Trainer Transparency: Training a Fearful Dog

Trainer Transparency: As a dog trainer myself, I think it’s really important to be transparent in how you train. There are a lot of labels for dog trainers out there: balanced, traditional, positive reinforcement, purely positive, force free, etc. I don’t like to identify with any of them, mostly because I don’t want to box myself in. I will however, be completely transparent with you about the methods I do use and post as many videos as I possibly can.

So to start this off… Here’s a video of Cooper a 8 month old pitbull mix. He was extremely shy. I will warn you that I do swear in the very beginning of the video. I often talk to the dogs I’m working with and I was saying out loud what his body language was telling me.

I think this video is important not because it shows great progress while using a positive reinforcement method, clicker training, but because it shows how fluid any one training session can be. I started this session thinking I was going to work on hand targeting, a behavior he had already done with me. Because he was fearful and running away from me I chose to do something easier for him. I clicked and treated for “just looking at me”. I also tossed the treat as a secondary reinforcer of distance from the trigger (me). I was super excited at the end of the session when he chose to play with me and the training session turned into a relationship building session. While Cooper is not my dog it was important for him to be able to establish a relationship with a stranger. Over his week with me, he continued to have moments of fear which became less frequent but he would go between being friendly and fearful of me. It’s always a work in progress. 🙂

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