Things that scare or concern Miles

“Reactive dogs are anxious, and their response is intense because they are freaking out.”

–Leslie McDevitt, MLA, CDBC, CPDT in Control Unleashed

 I wrote the following list back in January of this year.  The purpose was for me to have a better idea of things that bothered my boy so that I could help him with some or all of them.  I had forgotten about the list until I was going through some old documents this morning.  Here it is from 1/18/08:

Things That Scare or Concern Miles


  1. plastic tarps
  2. most things overhead
  3. baby gates
  4. dogs and people “suddenly” appearing
  5. dogs barking
  6. people holding umbrellas or with big/long jackets
  7. walkers
  8. dogs/people watching him run agility trials
  9. teeters
  10. things that move under his feet
  11. tunnels/chutes
  12. large, unknown objects
  13. nail clippers
  14. frontline
  15. bike pumping tires noise
  16. large maglite flashlight
  17. under the bed

That was then and boy does that seem like a long list!  We’ve come so far since then, it’s amazing.   Some of these I haven’t specifically worked on, but by working on his confidence in gereral the specific concerns have greatly abated. 

First, let me give a plug and a lot of credit to Leslie McDevitt and her book, “Control Unleashed”.  I was gifted her book for Christmas last year and was immediately hooked.   In her words, the Control Unleashed program is designed to help “dogs with issues” learn how to relax, focus, and work off-leash reliably in either stimulating or stressful situations.  I have found her positive training methods and innovative “games” to be refreshing and very helpful for us.  We haven’t worked through the whole program, but have been using ideas from it to mold our own.  On thing that Miles particularly benefited from was the Relaxation Protocol written by Karen Overall which can be found here.  Leslie uses it as a foundation, and I found it to be extremely useful in helping Miles to learn how to relax no matter what was happening around him.  I still need to do more work with this and need to work on it away from home, but have been admittedly slack since we’ve seen so much improvement thus far.

Back to the list though.  Most of these things have been “fixed” by systematic desensitization and counterconditioning (D/CC).  That’s trainer speak for reducing the emotion connected to the object/situation and then changing the dog’s perception of it.  It can be a rather long process depending on how strong the fear is.  For instance, it was rather easy for me to D/CC him to the maglite, yet we’re still working on the teeter.  Miles was “allowed” to develop a much stronger fear response to the teeter whereas the flashlight thing was just one episode and thus there was not much history of fear there.  I’ve always thought that it takes several hundred times more positive responses to something to equal a few negative ones.

So here is the revised list for 10/21/08: 

  1. plastic tarps on a windy day only
  2. dogs and people “suddenly” appearing when other stressors are present
  3. dogs barking only in some conditions where other stressors are present
  4. teeters getting better, but have had to break it into many steps
  5. bike pumping tires noise because I haven’t done anything about it yet

 Much better, eh?   I sure think so!