Fearful & Fizzy Dog Training

 Helping Fearful and Fizzy Dogs

Often people refer to dogs that struggle on social activities as reactive, aggressive, or chaotic dogs. While there is the occasional dog that is actually out to do damage to anyone or anything that gets too close. Most of these dogs are struggling in social situations and therefore bark, lunge, jump or repeat some other over-the-top behavior when they are faced with distractions.

Fearful Dogs
These are dogs that are actually scared in social settings. They may be afraid of people, dogs, or other changes in the environment. Fear is actually a healthy part of life, designed to keep us from doing things that will lead to injury or death. However fearful dogs often have not learned what is safe and what is a threat. This means they often slide very easily into the fight, flight, or freeze states which tend to lead to the over reactions dog owners struggle with.

Fizzy Dogs
These are the dogs that are so eager to make friends that they quickly become over-aroused, basically loosing their minds with excitement. Again this can be when people, dogs, or other distractions show up in the environment. Many adolescent dogs from 6-24 months fit in this category simply because they have not yet learned to self regulate their emotions and arousal levels. Fizzy dogs also present with barking, lungeing, jumping, and other big reactions that dog owners struggle with.

Since the big reactions that happen with both fearful and fizzy dogs have so much in common, it can be hard to tell if a dog is struggling with fear or over-excitement. Honestly the training is much the same either way, however fearful dogs tend to need a slower route then fizzy dogs. To help both fearful and fizzy dogs, we often start with a 90 minute behavior session.  

Since the majority of my clients have fearful dogs, I started the "Helping Fearful Dogs Feel Safe!" program. Like many Dog Trainers & Behavior Consultants, I focused my efforts at making this program the best it could be to help dogs and owners overcome challenges. Fizzy dogs often go through the same program, but may get fast-tracked based on team needs.

Here are the basic steps that we start with: 
  • First Session Full Behavior Evaluation
  • Private Session Package
  • Group Training Opportunities
  • Extended Training Packages (based on owner goals)

First Session Full Behavior Evaluation

This is really a time for everyone to get to know each other! I work through a Canine Triage Triangle that focuses on the needs of the dog, the owner, and the trainer all interacting with each other and learning together. We spend lots of time learning about how the dog feels about strangers (me the trainer), how the dog feels about other dogs (my 2 dogs are always on-site, often in my office until we are ready for one or both of them), and how the dog processes new environments (the Training Center). I will often try a few different things to see what the dog loves to do and what motivational resources are going to work best for each dog. And owners get a change to ask all their questions and tell me about the behaviors they are struggling with and would like my help. The main goal is to see if we all can work well together and be a good fit for additional training. Due to the additional length of this session and the mass information gathering that happens, this session is a bit pricey starting at $150 for 90 minutes. 

Private Session Packages

If we determine that the dog, owners and I will be able to work together successfully during the Behavior Eval, we move into a Private Session Package starting with 6 sessions. Most generally we follow one of two tracks for these sessions.

The Fresh Start Plan includes a slower approach to helping the dog learn that changes in the environment can be a positive thing. This plan is good for dog owners who want to learn more about using positive reinforcement training methods to develop stronger communication skills between owner & dog, build confidence in both dog & owner with the skills to navigate environments safely, and train the behaviors we want the dog repeat more often. The speed at which progress is made in this track and the order in which lessons are taught is based on the individual needs of the dog and owners.

The FAD Family Pets Plan follows the same lesson plan as the group class that I teach for young adolescents, but we often get to add a few new skills and have lots of time for fun games that reinforce good behaviors. This plan is good for dog owners who have already started with some basics and simply want to expand teamwork and learn new skills that help the dog be successful in the family. These lessons are generally taught in a specific order so they each build on the previous lesson, but can be customized based on what the dog and owner need.

Both plans focus on increasing communication, building teamwork and getting more of the behaviors we love while reducing the behaviors that are driving us crazy. Positive reinforcement based games are used in all training sessions!

Group Walks

Once basic teamwork skills have been established in private sessions, human/dog teams are invited to join in group activities starting with Group Walks. This is basically my way of taking those lessons we learned in the classroom out into the real world, so that dogs and owners can learn to do those skills around distractions. Based on what is observed in the Behavior Eval and the Private Sessions, I'll like suggest 1-3 possible groups an owner can join with their dog to work on the skills they are struggling the most. 

We often rely on distance away from distractions as our first step in helping both dog and owner feel safe, calm, and happy during the group activities. This means that some groups start out working 20 ft apart while others start out working over 200 ft apart. I work really hard to make sure there is a group that is perfect for each team based on their needs at the time. Often for groups that are working farther apart from each other, I will not take one of my dogs out so that I may be of more assistance to the teams. Generally by this point all the dogs love me from our private sessions. Once the owners and dogs have started to learn the group walk skills, or if we have a really small group, I'll work one of my dogs during the walk. In these smaller groups, owners and dogs get to know each other a bit which helps us make progress more quickly. However at some point, we need to add new teams into the group so that dogs learn to do the skills with more than just their friends!

All group walks are suggested to be done with a well fit harness and longline. This is one of the many things we go over during private sessions so that teams are comfortable using this equipment in low distraction environments before joining the group where there are higher distractions.

Extended Private Sessions

Occasionally dog owners have BIG Goals which might include more advanced training such as sports, working dog skills, or advanced obedience. This is typically above and beyond the Helping Fearful Dogs Feel Safe Program, but I have some especially fearful dogs chose to participate in this advanced training as well. We can continue to add to a 6 Session Package with individual sessions or do a Dog Days Special Package. The Dog Days Package generally starts with a 2 or 4 hour session where we can really tackle a huge problem by spending lots of time with the dog and trainer working closely together then teaching the owner how to use the skills that were just taught.

Often in a longer Dog Days Session we will start in the Training Center to teach a new skill or advance an existing skill, then move out into the community to practice around distractions that very same day. Each one of these sessions is tailored specifically to the team needs. 

The owner is invited to stay for the entire session or leave the dog with me for the first part of the session and return for the later skills review portion. Of course this is based on the relationship between the dog and myself first! If the dog is fearful of ME, then the owner will be required to stay. However if the dog trusts me and is eager to work with me, the owner can leave if they choose. This package works really well for the working dog owner who wants their dog to keep advancing in training, but doesn't have the time to do all the work. 

If you check out the Yooper Paws YouTube Channel you can see lots of videos of Oy, Blue, and Maverick who have all done Dog Days Sessions with me while their owners were at work! Many of my Working Dog Teams do a few Dog Days Sessions as well to tackle bigger projects.

If Private Sessions are not in your budget, I suggest you check out my Patreon Membership for the Helping Fearful Dogs Feel Safe Membership or the Turning Struggles into Strengths Membership! 

For more information about the Helping Fearful Dogs Feel Safe Program reach out to me via email at yooperpaws@gmail.com.

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