WAGGING AWAY FEAR: HOW POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT NIPS AGGRESSION IN THE BUD
BUTSY'S 10TH BIRTHDAY ROADTRIP 2019
Picture this: a world where tail wags reign supreme, and furry companions bound with excitement. That's the magic of positive reinforcement in dog training, a method that not only cultivates good behaviour but also works wonders in reducing fear-based aggression.
Fear-based aggression, a response rooted in anxiety and uncertainty, can turn even the friendliest pup into a reluctant growler. So, why does positive reinforcement shine as the hero in this tale of taming aggression?
1. Trust is the Leash that Binds: Positive reinforcement builds trust like no other. When a dog associates good behaviour with treats, praise, and pats, they learn to anticipate positive outcomes. Trust grows, and with it, the fear that triggers aggression diminishes.
2. A Recipe for Confidence: Imagine the joy of mastering a new trick or skill. For dogs, it's no different. Positive reinforcement empowers them to conquer challenges and earn rewards, boosting their confidence. A confident dog is less likely to resort to aggression when faced with fear.
3. Rewiring the Brain: Positive reinforcement creates new neural pathways that bypass the old aggression triggers. Each time a dog responds positively and is rewarded, those pathways strengthen. As a result, the brain becomes wired for positivity rather than aggression.
4. Replacing Fight with Flight: Dogs often choose between fight or flight in stressful situations. Positive reinforcement trains them to lean toward the flight response. When they encounter fear-inducing scenarios, they're more likely to look to their human for guidance rather than resorting to aggressive behaviours.
5. Building Positive Associations: When dogs learn that encountering unfamiliar things or situations leads to treats and praise, their perception shifts. What was once scary now becomes a potential source of good things, erasing the need for aggression as a defence mechanism.
6. A Happy Cycle: Positive reinforcement forms a beautiful cycle. As aggression diminishes, the dog becomes more pleasant to be around, enhancing the human-canine bond. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of situations that could trigger fear-based aggression.
In the realm of dog training, positive reinforcement is the compass that guides us away from aggression's stormy waters. It's more than a technique; it's a philosophy that fosters harmony, trust, and a lifelong partnership with our four-legged companions. So, the next time you're tempted to ask, "Can treats really make a difference?" remember, they're not just treats—they're a pathway to a happier, less fearful, and more tail-waggingly joyful pup.
Butsy's 10th Birthday Roadtrip 2019
My gosh, what an experience that week was! I feel like now I have separation anxiety from my dog after a week of being attached to the hip!
I first want to thank
Stevie for choosing to
come along on this road
trip with Butsy and I.
Butsy is cute, but has
quirks of his own. So
thank you Stevie for the
tireless support and help
throughout the trip – We
wouldn’t have come
back if you weren’t there
(the reason we wouldn’t
have come back would
be because Butsy would
have chased a roo and
gotten himself lost, and I would have fallen off a cliff, as pictured).
The reason we decided to have a road trip was for two reasons: 1. It was Butsy's 10th BIRTHDAY! 2. I missed my good friend Noley and needed to see her face (also because I have been promising to come and visit her for the last 4 years, but that is a minor detail).
In this blog I will provide all the details of where we stayed and the rules which applied to dogs. I will also add in what I would/could have done better.
For the trip my set up in the car
was Butsy's crate (very handy, I
highly suggest your pooch be
crate trained) with his bed and
blanket in it. His bed and blanket
came out at every accommodation
site we stayed at as this is his little
slice of heaven. I have a blanket
for him also as this is brought to
cafes, on picnics etc, and again
this is his slice of heaven. What I
mean by ‘slice of heaven’ is in a
matter of speaking it is his
favourite place to be and all good
things happen on his bed/blankets and it is his 'go to' place. When you think about it, when you go to a café you have a seat and table to sit at, which creates comfort in more than one way (1. Knowing where you can sit, 2. Sitting is comfortable and you want to relax while eating/drinking). So this all said, why shouldn’t your dog have a bed/blanket to sit on when you are at a café/picnic/'out & about' and also a treat to chew on to occupy their time (give them something to do, that way they won't make their own fun e.g. pulling to say hello to everyone).
I packed dry food, treats, enrichment toys for feeding, favourite ball/toys, bandanas (to be DAPPER), his walking equipment My gosh, what an experience that week was! I feel like now I have separation anxiety from my dog after a week of being attached to the hip!
Once the car was packed we headed off for Rainbow Beach Holiday Park – eeek!
Brisbane to Rainbow Beach
The trip length to Rainbow Beach was about 3 hours from Brisbane and we left on a Sunday about midday. It was a smooth trip with minimal roadworks (you cannot escape them, so plan them in your trip tracker if you are strict on time). Butsy did really well on the trip and we did the trip in one sitting (ok there was a McDonald’s pit stop for the humans, don’t judge because we were in holiday mode now). Factor in how long your pooch can hold their bladder before committing to a long drive.
We arrived at our accommodation at Rainbow Beach Holiday Park - gosh it was good to stretch out! Butsy had a toilet break at the reception grassed area while Stevie went to check us in. Butsy was so happy to have some fresh air and the camp grounds were beautiful – half sand, half grassed areas with lots of space to move around in. The holiday park backed onto the marina where you could book a boat tour, hire a kayak or just watch the sun go down in the evening. You could even throw a line in and do some fishing – good tucker mate!
Now when Stevie came out of the reception area she had a concerned look on her face, I thought ‘oh golly gosh, what now?’, and it turns out the lovely ladies at reception advised her that at night dingoes may be prevalent on the grounds so if we are walking around or toileting Butsy to be careful. She advised us to keep him on lead at all times and have all eyes peeled. I thought to myself ‘it doesn’t help that he looks like a little lamb, the dingoes would have food for days from him - eeek’. But anyway we didn’t see any dingoes which was good and also both of us went out in the evenings when toileting Buts - we were like a special forces unit: *crackle of the radio* ‘all systems go ahead, the coast is clear, I repeat the coast is clear, over and under and out’ *crackle of the radio*.
That afternoon we went for a stroll through the Rainbow Beach city centre. It wasn’t much of a city centre - There were a few shops, cafes, pubs and a BEAUTIFUL BEACH! It’s the open space we wanted - stuff the hustle and bustle, we wanted the open waters and the fresh air, so it was perfect! We went on the main beach and had a stroll along the beach. The tide was coming up and the water was rough but Busty didn’t mind and either did we. Busty was allowed off lead on the beach so we did just that - he had his ball and the game was on! He loves ball and would dive off a cliff edge for it! The beach was stunning, look:
Now you can see in the picture that there were rain clouds in the distance, beautiful aren't they? You can see the rainbow sand cliff faces, stunning! Well we wanted to go explore more past the main beach so we headed back onto Ocean View Parade towards the stairs onto 'CARLO SAND CIRCLE'. See the picture with the map (the dots outline our walking path, roughly).
The stairs brought us to a split path, now the question was 'do we pursue the path less taken or do we act like good citizens?' – nah stuff it we went the path less travelled and found this GEM!!
BREATH taking!!!! The drop off was just mesmerizing as it was a GIANT sand dune, and the view was to die for. We stayed here for a bit and had Butsy on lead for safety – plus the dingo thing freaked me out and I kept thinking a dingo would just ambush us since we were in a bit of wilderness. Now once the photo opportunities were over we looked up at the sky and I said ‘Stevie I think those rain clouds are coming inland’ .. nek minute we felt rain drops. So we made a run for it back to the car – we got caught in a down pour, hid under a park shelter for about 10minutes before we realised the rain wasn't getting any lighter, so we legged it back to the car. Butsy loved the running and was a trooper!! When we made it to the car we towelled Butsy off, bought some ciders from the bottle and off to the cabin we go. We deserved a good hot dinner and a drink. Perfect for a rainy night in.
We had a whole day at Rainbow Beach on day 2. It started off by going to a local café called "Cafe Jilarty at Rainbow" for coffee and food! Butsy is reactive at other dogs, so treats were on hand along with his trusty blanket. At the café we got a few barks out of him but all in all he did well until an old lady came up to us (who mind you was carrying a package the size of her) and gave us her piece of mind - she said ‘you know you are just rewarding the barking every time you give him a treat’ and Stevie thought to herself ‘you know I'm not a nurse right now and if you fall …’ (Stevie is a nurse, when she wants to be). So expect people to give you their advise on how to own/treat/train your dog - we were simply doing some counter conditioning with Butsy every time he saw something that worried him. We also reinforced his quiet and settled behaviours every time and made sure our timing was on point with the treat delivery so that we WEREN'T rewarding for barking. However this scenario brings me to a point - I am listening to Hannah Branigan's 'Drinking from the toilet' podcast on Spotify and in episode #75 'Five Counter Intuitive Training Hacks' she makes a point that you cannot reinforce attention barking if your dog is barking at something they are worried about – you can only reinforce attention barking if it IS attention barking. For example the dog barks at you when you are sitting down and you give them a treat/attention so then the dog learns if I bark at the human then I get a treat/attention. After breakfast we went and explored CARLO SAND BLOW. We were instantly in the desert when we got to this gem, it was stunning! The cliff edges, the stretch of sand, the way that you had the beach on one site and a beautiful forest scenery on the other side! Just spectacular. Bucket list for sure!
(It is advised that this is a national park and only support/service dogs can enter).
After exploring this beautiful part of the world for almost 2.5hours we decided to go back to the cabin for a much deserved rest and possibly a sneaky snack.