Month: July 2014

Proactive dog owner- working on a problem that didn’t occur yet

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Two or three days ago I’ve noticed that Chili started to pay attention to people approaching us in the park. Not, all people and not every time but on several occasions when she noticed someone she stopped and looked. Her mouth was closed and she her body was stiff. It didn’t last long but it made me concerned. She is fearful of strangers but in a manageable way. Which means she ignores most people and if someone tries to make contact with her she walks away. She is good with joggers and people biking which I reinforced by rewarding her every time someone was passing by. She didn’t have any unpleasant situation involving humans for a very long time (and the ones she had were not very traumatic, by which I mean that for example someone tried to pet her). We did have a bit of a stressful weekend because we went to a seminar after which we had a bit of car accident (nothing serious but definitely scary for Chili). Though I think that I noticed change in her behaviour towards strangers before the seminar.

Regardless of what caused this change which might seem tiny right now I need to take actions in order to prevent bigger change for the worse in the future. As a dog owner you always have to anticipate things, but especially if you have a fearful or aggressive dog. 

So far whenever it happened (and by “it” I mean Chili staring at people) I tried to distract her and reward her for looking at me. I don’t like the fact that I wrote “tried to distract” because normally Chili reacts with a speed of light, which can mean that she was really trying to figure out if those people are a treat or not. Additionally she does seem more skittish on the walks those last few days.

I found a very nice article about counter conditioning and desensitisation on Kyren Pryor’s Clicker Training page ( It gave me a nice inspiration to work with Chili, I will use “open bar/ closed bar” technique which in Chili’s case will mean that I will start rewarding her as soon as she sees a person approaching and I will stop (bar will close) when the person has passed.