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Discussion Starter #1
I was curious about the pros and cons experienced trainers have seen training a dog to:
1. Notice other people and dogs. Give a woof or two and look to their handler for guidance.
or
2. Ignore other dogs.
or
3. Is there some middle ground?

I have been studying the stop barking/socialization threads on the forum and have been wondering about the pros and cons of giving a warning 'woof' vs. ignoring dogs and peoples. I think the term is dog/people neutral.

So far, I have been finding it most effective to teach Ole to woof once if he perceives a threat and then look to me for guidance. He seems to be proud of his status as a watchdog. Each day, he seems to get a bit more confident that most things are not threats, so he ignores them.

When I see some of the high-level trainers work with their dog, the dog ignores everything except the handler.

Thanks
 

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The middle ground is a dog that notices a dog/person, doesn’t react, and confidently goes about their business...no need to look to me for anything, my expectation is always the same, for them to mind their business. My current dog is rather independent.

If the dog/person is coming too close or behaving in a peculiar or threatening way, that’s different and their level of alertness may change.... but 99% of dogs/people my dog and I come across are not threatening.

I don’t want or expect my dog to be a robot.... I want them confident and relaxed yet aware of their surroundings.

I don’t know your situation or the age of your dog but there is also a difference in how I’d expect a young dog to behave vs a mature dog vs a dog that is actively working through some sort of reactivity or behavioral issue.

I don’t see a con to having a neutral dog. The cons to a warning woof are more complex and dependent on certain variables.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks Fodder, That helps.

My dog is a 19-week old male that I have had for three weeks. When I picked him up, he was with his sire, dam, and one littermate. Both parent were as cool as cucumbers. The pup was confident and curious.

He was returned to the breeder by the breeder's son because the son did not have enough time for him. So his timeline from 8 weeks to 16 weeks is a bit sketchy. It seems he had little socialization and too much time in his crate.

Since I have had him, he has reacted strongly to dogs and people. With the help of people on this forum and a local trainer, I have figured out a socialization/desensitization routine that works for us.

We go out exploring the world. We do most of our exploring on a 20-foot long lead. I try to search out locations to explore where the pup is alert/happy with occasional stressors(one minor stressor every couple of minutes), which might push him into an anxious state.

For example today we play in a field across the street from the local human society before they opened for customers. There was the sound of barking dogs in the background, the smell of dogs on the ground, and every couple of minutes, a car would pull and a staff member would walk from their car to the building or back to their car. He never elevated past a single woof all day! In a day or so, we will go back to that same field and try to go 10-20 feet closer to the building.

Whenever I see him start to elevate, I redirect his attention back towards me to let him know that everything is ok. The redirection is usually a whistle, the word 'ok,' or a recall. He earns most of his daily kibble by obeying recalls in the face of temptation.

The single 'woof' question is because he tends to woof once before looking back at me. If I try to redirect him before the woof, it almost seems like I am pulling his attention from the stressor before he processes it.

If I wait for the very brief period between the woof and his stress increase to do the redirection, he seems more settled. Almost as if he as processed the stressor, gotten my feedback, and accepts the thing as safe. So he is ready to move on.
 

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I think the single woof theory is flawed. You are telling him to be reactive, but then to realize that now it's time to stop reacting. It seems like a mixed message.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank,

Not what I wanted to hear. But, I fully admit that I have spent a lot more time thinking about human PTSD recovery than dog psychology over the years.
 
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