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Ultimately, if the owner is consistent with marking and rewarding for the sight of all stimuli, two things will start to happen; one the dog will begin to anticipate earning a click and treat for the presence or sound of a stimulus and will likely begin to anticipate. An owner will often report this happens when they are late on clicking the presence of a stimulus and the dog turns and looks at them like, hey where is my click? The second side effect is that the dog will start to look for triggers not because he is needs to be vigilant, but because it has become a game; the motivation of the behavior has changed. This will also be evident in the body language of the dog.
The second step is teaching Cues. At the same time
that owners are working on marking and reinforcing the sight of stimuli, they will also work on teaching the cues; “Look”, “Watch”, “Touch & Go” and “Leash Pressure.” These cues will be initially taught in a non-distracting environment and should not be associated with the presence of triggers of reactivity during the initial training. Two cues are a pair of opposite behaviors (“Look” and “Watch”). “Look” will be used to mean look at something away from the owner/handler. A directional cue (finger point) might also be added with Look in order to indicate what direction the dog is to look. “Watch” will mean to focus and look at the handler. The “Touch & Go” cues the dog to touch its nose to the handler’s hand/palm.
The “Leash Pressure” cues the dog to go with tension on the leash for reinforcement. Initially, tension on the collar predicts the presentation of a food treat. Eventually tension is a cue for the dog to move in the direction of the tension for a food treat.
These behaviors can all be taught with clicker training using capturing and/or shaping. Once on cue, the owner will use the cues in a variety of contexts within the house and yard, with inanimate objects such as a toy or chair, and when possible with neutral or positive stimuli (ie
a person or animal the dog lives with and has a good relationship). Once the dog has learned these cues and the dog has started to associate stimuli with earning a click/treat, the owner may now start to incorporate some of these cues during walks. They will ping pong back and forth between, look, watch, and touch (and other known cues) in the presence of previous stimuli for undesirable behavior. The touch cue can be given as the owner pivots to change direction or to redirect the dog while walking past a stimulus. Owners should practice these cues throughout the walk without stimuli present. Offered or uncued looks and watches in the presence of a trigger should still be reinforced but eventually they will be on a variable ratio of reinforcement.
The initial plan of Associations and Cues is used for a majority of on leash reactivity issues. The foundations concepts and skills lay the groundwork for further work involving Exposure (close encounters) and Systematic desensitization.
An Urban Experience

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