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Resolving Window Reactivity pt 2

Resolving Window Reactivity pt 2

A little over a year ago, I posted about a home improvement project for reactive dogs using window clings to prevent dogs from barking at dogs they see through the windows.  Like mentioned in that post, we had a really serious issue of dogs reacting at the windows at dogs outside and it had escalated to people just walking outside.  The main culprit is actually Bandit but as soon as he would get to the window and start stiffening up or huffing/puffing, Shayne and Rio would go off as well.  Shayne would go off without Bandit starting but only if it were a dog outside.   It was an annoying problem that I just didn’t feel like battling with training at that point because of the challenging variables–three dogs, reactivity was pretty intense, with an unpredictable schedule of walkers around our home.

Shayne watching out our window--we live on a corner and have two windows that provide over 300ft of street views.

Shayne watching out our window–we live on a corner and have two windows that provide over 300ft of street views.

Skip to a year later, I’ve had the AWESOME window coverings on for a year and I’ve come to really love them because of the added privacy for the house in general so I don’t have plans to remove them, not because of the dogs but because of the people (I actually bought another window covering to go on my bedroom window since I have sheer curtains that people can see into and my bed is right in front of my window).  However, now that it is spring and temperatures are rising, it’s time for our windows to open up to let in the nice breeze.  I could open up the top portion of the window and leave down the obscured bottom portion but I got a pretty big clue that the dogs were at a good place to actually do some training. After a year of the windows being covered, the habit of barking like maniacs at the window seemed to be partially broken.  Yep, you heard that right… the management piece I put into place prevented them from rehearsing the behavior and it seems to have put a dent in their ritualized/habit of reacting at the windows.  I figured it was a good time to “attack” the behavior since it has already been weakened. So here is my game plan for resolving my window reactivity issue…

  • Management is still key!  If I am not home, the bottom portions of the windows will be closed so the dogs can not rehearse the undesirable behavior.  I absolutely know they would go back to being super reactive in short order.
  • Small dish of kibble in a pull out drawer for easy access to rewards!

    Small dish of kibble in a pull out drawer for easy access to rewards!

    I have a container of kibble in a drawer in the end table that I sit next to so I have easy access to rewards.  I chose kibble because my dogs are food hounds and they are happy to work for kibble most of the time PLUS I wanted a reward that would make a bit of noise if thrown on the hardwood floors.  I also have some Wellbite treats for Bandit because he is a picky boy in terms of treats but he almost always eats those eagerly–I wish he’d like the Zukes training treats more because those make more noise if thrown on the hardwood.

  • Bandit is at a very different point than Shayne and Rio–he’s still a bit more ingrained in the habit of reacting so I am working with different protocols with him compared to the other two.Shayne and Rio–I will be doing a “BAT-like” protocol with them and the windows.  Both dogs are at a point where they can make good choices about not reacting at the windows and so I’m using that to my advantage.  If Shayne goes to the window and sees a dog, she will get stiff, huff and puff, and within a few seconds she will turn her head away from the window–Rio will go to the window, stare, and get stiff (he’s always been less reactive at the windows).   When either looks away from the trigger, I’m marking and rewarding by throwing a few pieces of kibble on the ground.  IF Shayne gets stuck staring and huffing (multiple dogs or dogs moving fast), I will sigh, stretch, or call her name to get her attention to help her make the good choice then mark and reward and try my hardest to prevent her from reacting. Bandit–I will be doing some additional counterconditioning work with Bandit.  He sees a dog outside and suddenly well bites are dropped behind him (to encourage him to disengage from the trigger).  We are not asking him to make ANY choices right now… he’s not ready.   I want to create a new Conditioned Emotional Response for him because even though he’s gone a full year without reacting to the windows, it’s still quite deeply ingrained (though he isn’t spending time watching out the windows waiting to react, he’s no longer hearing tags jingle and running to the windows, and he is now able to eat in these situations which is indicative of a lower stress level when seeing the trigger–so there has definitely been improvements to his habit).

I just started this work 3 days ago but I am excited to say that Shayne and Rio have not had a single incidence of barking at the windows and have seen probably a dozen dogs go by.  Shayne has only been “over threshold” and needed help (my sighing/stretching) to get her to turn her head away once and it was from two dogs that she has had a very long history barking at and who will bark back. I am really hopeful that since I’m no longer fighting an uphill battle of CERs and habits that I’ll actually be able to resolve the issues relatively easily!

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