Treadmill is a great way to have your dog exercise even during the cold Chicago winters. However, it is not something that all dogs take to very easily. In fact, in my experience, about 90% of the dogs I’ve trained to walk on a treadmill, freakout. It is a completely normal reaction and is many times accompanied by peeing, pooping, alligator rolling, shutting down and resistance.
Even with the speed super low, many dogs will still respond the same and in those cases, food isn’t an option. When the brain is too overloaded with stress things like treats or praise go out the window. This calls for a different approach and the use of what Positive Reinforcement Trainers call “aversive methods.”
Sounds bad, I know. But it is simply a means for them to dissuade the general public from seeking help from trainers like myself. There is a lot of drama in the dog training world. But that’s a topic for another newsletter…
In the top left video I show how I use electronic collar to override a dog’s flight response and get the brain to accept the idea of being on the treadmill. Essentially, when the brain pulls back, it is met with tension on the leash that keeps the body in place. Simultaneously, I am utilizing the remote on a low level to motivate the dog to move into the direction of the tension, which goes completely against their instinct.
When a dog is met with pressure, it is their natural tendency to push against it. It is what is called “Opposition Reflex.” This is why when a dog feels pressure against their neck or chest from a leash or harness they tend to pull or push away from it. Many behavior problems, like reactivity, are caused by this.
So, with that being said, once the brain pulls back and is met by tension, the stimulation from the collar helps to break that state of mind which leads to the dog moving forward. I see it happen all the time and it is truly remarkable to watch when done well. You can literally see a dog’s posture change as they build confidence from being pushed beyond their comfort zone.
Once they learn the context of “remote happens when my flight kicks in” all I have to do is simply tap them, should they have a moment, to redirect the brain to go back to the task at hand. For example, with Mona, there are a couple of points where she stopped walking and I tapped on the collar to wake up her brain and she begins moving again. After so many attempts, if she happens to jump off, I just tick on the remote and she’ll hop back on and continue walking.
This is a technique that I use for pooches that are afraid to approach people. It’s really just playing a trick on the brain so that they begin to think that moving away from people is “negative” and when they move towards people the “negative” goes away and the person they were afraid of is then seen as a “positive.” I actually used this thought process on a Border Collie I rehabbed a couple of years ago named Buck.
You can see his rehab video here.
Well, that wraps up this week’s newsletter. I hope you learned a lot and are able to, in one way or another, apply this to your understanding of your own personal dog when training. Even if it means being less frustrated because they are not responding how you’d like them to due to tension (Opposition Reflex).