“Blocking Boards” as a Tool in Aggression cases

During the seminar I did a few weeks ago in Denver we did a case study with a Corgi named Tucker. Tucker had gotten along well with the dogs of the household until a new female came in and they began to fight. Then he had an aversive encounter with another dog at day care and he became more and more aggressive, both to unfamiliar dogs and the other dogs in the household. Things got so bad that Tucker had to be kept completely separate from other dogs.

We spent much of the afternoon with Tucker and his wonderful owner, Janelle, and talked about a lot of ways to help things along. The good news is that Janelle had already switched from a trainer who used lots of harsh, positive punishment — leash jerks, etc. –  to one who had methods that she preferred. (Note that positive punishment was effective in some ways in decreasing the behavior, but created a relationship that Janelle did not want to continue with Tucker). She began working with a trained behaviorist using positive methods and had made lots of good progress by the time we worked together. But she still had a long way to go to be able to let the dogs loose in the house together.

We did lots of brainstorming during the afternoon session about things she could do to improve the situation, and came up with lots of things that we thought might help. Janelle sent me an email not too long ago and said she was very happy with the suggestions and the progress that Tucker was making. One of the keys changes was a relatively easy one: Tucker had been crated in such a way that the other dogs ran right past his crate when they went outside. When this happened Tucker would charge the door of the crate, barking and growling. We suggested that it was critical to avoid that situation, which was basically conditioning Tucker to go on offense every time he saw the other dogs. Recently Janelle sent me an email and reported that he was MUCH better, and that moving his crate had changed his behavior from loud, aggressive barking and growling to a few barks when the other dogs are let out.

She has also changed his diet (no more hot dogs as training treats!), is teaching Tucker “Where’s the Dog?” with a baby gate between them (he apparently loves the game), is working on teaching him to be more patient and polite, has found a ‘natural medicine’ vet to work with in the future and is continuing working with Dr. Norton for training and conditioning. Yeah!

Here’s something I didn’t get time to talk about when we talked as a group about Tucker: The use of a Blocking Board once the dogs are allowed to be in closer proximity. I learned about Blocking Boards from Nancy Williams, a creative animal behaviorist in Maryland who I’ve learned a lot from over the years. Nancy began using “blocking boards” as a way of interrupting eye contact between dogs who aren’t getting along. Although the details of when and exactly how to use them safely depend on a multitude of factors, the basics are simple. You use an opaque board to cut off visual contact between two dogs, or between a dog and a person if the dog is uncomfortable around people. Usually the board is a thin square of plywood or something firm but light, that is large enough to block one dog’s view of another. Nancy, and I too, have usually used it by placing it on the ground between the two individuals. It is especially helpful, in my experience anyway, with dogs who want to greet other dogs, but can only tolerate a brief visual interaction and then need to have the pressure taken off. Of course, there are many ways to do this, and one of my favorite is to teach the dog (either on cue or based on the dog’s own behavior) that barking and lunging doesn’t increase the distance between you and another dog, but calm relaxed behavior does. Blocking boards have the same effect in a way, in that the other dog ‘disappears’ and for some dogs, that ‘s a great relief.

Ironically, the same action can also act as a kind of benevolent punishment, in that if a dog begins to stare or charge toward another dog, the result is that the board comes down and the dog is faced with a blank wall in front of it. It’s an interesting theoretical question of how the dog interprets what happens, but however they perceive it, it often leads to a dog becoming more and more comfortable around others.

Here’s an example of using a “blocking board” between a dog and a person. Floss is a young Border Collie who was adopted from another family by good friends of mine at about a year of age. She was extremely uncomfortable when unfamiliar people came to the house, tending to run right up to them as if she wanted to be friends, and then leaping up and on occasion lightly nipping them. My interpretation was that she was extremely ambivalent — she both wanted to greet visitors but was afraid and anxious about them. She’d find herself all of a sudden too close for comfort, and then she’s panic. As she got more comfortable the relaxed, friendly part came out more and more, but she’d still get highly aroused when you sat on the couch. She’d leap up toward your face and suddenly her pupils would dilate and she’d switch from friendly and relaxed  to uncomfortable and agitated.

After working with her for months, her family has made tremendous progress. Because of the way she is being managed and trained, Floss is now 97% happy to see visitors and only 3% uncomfortable, but she still leaps up into your face and can sometimes get too close for her own comfort. The video below shows me using a “blocking board” (also known as a notebook in this case, flexibility is good!), simply to keep Floss from getting too close to my face. I was in no way concerned that she would harm me during the taping, but wanted to illustrate how easy it was to use in this case. Of course, for a dog who was truly aggressive this would be the last thing you’d try, but when Floss was initially adopted it was extremely helpful to let her exuberant, friendly side out without worrying about her getting too close for her own comfort.

The first part of the video shows me (with Katie behind me with the camera) entering the house. We actually taped this at the end of the session, after I’d sat on the couch. I didn’t want to set her back by barging in before Floss had had a good time with us. So we’d already been at the house for 20 minutes or so when we re-entered, and I was thrilled with Floss’s reaction. Sooo much more comfortable than months before… but can you see that she was still a bit uncomfortable?

The next part of the tape is me blocking Floss every time she tried to get too close to my face, allowing her to be all happy and friendly without getting so close that she all of a sudden found herself  ‘”too close for comfort.” You can see Katie do the same thing with a book when she begins to leap up at her face while she’s taping. You can also see what a good job the family has done teaching Foss to settle down around visitors. Here’s what made me happiest: the first time I met Floss her leaping up was 90% anxious and controlling, and 10% relaxed and friendly. The third time I met Floss she was much, much more comfortable, but lightly nipped my hand (and I mean lightly) when I reached to rub her belly. This time, look at how well she’s doing! Yeah Floss!

I’d love to hear from you – any of you ever used a Blocking Board? How about a Calming Cap? That was another tool that came up at the seminar that I know that Suzanne Hetts and Dan Estep have used successfully with aggression cases.

MEANWHILE, back on the farm: My wasp bites have receded (see my Facebook page!), Willie got a wonderful walk 17  minute (15 is his limit, but hey…..) walk in the cool weather with a dear friend (thank you Beth!) and has an entirely new set of exercises to do. I’m about to get 430 bales of hay delivered, the ragweed is pollinating (achew), the goldenrod is blooming and the light is starting to fade before 8:30 pm instead of 9:15. The lambs are growing by leaps and bounds, the electric fence allowing us to let them graze the front lawn for weeks, and the hummingbirds are already carbo loading for their huge, long trip down south. There’s a bittersweet quality to those last weeks of summer, I love it in some ways, but also hate to see the light lessen and the leaves begin to fade. What’s it like at your place?

 

Comments

  1. says

    I never heard of blocking boards. Floss was persistent but not over the top trying to see your face too up close and personal. As I read the first part of this entry, I thought – boy, a video would help me a lot – and there it was! I will remember this. Right now, I don’t have a dog with this anxiety but one never knows.
    I am having similar ambivalent feelings about the end of summer, too. While I welcome the cooler weather (only in the 80s) and less humidity this week, I hate to see the sun setting earlier each day, knowing cold and ice will soon be upon us. Glad to hear you are recovering from the wasps – yikes!

  2. Sharon C. says

    I haven’t used blocking boards (I’m wondering if this could somehow be re-imagined for people who are anxious around dogs…I’ll have to think about that). I have used large sheet-covered frames for dogs in our training classes who get overstimulated by other dogs in class to the point of utter distraction. They can hear the other dogs, the handlers can hear and see the instructor, but the dog is able to keep his focus on the handler. Usually, after 3 or 4 classes, the team can make some short forays into the main group, and duck behind the barrier if things get too exciting.

    It’s interesting that Floss was stimulated by faces, but not by the rest of the person, and just blocking view of the face was enough to settle her down. I wonder how much face has to be blocked to work? Thanks for the video!

    I love, love, love August in New England, which I suppose is similar to Wisconsin (well, we do have the ocean!). It does have a wistful feel to it, doesn’t it?

  3. Marguerite says

    Hmm… the blocking boards remind me of something Turid Rugaas’ book Barking: The Sound of a Language. She advises first to figure out WHY the dog is barking. And if the dog is alarm-barking at a stranger or another dog, the handler should step between her dog and the stranger, which to a dog apparently means, “I’ve got it” or “I’ll take care of it.” That seems to me to be a blocking maneuver.

    Now, would an umbrella serve the same purpose? I walk two rat terriers (one fairly friendly, one pretty reactive) in the park just about every morning and inevitably someone will allow their ill-behaved dog to bound around unleashed. A self-opening umbrella might confound both sets of dogs long enough to let the idiot with the loose dog get it under control, or to hustle my pups farther away.

    Has anyone tried this?

  4. Ravana says

    I’ve never heard of blocking boards either, but I guess I’ve kind have been using them instinctively with my dog. He is afraid of dogs close to his own size or larger (due to multiple attacks, mostly by German shepherds). He is interested in strange big dogs, but if he looks at them for too long he becomes fearful and then aggressive. On our walks when I see he is “over focusing” on another dog I’ll spread my hand out like I’m indicating “five” and putting it into his line of sight. Most times he can calm himself down if I do that. I figured it was kind of like peaking through your hands at a scary movie.

  5. Alexandra says

    That is really interesting. I haven’t heard of blocking boards before, though I have had humans (and myself) intentionally break eye contact and turn away from a dog that’s in that anxious/friendly mode.

    It’s hot as can be down here in North Carolina. It’s cooled off a little bit to the low 90s, which is a relief. I can’t wait until we start getting some real fall weather. I always dislike the very hot, humid, blazing sunny days we get in July in August, and this summer has been unusually warm. Fall and spring are our best seasons.

  6. kecks says

    calming cap: don’t know but i think it’s terrifiny to know you are at a place you fear (vet…) and then you get your sight taken away. makes you much more anxious what to come and oversensible on touch since you can’t see anything.

    similar mechanism here? –> my panic golden (very nervous around strangers or at the ved, growls, barkes, runs if possible, shaking, fearful) liked to tuck her head into my arms and stay this way during play time or while cuddling on the couch. we teached her to do this on signal (“hide head”). worked wonders around ‘scary’ places like the vet for her. in the end she would just turn and romp her big head at my belly (“arm, where’s your arm?”) even without being asked to when getting more nervous, tucked her head under my arm and stayed there. still shaking, but no more growling, barking etc.

  7. says

    1. Thank you so much for addressing intrahousehold dog/dog aggression! I have been struggling with this with my ACD and JRT for two years now and finally threw what essentially amounted to a temper tantrum on the Clicker Solutions email list when every response to a question about it resulted in dire predictions that one dog would be killed and that dog is living in fear, etc. etc. I think that many trainers simply quietly rehome a dog and never discuss that particular failure and thus those of us struggling through this problem are left feeling shame and guilt with little resources on the problem to help.

    2. I used to take a clipboard with me on all meet and greets for new pet sitting and dog walking clients and distinctly remember simply holding it in such a way that every time a JRT jumped up to “get” me, she hit the clipboard instead until she discovered all the chicken I had been scattering a few feet away from me to encourage her to give me some space :-)

    Any chance when Willie’s shoulder is healed that you will do the Bluegrass Classic and maybe a seminar in Lexington at the same time?

  8. Marianna says

    I was taking an animal acupressure class and the instructor said turning the heads (thereby blocking the line of sight) helped dogs in close quarters that were anxious. Seemed too easy, but it works.

    I have a stray cat that is coming on my back porch and my dog will bark and lunge. I am going to try some type of sheet or tarp over the fence to see if that will help. I could try some sort of board when the cat insists on getting on the porch anyway when he knows the dogs are out. (And I did catch the cat and had him fixed and vetted and now he has decided to stay. I feed him and hope he can become a member of the household if we can work this out.) I have indoor cats and my dog is fine with those.

    The summer here on a South Carolina beach is far from over. We have a rainy and a slightly cooler weekend. I hope to take advantage of it and get the dogs out a little more. They haven’t had as much outdoor time as its been a hot summer.

  9. says

    I’m confused by this video. I’m all for friendly & exuberant, but why is this dog jumping up on guests on the furniture? Wouldn’t teaching incompatible, four-on-the-floor good behavior serve the same purpose of keeping Floss in her comfort zone & away from faces?

  10. Debbie says

    I’ve never heard it and can’t wait to try it. I have to admit, I watched the video first (big mistake) and was wondering what on earth you’d use dental floss for in training. I guess it trained me to read the article first.

    My three girls get super excited when someone shows up at the door. I’m not sure how I’ll be able to use it on all three at once, but I’m going to give it a shot, one dog at a time.

    I’ll bet Willie was thrilled with his walk. Mine are pathetically grateful when they get to go after an absence of outside time. Good for Willie.

    If wasps could be clicker trained, I’m sure you’d be the one to be able to stop them from biting. =)

  11. says

    I have not seen them used in dogs in the exact context you are using. However, I have seen blocking boards used for pigs to guide or prevent irritable pig to pig sniping in close quarters after stressful situations such as being moved, loaded, or unloaded to and from such events as fairs etc. Yep you guessed it is fair season. Thank you for sharing the video.

  12. says

    We use these in a big way during agility class. Our beagle loves to bark at other dogs in the class, especially when the (indoor) course brings them close to us. So we sit in the corner with a moveable wall between us and the rest of the gang. I wonder if it isn’t time to get a big piece of foam poster board and try to ratchet down the barrier and see we can teach him to be in the room with others (without being the center of attention).

  13. trisha says

    Susan, I hear you. The family is working very hard on polite behavior, as you can see from the way she quickly lay down after her unbridled enthusiasm. I asked them to let Floss just ‘do what she’d do’ so I could illustrate the blocking board/ala notebook technique.

  14. Paula F says

    Oh this was great to see. I have a rescued Great Dane with a lot of anxiety with strangers. He doesn’t have the excitable nature of a border collie, so it looks a little different, but he starts out wanting to greet people and be petted and to lean as Great Danes do. With people new to him, if it goes on too long or they really lean into his face, he gets anxious, starts to stare and then will sometimes jump a bit and or even muzzle punch, but not nip. I’ve been working on teaching him how to back out when he’s uncomfortable by watching his body language very carefully and calling him to me to get a treat after 5 secs or so of positive contact. Even if he just turns his head and looks at me to find the treat, his anxiety goes down and he can move away calmly and then move back when he’s ready. The hardest part is getting people not to lean right into him and stare into his big beautiful eyes because he looks very soulful. The blocking board has a similar effect of breaking the eye contact.

  15. carla karr says

    Great video. I’m glad that you showed that the board (notebook) is used in a friendly way, not a negative way. You’re voice and demeaner stay happy, you just block the dog. It’s like ignoring the behavior but not having to get up or move away. I will remember and use it.

  16. says

    I’ve never used blocking boards, however I have used my body to block my barking dog’s line of site.
    Interesting technique – I’d love to hear/see more of it.

    The end of summer in the Mid-Atlantic is beautiful – although it’s sad to see the sun go down earlier and earlier – that means fall – in all it’s glorious color is drawing near – there’s nothing like the foliage season in the NJ area – I love it!!

    Rose

  17. Beth says

    Just curious: what sort of dietary changes did you suggest for the aggressive Corgi?

    Glad Tucker’s owner switched to a positive trainer; Corgis in general are a breed that deeply resents harsh treatment (and they tend to be very sensitive to mood). Also great idea to not have the other dogs go tearing by, as Corgis are motion-sensitive and most have a very strong chase instinct. Not being able to chase leads to frustration, which can lead to acting out in aggressive ways.

  18. says

    I’ve seen this technique used by boar handlers at the State Fair. I couldn’t believe it when they would have several huge male pigs in a smallish pen using nothing but some hand had boards they would insert between them when they came face to face.

  19. Ellen Pepin says

    When we first got our collie, Tess, she went crazy every time a car went by. We sought help from Nancy Williams. She had us block Tess’s view using our bodies. After the second visit to Nancy, we started working with a former vet that has studied with her for six years or so. With her help, Tess is much better with cars. Lately though there has been a lot of friction (and fights) between Tess and our older dog, Dakota. He’s a Shepherd/Rottweiler mix, and he is larger and stronger than Tess. He has attacked her. She is afraid of him and just tries to run away. The vet/behaviorist has us using large white boards to stop the fights. They are just big poster boards, but already it is working when we need to separate the two dogs, especially near food or the back door. We have several of the boards around the house, and can grab one easily. They do interrupt any undesirable behavior and do make it easier to gain control.

  20. says

    Love the board; definitely going to try it. What I like the best is that there is no need to give a command, just waiting does it. I think it may even work to teach a dog to patiently wait while a guest comes in the house versus redirecting as in ‘go to your rug’, or ‘sit’ etc.
    I have never tried the cap but I know it works on horses, and I know that putting a bed behind my seat in the truck completely interrupts one of my BC visitor from being one with the windshield while her pupils get bigger and bigger, and from becoming totally manic within 5 minutes. Because she cannot see while lying down behind my seat. I might try it on her and report. She is coming for 15 days starting next week.

  21. says

    Marguerite: I was taught the ‘step between my dog and the unwanted lose dog’ when it works, it works very well but only on about half the dogs. It doesn’t work on very inquisitive dogs like Labs, Boxers, pits, etc. More and more I am noticing that the body signals that used to work on most dogs 20 years ago are not pick up by city dogs these days. I think the lifestyle we impose on our city dogs is changing the way they interact, and the fact that humans are taking over for their dogs the way they/we help very small children is detrimental to dogs who look to us to take care of their interpersonal relationship.

  22. says

    We haven’t had much of a summer here in the Northwest, but August has been more forgiving than June and July. Still, the light rises earlier and sets before I’m ready. No rain though, and that’s been a relief after months and months and months of rain. Can’t complain though…as the temperatures have been in the 70s…now that’s something I can live with.

    Blocking boards look interesting, but with a truly aggressive dog, would it really stop the attack?

  23. Katie says

    I appreciated seeing this video and wondered if this would work to keep my dog, Jasper, from jumping up like a maniac at my sister. We’ve tried having my sister ignore her or hide her hands/face and turn her back when my 12-lb dog is making her desperate vertical leaps for attention, but this has often led to Jasper just jumping up and grabbing my sister’s butt with her paws. A folder blocking her vertical leaps might help. I’m suspicious, though, that this keeps happening because my sister usually caves in and pets Jasper when she’s still going crazy, but I digress…

    There are a couple of neighbor dogs that don’t get along with Jasper and always bark and growl at her in an aggressive manner. She is usually able to ignore other barking dogs, but with these two, she has started to bark back or even initiate barking. I’ve tried calming her down by going and waiting behind a physical barrier that blocks her sight, such as a wall or car (a slightly larger blocking board than a notebook). However, she has caught on to this game and then struggles to get around the barrier, during which time, all three dogs are still barking back and forth. Ack!

  24. jackie says

    As with the Corgi, I tried moving my dogs bed away from the doors and he became far more relaxed, because visitors didn’t walk past him any more.

    I use body blocking very often, and barrier blocking at agility. I can see that board blocking would be more effective in some situations, though a bit tricky to carry on walks. The body blocking works even though my dog has very poor social skills, simply through interrupting his staring (he is a BCxSpringer and very good at staring!) The longer he stares the more aroused he gets. After a body block he can now usually ‘reset’ and resume Look-At-That- and then do a quick about turn if we can get out of the sitution.

  25. Joh says

    Thank you for the infos on blocking boards – very interesting as ever!

    We used something quite similar in our last training session (working gun-dog / dummy training). We and one other handler missed one class and our trainer invited us to her home for a make up session.

    While watching the trainings materials (power point presentation) in her garden house the dogs where supposed to stay next to us at the pretty small area. The other dog a female Weimeraner rescue and my dog a very friendly female Ridgeback should stay next to our chairs about 2.5 meters (~8.2 feet) from each other – way to close for the Weimi who was clearly very uncomfortable and started barking and snapping in my dogs direction (who was ignoring her at the beginning).

    We moved our chairs so that we could open the door between us (it opened to the inside) so that the door functioned as “blocking board” between us. The Weimi seemed fine with that (and my dog was fine anyway).

    I’m living on the southern hemisphere – so we’re awaiting summer now! Our winters are not that cold, but still uncomfortable enough. It’s getting warmer and drier and everybody – especially my dog who hates rain – is looking forward to the warm season.

  26. says

    I have actually done this but never had a name for it! Having experience in doggy daycare, we often kept baby gates, plywood with handles, or other light objects around to break tension if play started to get out of hand. Likewise, I have used it in cases of inter-household “issues” when a simple body block or call away is insufficient.

    I liked the way you used this with Floss. I’m accustomed to using this tool to reduce tension, but never thought of using it for dogs who get excited and close and suddenly go “what do I do now?”

    May be a useful tool to have available when working BAT with frustrated greeters!

  27. em says

    Paula F. – Interesting that you have a dane senstive to eye contact. Otis the dane gets uncomfortable with sustained eye contact with people too, though his reactions have thus far been very mild (stiffening of posture, some arousal signs). He’s typically fine with adults because he stands close to them and studiously avoids looking into their faces for longer than a second or two, but some children make him edgy, especially those who are eye-height and very intense about staring. With him, calling or turning him away will typically break the tension without anyone else ever noticing. He doesn’t mind the kids per se, and has no problem with them approaching or touching him, but he doesn’t like to be looked in the eye for sustained periods.

    On the flip side, trying to insert or act as a barrier when he’s fixed on something he WANTS to look at or approach-like a deer or an aggressive dog, does not seem to work at all. It doesn’t distract him and can sometimes seem to enhance his excitement. Trying to command his attention with repeated verbal cues, distracting noises, or by physically pushing him in another direction, etc. DEFINITELY just enhances his excitement, without breaking his focus. He snakes his head around small barriers -like a human-easily, but even if I can insert something big, like a door, between him and the object, he absolutely doesn’t forget, lose interest, seem relieved, or give up on it. He has a good memory and a staggeringly good notion of object permanence, for a dog. He doesn’t necessarily want to interact with an aggressive (posturing, barking, lunging) dog, or other threatening object, -he freezes in place, not trying to move forward- but he REALLY doesn’t want to turn his back on it. He did want to approach deer, but not to have a pleasant and peaceful interaction. Interestingly, he doesn’t have this problem with other prey species, just deer-perhaps because a large animal presents a potential threat as well as a temptation?

    Fortunately, these occasions of fixation and staring don’t happen too often, but when they have, calm and quiet have been my allies. Even though I absolutely can’t get him to look at me, Otis often will move away if I call him quietly and start to move away myself. If I turn to the side and wait calmly at the end of a loose leash, he will generally break his ‘freeze’ and come away. He can, evidently, still hear me and respond to me when it seems like his attention is fully absorbed. Trying to block or interrupt him seems to upset him-if I step in front of him and steer him away from something, he stays aroused -eyes wide, posture stiff, head darting and trying to turn back or move toward the problem,huffing, sometimes piloerected-for several minutes. If I let him stare for a bit, then wait quietly after calling him away, he’ll walk away from the same stimulus completely calm, without looking back. Obviously, this won’t work if a dog as actively charging at us, but it has worked to break up a faceoff with the charger. (The dog in question came roaring out of his house in full snarling,snapping, bristling attack mode-Otis stood stock still, staring him down, and the charger did, in fact, screech to a halt just shy of us to do his own slightly growly impression of a statue. )

    In this, as in so many areas, I’d give a sweet fortune to know exactly what is going on in his head, but if I had to guess, I’d say that Otis feels that he is ‘managing’ situations by staring. Direct interference seems to make him feel as though I were ‘messing him up’, fouling up his control of the threat posed by the stimulus and making him unsure about what might happen, leaving him expecting to be attacked at any moment. When he chooses to move away, I dunno-maybe he’s satisfied that he’s sent a message and it would be safe to move away, maybe he feels reassured because I’m not ‘fighting’ him, maybe he doesn’t want to confront a problem if I’m moving away, not backing him up. Maybe he doesn’t feel he needs to confront a problem if I am moving out of harm’s way and don’t need protection. Beats me, that’s for sure, but I can say that I’ve never met a more UN-distractable dog in all my days. Now if only he’d aim that unshakable focus at ME :-)

  28. Marcy says

    Thanks for the great video. Many, many years ago I had a GSD that I used this with, if she was blocked from seeing the stimulus (at the time my sister’s Siberian mix) she would not react to him. Since then, I’ve recommended people cover their dogs eyes when they bark, kind of a see or bark choice.

  29. says

    I had a very similar situation with my dogs when I had one for 5 years on his own before I tried to introduce a sibling… it wasn’t good, in fact it was crazy stressful for about 6 months.. then it was better but not great for 3 more months… it has now been 2 years and they are best friends!

    I wrote a blog some weeks ago when the issue came up with one of my clients…
    http://www.dancingdogs.co.nz/2011/06/sibling-aggression/

    I wonder if some of your suggestions to Tucker’s family was similar to what I did?

  30. Alex says

    wow — the idea behind the blocking boards is so basic, yet so effective! this is something anyone can use (almost) any time they’re greeting an ‘in your face’ dog; I know I will be! someone commented earlier how it has the desired effect of calming a meeting situation without the use of a command or punishment — so true! I love this! i’m really surprised this isn’t a more well-known/widely-used technique. I’m glad it’s getting some attention! i think this will be VERY useful for SO many people.

  31. JJ says

    This is off-topic, but I just have to chime in on the Dane-eyes discussion. My Dane loves staring into people’s eyes. If someone is giving him a good pet, he will stare lovingly, eyes soft, body soft, praying that his puppy-dog eyes will get him more scratches. His strategy usually works. Sometimes he will walk right up to a short woman, put his head on the cushy parts of her chest and stares softly into her eyes in order to get some good loving. As long as he’s not too drooly at the moment, this also works for him quite often.

    This last weekend I was waiting for a flat on my car to be fixed. I hadn’t expected the trip to the Les Swab and so I had my dog with me. While we were waiting outside, a 7 year old boy (who clearly craved attention) came over to talk to us for a good hour. This boy was very nervous around Duke at first, not even wanting to touch Duke. Before long, the boy was petting Duke and feeding him treats.

    I was putting Duke through his tricks to keep Duke from getting too bored. All of a sudden, the boy says, “I can teach him a trick too!” Duke was standing up and the boy was squating on a bench with me. The boy’s head and Duke’s head were on the same level. The boy put out his arms. Duke often goes to me when I put out my arms and he did the same for the boy. Then Duke stands there while the boy lightly puts his hands on either side of Duke’s un-cropped ears, arms slightly bent. Now, the two are not only on the same level, but their faces are inches apart.

    The boy says quietly and slowly again and again, “Listen. Listen. Listen…” Duke just stood there, staring adoringly into the boys eyes. After a while, the boy dropped his hands and looked at me with the biggest grin as if to say, “See! I taught him to listen!” The boy tried it again a bit later, and Duke remembered how to listen. :-)

    Bottom line: My Dane loves eye contact and children. Especially licking their faces which are generally right at or below his eye level. The differences within a breed can be very big. Mostly I shared this story just because I love it. That boy was very entertaining and I was thrilled that Duke taught the boy not to be scared of big dogs.

  32. says

    Because my training center is located in a cage free doggie daycare center, I frequently find myself walking into groups of dogs—-some of them I have trained and they are quite happy and excited to see me. I struggled with how to handle their excitement. A handy tool that I have found is a simple broom, held straight up and down. After reading about blocking boards, I’m sure that the broom has served the same purpose: gimme some room until you settle down! The dogs seem to get it right away and their feelings aren’t hurt— they come around and say hi more quietly after a few minutes. I can also drop a broom between two squabbling dogs and it seems to stop escalating discomfort. Please be assured that I don’t swing the brooms or use them in any way to scare or hurt the dogs!!!

  33. Hope says

    My Miikka isn’t an anxious dog in any way, but he is very exuberant and very stubborn. When we have a guest over, I try to get him to stay on the ground, not to jump, etc, but that has limited success (partially my fail, partially him being “deaf”). It gets worse when we sit on the couch. I CANNOT get him to sit on the ground or stay (well, I can’t get him to do that for more than 20 seconds even in calm situations, and I have tried for 2 years). I wonder if a blocking board would at least keep him from jumping at people on the couch.

  34. Amy says

    Hi! My niece was walking with her Boogie Board – styrofoam and lightweight and colorful – and prevented a dog pounce on her – small niece – big beach babe beautiful lab – and what was so cool is she is a dog lover but was nearly instinct to protect herself so held the board against her – and it appeared to avert the jump (which I am fairly 99.9999999% was an exuberant adolescent lab and not status seeking. The guardian caught up with the dog and my niece directed her questions to the dog’s guardian – what’s your dog’s name – he’s so cute – may I pet him – the dog was rolling for belly rubs by then. So that’s the back story – the front question is – are blocking boards used ever used spontaneously for protection like an armor or is that considered aversive and I realize there is a fine line of what constitutes and defines aversive. Not giving `1000 belly rubs and only 999 to my dogs – THEY would interpret as aversive! While with my niece it was a natural seeting circcumstance – she had her boogie board for it’s original intended purpose – but to avert a jump that would no doubt have knocked her down or at least given a stumble tumble – she pulled it in front of HER body. It wasn’t a portable fence – which we all could use now and then – but it was like a shield of armor for her. Sure hope this makes sense. See some of you in October in Madison, Wisconsin!!! October 2011!!!

  35. Buster's Owners says

    My husband and I adopted a stray last October who appears to be some sort of Corgi/Chow mix, with the achondroplasia of a Corgi and face and tail of a Chow. Having grown up with dogs, I was more accustomed to Golden Retrievers, springer spaniels, and easy going mixes. In the beginning, my husband who has more of a laissez-faire attitude with dogs would walk the dog on an extender leash, and the dog pretty much went everywhere, crossing back and forth in our path, getting in the path of others and smelling them as he pleased.

    I was more accustomed to having the dog by my side, and began to train him to do so as I had with the dogs I’d grown up with. After a small child jumped in our path, leaned down and barked loudly at Buster, Buster lunged at the barking child and I was alarmed My husband did not experience this, and felt I was overreacting. Another lunge at children and we signed up for training.

    The other thing that Buster had issues with was that he 1) is a starer and will not avoid eye contact whether it is human or dog and 2) he liked to lick other dogs’ penises. How a leash meeting with another dog would end depended on how the dog reacted to the licking, which would go on for as long as the other dog would allow it. The trainer told us to keep Buster away from other dogs.

    When we are on leash, we do that. Initially, the trainer said to give him treats whenever he saw another dog, but what wound up happening was that he continued to be aggressive (staring, lunging, etc) after he had the treat in his mouth, and would only look back at us after swallowing the treat. So we thought rather than give him treats when he sees other dogs, we would give him treats when he completes commands. I keep him distracted with a “watch” command where he has to look at me until the other dog passes, and supply him plenty of treats. He seems to have become more dog aggressive while on leash, but if I can distract him, it is fine. He had been wary of strangers, which is unfortunate because he’s so very cute that often times people will reach to pet him without asking permission. I keep a treat pouch and intercept their hands with a treat and ask them to offer it to him because he’s a “fraidy dog”. It has been helping and with me there have been no issues.

    When we first took him to the dog park, he was clearly terrified, but eventually seemed to gain confidence. On repeat visits, he shows excitement, and none of the terror. Unfortunately, he seems to think of it as his time to dominate and herd. It looks to us like he is trying to herd other dogs in a circle away from us. He will run up to another dog from behind and stop abruptly, sometimes nipping them in the butt. He is fine smelling their butts, but does not like it when they smell his. He most enjoys chasing dogs who are chasing balls, and these dogs he seems to get along with. When he’s not getting along with a dog, it seems he will find a dog that is afraid, and torment it. He is 35 pounds, and the one time he was in the small dog side, he chased a small friendly dog, nipping at it until it cried. In the large dog side, he is intimidated by any dog that will stand up for itself, but when he sees a timid dog, he seems to spend all his time tormenting that one.

    My walks with the dog are fine – I can control his aggression by diverting him with a command (watch, down, sit), my husband’s have degenerated. When Buster sees another dog, he becomes a lunging, growling, biting maniac. Even when he is far from the dog, his teeth gnash and anything that gets in his way (like my husband’s shins) get nipped. No commands work, my husband has to drag him away. As a result, his walks are stressful, and we just last week bought a muzzle for Buster.

    I am out of my element as I have never experienced this with the 4 mutts, 1 springer spaniel, 1 doberman pinscher, and 3 golden retrievers I we owned during various times in my childhood.

    My husband seems to think we are doing something wrong.

    I think it has more to do with the dog, who is the most easily startled of any dog I’ve ever known (on walks at night, unexpected wind, noises or shadows make him start).

    We have read “The Other End of the Leash” and have been favoring positive reinforcement, but are not sure where to turn.

    Do you think a blocking board would work for us?

    thank you…

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