AIM - To teach your dog to go behind you in situations where they feel threatened
Sometimes, even if you ask an approaching stranger or dog owner not to come any closer, they will ignore you or may not have control of their dog. Many people cannot understand that not all dogs enjoy interacting with other dogs, and some people simply don’t respect a dog’s personal space.
Common responses are “All dogs love me” or “I’m used to dogs”. If it is their dog(s) who are approaching, common responses are “It’s okay, he’s fine with other dogs” or probably the most common and annoying response “He only wants to play!”
The ‘Hide’ exercise is designed to help those dogs who need extra support in what they perceive as a threatening situation. Once the ‘Hide’ exercise is taught and with guidance from you giving the cue to hide behind you, your dog will learn this safe alternative to becoming defensive.
If a dog is given a safe alternative to lunging towards a perceived threat they will usually take it. By training your dog to ‘Hide’ we can give them the option to hide behind you, where they can feel safe until the threat has passed. If they feel safe, they will not feel the need to drive the perceived threat away, which will naturally help the dog feel more relaxed.
Some dogs will naturally and instinctively hide behind their owner when they are worried but some dogs do not know that this is a safe alternative.
Although they will feel better for going behind you, the actual movement of going behind you is the result of a negative emotion. By teaching the ‘Hide’, putting it on cue and rewarding them for it, the actual movement of going behind you becomes a positive association.
Most dogs who are worried would prefer to hide behind their owner every time, but in a stressful situation they may not be able to think. If your dog goes behind you on cue, they will be responding to a perceived threat rather than reacting to it.
In order to respond to a cue a dog has to think and in order to be able to think, they need to be calm. Hence, by teaching the ‘Hide’ cue, your dog will generally be more likely to remain calm if they see a perceived threat.
1) Holding a treat in one hand, lure your dog behind you. Once they are behind you, place the hand holding the treat in the middle of your back and click and release the treat when you feel their nose touch it. Keep the other hand behind you and in the middle of your back to avoid your dog transferring focus onto that one instead of the one you are luring them with.
Do not reward them when they are in front of you. From now on, treats are only given from behind you. Once you are 95% certain the dog will follow the treat and take it from behind you, add the ‘Hide’ cue.
With some dogs, particularly large dogs, you may find it helpful to move the leg on the side you are working on backwards and forwards as they go behind you. So, if you are luring your dog to the right of your body, step back with your right leg and then bring it back into the standing position once they are moving behind you. Guiding with your leg as well as your hand can make it easier for some dogs.
2) When your dog has taken the treat, immediately turn and face them and repeat the exercise. Teach them to go behind you from both sides of you and practice them walking on either side of you both on and off lead.
3) Next, lure them behind you and take a step forward before releasing the treat when they touch your hand as before. If they do not immediately touch your hand, wait a short while whilst they work out for themselves where to position themselves for the treat.
If you feel your dog is not coping, offer more support by turning and facing them and trying again.
4) Gradually, at random, increase the number of steps until they are following behind you as confidently as they do when walking alongside.
5) Once they are confident in walking on both sides of you and in the ‘Hide’ behind you, practice bringing them back from behind you into walking alongside you. You may find you need to lure them for this stage to give them extra help.
6) Progress onto walking them on one side of you, then behind you and crossing over to the other side of you. It may help to practice this whilst stationary at first, before doing it while moving.
7) Once your dog is confident in walking with you on both sides, switching sides and moving in and out of the ‘Hide’ position, you are ready to practice the ‘Hide’ as you would when meeting new dogs and/or people in public.
Place a large marker such as a traffic cone or coloured box in your garden, or in an area with no distractions. This marker will represent the strange dog or person.
As you approach the marker ask your dog to ‘Hide’ behind you, helping them with a lure if you need to. Just before you come alongside the marker, bring your dog to the opposite side from the marker, putting your body between your dog and the marker at all times.
8) Practice this exercise in different locations, gradually increasing the level of distractions.
9) Once your dog is confident with this exercise, progress onto having a dog in place of the marker and repeat the exercise from element 7 of the programme. Begin with a non-reactive dog and very gradually introduce dogs of a more excitable nature. If at any point your dog is not coping with the exercise, go back to working with a marker and then a non-reactive dog and progress very gradually to excitable dogs as before.
DO NOT RUSH YOUR DOG. IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT YOU DO NOT PUT THEM IN A POSTION WHERE THEY CAN NO COPE AS THEY WILL LOSE CONFIDENCE IN YOU.
Once they have been taught this exercise, most dogs will use this option to hide behind their owners as their standard coping strategy. Eventually they will be able to remain calm and use this option without prompting both on and off lead.
Teaching the Hide