When we were in East Hampton, the weather was especially fine, sunny and in the 50s, so we spent a fair amount of time on K&A’s deck. There were dogs in the neighborhood that started to bark when we came outside. They were invisible, but audible. Of course Chico was on alert, but he couldn’t see the dogs, so he didn’t go into full dog-aggression mode. I realized that because the other dogs were not close, he was able to be present with me and have a chance to learn a positive association between the hollering of other dogs and lots of cookies.
In class, whenever another dog starts to do something silly, like run around and bark, all the rest of us start to give our dogs lots of treats. This keeps the dogs’ attention on the handlers instead of on the other dog. Julie’s says her dogs have such a strong connection between crazy dogs and treats that when another dog is being silly, hers run to her, drooling, rather than engaging with the trouble dog. I shovel treats at Chico when we encounter a strange dog anywhere, but usually he knew about the dog before I did and has already drawn a bead on the dog with ill intent in mind, and he ignores me and the treats.
To have these neighbor dogs being loud but distant gave me a chance to command Chico’s full attention with treats. I chanted my ‘other dogs chant’-a happy, sing-song of “Puppy, puppy, puppy. Wouldn’t you like some cookies for that puppy? Listen to those silly puppies bark, don’t you want a cookie because those puppies are barking?” and shoveled cookies at him.
I believe that it worked. He’s not no longer dog aggressive, but he has proved able to hear me offer the cookies and turn away from another dog and towards me. In our world, that’s a huge step.