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Halp! My Dog's a Genderist: 5 tips for dogs who hate men

Addressing reactivity with positive reinforcement

· Training,Behavior,Podcast

Each week Jonas Black- Heroly's top behavior modifcation specialist- fields questions from our Canine Club podcast listeners on all on things dog. Below's an excerpt, and you can listen to the full episode on iTunes, Podbean, Spotify, Stitcher, and more.

What should I do to help my dog? My dog is super fearful of men when they come in. Not aggressive, just very timid and shy.

In short and of utmost importance:

Whether your dog exhibits aggression or fear towards men or any other biped, the answer is not really what you can do to help your dog. It's what you can tell other people to do to help your dog.

How to train the humans

When friends or other strangers come into your home environment, your dog is clearly showing an incapability of handling the stimulus of engagement there, right? The dog is exhibiting every sign of not wanting to be engaged. So, to combat this with a balanced approach, here are some tips to address the undesired behavior:

1. Before the company [menfolk] arrives or immediately when they get there, give them the initial heads up that your dog is in a behavioral modification protocol, and that you’re trying to build more confidence. A behavioral modification protocol is a simple, step-by-step routine that results in canine behavioral changes.

2. Ask friends/visitors to please not touch, talk to, or look at your dog until he/she comes up to you.

3. When approached by the pup, it’s ok to attempt to make a small amount of contact underneath the chin, but only once the dog is in close proximity and shows signs of relaxation (listed below). Why? This is the least threatening form of affection we can give, because the dog maintains control of the situation. With chin contact, dogs have the choice to deny the affection as opposed to placing hands on its head or back, where a dog can feel trapped.

4. Tell visitors to cue off of you as the owner (ask you first if it's okay to touch the dog at that point). If someone says the usual, “Oh no, it's okay. I'm a dog person,” then they already don't have the best interest of your dog in mind. They just want to pet the dog, because they're getting a dopamine release upon touching the dog.

5. If the dog is fearful, reactive, or even in a flight state, the owner nor guests should approach her or use the touch-to-soothe technique. This absolutely doesn’t work for dogs, and it’s a form of positive reinforcement (you’re telling this dog ‘good job’ in its reactive state).

Touch-to-soothe technique- using human affection with the intent of getting a canine to calm down

By reinforcing with touch to soothe, you’re giving the dog no reason to change its behavior or stress level in that strange environment. So don’t make the situation worse by enabling the dog’s anxious state of mind with coddling.

Wtf, when can I pet the Pupper??

The foundation of a healthy relationship is coexisting peacefully, not engagement right away. Can you be in a relationship with somebody if you are not coexisting peacefully? I'm sure a lot of you have been in toxic relationships out there where this was far from the case. So achieve that first with the dog, and then move to people interaction slowly once the dog has relaxed. A few indicators of this include:

1. Ears are relaxed and in medium position (not perked forward or laid back flat)

2. Loose Tail

3. The overall body language is relaxed and dog isn't visually tense or in flight mode

Finally, we can introduce the treat and start giving the positive reinforcement. This starts to reassociate the stimulus (strangers) coming into the home that the dog is reacting to. Note: Again, do not positively reinforce through affection or treats while the dog is in a flight mode or you’ll regress in progress and increase the undesired behavior.

Ultimately after you positive reinforce desirable behaviors around visitors through affection, game, or food, the fear or other reactivity should dissipate gradually over time. The more you can practice this positive reinforcement, the faster you'll see the man-hating behavior leave your dog, resulting in a prejudice-free home for all.

As always, if you have any questions just drop them in the comments, and I'll answer them on Heroly's Canine Club podcast. I've got your back, and I sure as hell got your dog's back.

Above: Jonas Black, Austin's number-one canine behavior modification specialist and premier smart a**

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