Why does exposure matter so much?

Confident/robust dogs are less fearful and have less phobias. Less fear/phobias equates to a more stable dog with less behavioural issues. Pairing confidence with rock solid training is the perfect recipe to develop the dog we all desire, the dog they deserve to be and the dog that has an extremely fulfilling life.

Check out Rhea’s early development in the short vid below:

 

My approach to Rhea’s early development (in terms of building environmental confidence) was to put her in the car and drive around until I found something new she hadn’t experienced before. I would spend 5-10 minutes in that environment and then head back home. This was a much better use of our time than plodding along on the footpath.

Please note: You need to consider your vets advice in terms of vaccinations and age requirements to safely get your pup out and about.

BUT even if you are staying away from dog traffic areas, we strongly advise that you start doing exposure work straight away, even if it’s at home.

For example:

  • Ride a bike around your property.
  • Get your pup comfortable getting in and out of the car.
  • Introduce various surfaces (tiles/carpet/concrete/grass).
  • Introduce household items including the vacuum, hairdryer, a drill etc.

When exposing a young pup to new stimulus you need to do it gradually. If a bike is a completely new object, then we’d recommend just leaning it up against a wall and letting your pup explore it a little before starting to move it and eventually riding it.

The key to remember is DO NOT create value in items/stimulus that you don’t want your adult dog to love. This may be due to safety issues or other negative affects it may have on your dog.

For example:

The Lawn Mower

  • I don’t want my pup to love the lawn mower; that would be dangerous.
  • I don’t want my pup to be afraid of the lawn mower; that creates unnecessary stress.
  • I do want my pup to ignore the lawn mower; the safe and non-stressful option.

We want a neutral response to the lawn mower. The pup is aware that it is in the environment, but chooses to ignore it and moves on.

How do you create the desired behavioural response to various stimulus/activities?

Positive association = Build value in a stimulus/activity

  1. I feed on or near the stimulus/activity.
  2. I can also feed any gradual interest in the stimulus/activity; for example looking in the direction or taking a set towards.

Examples of stimulus/activities that I want to build value in:

  • Surfaces & stairs (when age appropriate)
  • Going to the vets (being handled by the vet)
  • Grooming activities (nail trimming/brushing)
  • Getting in and out of the car

Neutral association = Ignore a stimulus/activity

  1. I expose the pup to the stimulus BUT only feed/reward the pup when they are moving away from it; focussing and engaging with me the handler.
  2. I’ll use some light directional leash pressure to encourage this response if the dog isn’t offering the desired behaviour.
  3. Markers should be used once established.
  4. Over time I fade the markers/rewards from the process. At this point the dog would be demonstrating a reliable neutral responses.

Examples of stimulus/activities that I want to neutralise:

  • Skateboards/bikes/scooters
  • Moving cars
  • Electric/motorised tools around the house
  • Cats/birds
  • Kids playing ball sports on an oval/court (basketball/football etc)

Several short 3-5 minute exposure sessions with your pup each day, will make all the difference in terms of their development.

GIVE YOUR DOG THE GIFT OF CONFIDENCE

Dave