explains whale eyes, head and tail posture...etc...

Does Penny re/act differently if she with you, then how she re/acts when she's with other family members, or is it mainly you that walks her, takes her places, engages her in training, etc...

Please keep us updated every step of the way, we are all rooting for you and Penny girl. Pictures and video's area must...we need to see the progress with our own eyes...:D wink wink...

I think a major part of Dazy's aggression is the need to gaurd or protect me, it's worse when I am around, is Penny this way at all? (it's such a wacked situation, sometimes I feel like we are both chasing our tails...one minute I apply all that I've learnt, she's great, the next she loses her mind without warning, she submitts to dogs she doesn't really need to and picks fights with others. LOCO! :clown: coo coo!! )

Kinguni
February 13th, 2008, 04:06 PM
Thanks for sharing those. I may put them to use. Shabba is great for eye contact and obedience in the house, but outside she's a different animal, much more interested in other and aggressive toward dogs, people, cars and especially tractors and school buses! I need her paying attention to me! Amazingly, she just fine off leash at the dog park. Another round of obedience training is due.

luckypenny
February 13th, 2008, 06:58 PM
FordGirl, Penny acts this way towards strangers (outside the home) regardless of who she's with although, I have to admit, I am the one who normally does most training, walking, playing with her. All house rules are consistent, for both dogs and humans :D. Penny definitely attempts to guard. If we come upon a stranger walking ahead of us, she used to pull ahead a foot or two, freeze, then circle me and come to a perfect heal next to me. And here I was thinking it was the training that was paying off and she would correct herself into a heal herself :rolleyes: . Instead, I think she was just trying to let the other person know not to come near her territory :o .

Kinguni, you have to practice the exercises frequently thoughout the day. After a week or so, start practicing them in all sorts of different environments. If your pup is not focussed on you, gently pull the leash perpendicular to your dog, walk several feet (or half a block, it depends on how distracted she is), and try again. Don't get mad at her, you always want to keep these exercises positive.

Kinguni
February 14th, 2008, 03:51 AM
It's a natural tendency of humans to get frustrated. That said, I only get mad at myself for having been a part of the problem. It will be much easier to do outside work with her once the weather warms up a bit though.

clm
February 14th, 2008, 06:30 AM
Boy LP, you're doing great with all the training. It's going to be interesting to see how much improvement you'll gain with her after all this. Do you think you'll get to the point where she'll have no aggression issues with strangers when you're out walking at all?

Cindy

luckypenny
February 14th, 2008, 03:38 PM
It will be much easier to do outside work with her once the weather warms up a bit though.

I'm with you here; it's hard to dispense the treats with half frost-bitten fingers and concentrating on not falling on the ice covered streets :D .

Do you think you'll get to the point where she'll have no aggression issues with strangers when you're out walking at all?

There are no guarantees. With the new training exercises and with time, will we know :shrug: . But I am optimistic....most of the time....when it's going good :o .

allymack
February 18th, 2008, 07:50 PM
these simple exercises are already helping enzo out. If i can get him to sit, at a bit of a distance, maybe 30 feet(i know thats alot, but were working on it) i can get him to give me eye contact, even if i have to direct his eyes towards me with a treat once in a while, but he usually just gives it now. I'm looking forward to updates on Penny and any new exercises you have to do. your truly are helping enzo so much! thanks! (insert big bear hug smiley here) :D

abeveryday
October 30th, 2011, 09:34 PM
Hi:)! my dog doesn't seem to get it. I do it but he never gives me eye contact. He just decides that he doesn't want the treat that bad and walks away. I call him back and sometimes he comes but responds the same way and other times he just ignores me. I tried calling his name so he looks up at me and that only works a few times (I know im not supposed to do it that way but he doesn't listen!)