Psst Are you a brand, artist, shelter, or dog looking to get on Dogly?
In the video below you will see Edison's first session working with my stuffed dog "Burt". I almost always start reactive dogs with a "Burt" session (or one of my many other stuffed dogs). Using a dog that is very life like but not real is helpful in many ways:
For novice handlers/trainers it gives an opportunity to learn how your dog will react to a trigger without the threat of an actual dog in the environment. This often reduces stress on dog and handler as even if the dog reacts, there is no threat that the other dog (fake dog) will bark back.
For me, the professional trainer (and any handler of a reactive dog), I can establish distance parameters. It is very important to understand how far your dog needs to be from another dog and still be able to think and learn. This means your dog will know the dog is there, but still be able to disengage.
I teach the "look at that" game. Which is essentially, anytime the dog looks at the trigger (fake dog) I mark (yes/click) and immediately reward. This is teaching your dog that looking at the thing they find scary or exciting leads too good things as long as they are calm. It also teaches them to look away as they should disengage to receive the reinforcement.
If your dog cannot look away or is too interested in the fake dog, you are too close. You will witness this in the video.
Ultimately, using a fake dog - that most dogs think is real, or at least mostly real, is a wonderful way to start communicating and learning about your dog's behavior.