How to Use the Engage Disengage Game to Stop a Pair of Fearful Dogs From Barking

By: David Codr

Published Date: January 8, 2021

For this Omaha training session we worked with a pair of anxious Terrier mixes, 3 year Max and 2 year-old Bessie (not pictured), going over the engage disengage game to help stop them from barking at things they dont like or are scared of.

Because Max and Bessie both had reactivity behaviors and Max soemtimes redirects to Bessie, I had the guardians separate them so I could meet them individually. Bessie was the more fearful of the two but their anxiety was in different categories. Bessie was fearful of new people, Max was showing more of a protective / territorial aggression.

Since Bessie’s fear was so great, she spent most of the session away. When you have a dog who’s fear or anxiety is too intense, putting them in a situation where they are reactive is not productive. Both dogs would bennefit from medication to help them beter process the things they are reactive to. This link to Insightful Animals tele colnsultation may be something for the family to consider. Medications are a great way to help a dog turn down the volume on thier stress and anxiety which makes treating thier behavior issues more effective and often easier.

I spent the first part of the session sharing a number of dog behavior tips for fearful dogs. I wanted to help the family focus on rewarding desired behaviors and avoid many of the common mistakes people make with their dogs. I suggested creative forms of exercise, mental stmulation, how to provide structure and motivation as well as the importance of rewarding desired behavior and petting with a purpose. There were quiet a few things we covered and while none of them will fix the dog’s problems on thier own, adopted comprehensively – they can have a profound impact.

One of the dog’s most pressing issues was reacting by barking and lunging at things they didnt like or were afraid of. This is a common behavior for fearful dogs as it becomes self reinforcing. One of the best tips I share with people who have anxious dogs is to find ways to help turn the “boogie man” into a positive. A great way to do this is the engage / disengage game. You can learn how to use the engage disengage game to stop a dog from barking at people or other dogs by watching the free positive dog training video below.

Although we were using a very low level to introduce this secret to stopping fearful dogs from barking, I think its going to do wonders for Max and Bessie. The key will be to practice in short successful sessions. If the dogs bark or react, the humans set things up too close and the practice wont be effective.

Id like to see the family set this exercise up with each dog once a day for a week (while setting them up for success by exercsing them 20 min before), then report back to me with an update. I asked them to hold off on starting this until its been a month after our original session. I want the family to have time to make all the other changes we discussed in the session first, so they can become habit. These small changes will add up to big results – but only if the family adopt them so they are occurring daily. This is why its helpful to work on these things first to create new habits allowing these behaviros to become second nature; done without intent by the humans.

To help the family remember all the little things we covered in this in-home Omaha dog training session, we recorded a roadmap to success video that you can watch below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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