How to train your Italian Greyhound not to be fearful or overexcited
As Italian Greyhounds are real Sighthounds though small ones, they can get overexcited when see moving objects like birds, other dogs, running children e.t.c. and they can start barking on that objects. Also as typical to Sighthounds they can be distrustful to strangers, and thougth Italian Greyhounds are one of the most friendly breed from Group X (after Whippets) they can start barking on the suddenly appeared or cocky (from the dog's point of view) stranger. In most cases owners do the same mistakes - they pull their dogs on the leash, or yell at their dogs, or force them to get acquainted with the scary object, or grab their dogs and walk away asap from the object, or make any other actions aiming to make the dog NOT TO REACT on the object or AVOID it. And that all are actually mistakes. With such behavior they only reinforce unwanted behavior of their dog and/or make their fears deeper.
There is a nice technique called LAT “look at that” implementing of which will help dogs stay calm and safe in scary or exciting situations. It was first introduced by Leslie McDevitt, a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and Certified Professional Dog Trainer. This method was first depicted in her book "Control Unleashed". LAT training has superseded many other techniques in the dog training world and now is readily offered by many dog trainers. It is not just about obedience but about how the brain works, behaviour modification, rerouting the undesired behaviours and helping the dog cope with its fears and anxieties. LAT requires commitment but shouldn’t be stressful and the dog shouldn’t constantly be pushed beyond its limits. The aim is to stop the dog reacting and practising inappropriate behaviour and to help it feel safer and more in control in stressful situations.
The Fallout of Punishment
Correcting the aggression through punishment may cause the temporary suppression of the outward manifestation (no more lunging, barking), but the emotions remain bottled-up and are ready to escape at any time. This is often referred to as "punishment fallout," an instance when the aggressive behavior exacerbates and raises its ugly head again.
If you think about it, imagine being terribly terrified of spiders. Yes, arachnophobia at it's best. You seek the aid of a therapist that exposes you to spiders. Every time you see a spider and you scream, he pinches your arm. At some point, you won't not only be scared of the spider, but you'll also be worried about the oncoming pinch. Not only that, but the spiders have now become a predictor of an upcoming pinch— not a nice cocktail at all! So, at one point, you learn not to scream.
Next, he puts a hairy tarantula on your arm. Just because you don't scream, doesn't mean you're cured! Indeed, you may not have screamed, but most likely you were shivering, sweating, and your heart was pounding 200 beats a minute. Your phobia has increased, and now just a picture of a spider makes you freak out.
Now, imagine finding a different therapist. Every time he shows you a picture of a spider, he gives you a dollar bill. Picture after picture, you start looking forward to seeing spiders. At one point, he starts showing real spiders but now delivers you 10 dollar bills. Now you look forward to spiders thinking about the praise you will receive.
Which type of therapist would you seek out? For sure the one doling out the money. When it comes to LAT, you will be playing the role of the good therapist with your dog. Best of all, you'll also instill a sense of safety and trust that will increase your bond with your dog.
So, How to train LAT
End behavior: The dog will look at the trigger (whatever she is reactive toward) and then look back at the handler.
Step 1: Decide on a sound, word or visual marker that you’ll use to indicate to your dog that she’s doing something great and a treat will follow. Words “yes” or “good” are popular markers.
Step 2: To teach your dog that the marker always means a treat is coming, say the word and then give her a treat immediately. Do this repeatedly, until she looks expectantly at you whenever you use the marker.
Step 3: Next, with the dog on leash, stand at a distance from the trigger. You should be far enough away that your dog sees her trigger but isn’t reacting. As soon as she LOOKS AT THE trigger, use your marker. She should turn toward you in anticipation of the treat. When she does, give her the treat. Repeat 10-15 times.
Tip: If she does not turn toward you, either go back to Step 2 or increase the distance between her and the trigger.
Step 4: When she consistently looks at her trigger without reacting, test to see if she’ll look back at you in anticipation of the marker and treat after she looks at her trigger. If so, mark and then treat. If not, repeat the previous step.
Step 5: Gradually, one foot at a time, decrease the distance between your dog and the trigger. Continue using your marker and treats if she doesn’t react. You may have to shift between Steps 3 and 4 as the distance decreases.
Tip: If your dog starts reacting, simply increase the distance between her and the trigger until she’s no longer upset and continue training.
Proofing means teaching the dog to generalize the behavior in different contexts.
It’s important to practice LAT often with your dog. When you first start, you will want to practice in the same environment, someplace that is low-stress for your dog. If your dog is reactive toward other dogs, make sure that you are practicing with a calm, non-reactive dog as the trigger.
Once your dog is consistently doing LAT successfully with the other dog, practice with dogs who are progressively more reactive. Here’s the continuum of behavior from non-reactive to reactive:
- Calm, ignoring your dog
- Calm, occasionally looking at your dog
- Calm, looking at your dog
- Calm, staring at your dog
- Pulling toward your dog
- Barking at your dog
- Lunging at your dog
You’ll also want to proof the behavior:
- With different people handling the dog
- With different levels of distraction
- In different places
- With different triggers (e.g., cars, trucks, men, women)
Here are some troubleshooting tips:
- As mentioned above, when you start training LAT, you’ll want to position your dog far enough away from the trigger so that she sees the trigger but doesn’t react to it. This is called being under threshold and it may take a little experimenting to find that place. So, start farther away than you think necessary and gradually move closer to the trigger.
- If your dog is extremely reactive and you can't find a distance from which she won't react, start training LAT indoors first.
- If a trigger comes upon you unexpectedly while you’re training, and your dog starts to bark or lunge, say “let’s go” and do a U-turn, moving away from the trigger until she's no longer upset. Once she's at a distance where she’s not reacting, start doing LAT again or ask for behaviors she already knows until you have regained her attention.
If you get stuck on any step, stop and take a break. When you try again, go back to the previous step in the plan. If necessary, create intermediate steps with intensity and duration that your dog is comfortable with. Don’t rush: Take it at the dog’s speed. Keep in mind that it can take a long time to change deep-seated fears, so be patient.
See the video below to understand LAT more clearly. And have fun living with your dog :)
LAT TRAINING video
'Look at That' LAT Game -teaching dogs to focus and eye contact