E314: Amy Cook, PhD - Sound Sensitivity & Managing Reactivity

Amy joins me for a conversation on managing life with a reactive dog, recognizing the early signs of sound sensitivity... and more! 


Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau, and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast, brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school, dedicated to providing high quality instruction for competitive dog sports, using only the most current and progressive training methods. Today I have Dr. Amy Cook with me to talk about sound sensitivity and management for reactivity. Hi Amy, welcome back to the podcast!

Amy Cook: Hey Melissa. Thank you for having me back. I always love to be here.

Melissa Breau: I'm always excited to talk to you.

Amy Cook: Yay.

Melissa Breau: To start us out, you wanna just kind of introduce yourself a little bit, share a little bit about your current canine crew and maybe what you're working on with them.

Amy Cook: Introduce myself, always a difficult proposition, but Dr. Amy Cook, I'm the developer of the Play Way, which is an approach for rehabilitating emotional issues and behavioral problems with dogs through social play. I also teach, I teach that here and I teach management and sound sensitivity. Those are my three big classes here at the Academy. And I don't know, I've been trained dogs for a really, really long time. A number of years. I am, I am decidedly losing track of, cause it's a lot of them and I no longer want to keep count, but you know, it's in the decades range, like three of them. And I don't know, that's me. That's the way I'm, oh, and my dogs. So I have two dogs currently.

I have Zapa, the Whippet, who is, gosh, she's closing in on almost 12 now. Oh my. And I know, and the new challenge with her is that she's blind. And so I'm learning, I haven't had a dog lose their sight. And so, you know, that one's a new one on me that we're adjusting to. And I got her tested cause I wanted to know what was going on.

And the results were a hundred percent blind, like absolutely no signal in either eye. Like she's a hundred percent fully blind. Right. But I have a sneaking suspicion that something went wrong in that test. Cuz I swear to you she can see, I swear to you, she can see a little bit outta one of those eyes. And so it's this ongoing thing of like, is this just an amazing superpower? You're running through your nose or Come on, I think, I think you can see, like, you can, I so swear you can see. So, so right now I don't know if I have a blind dog or if I don't and, and I keep, I keep watching for all the little, the little quirks.

And I have Caper who is, gosh, she's gonna be seven. Can you believe little Caper is?

Melissa Breau: Oh My goodness.

Amy Cook: No, I know, I know. And she's a little chihuahua terrier thing who you'll see all over my social media and she's my agility dog. And that's what we work on together. And both my dogs do nosework, but we don't compete currently. Things have been really busy and of course, you know, covid and stuff. So we haven't gotten back to that, but that's what I like to do with mine and that's me.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Awesome. So I've got a couple of things that I'm hoping we can chat about today, but I wanted to kind of start us off with a bigger picture question, I guess. So I was thinking about kinda what the things that you teach have in common, the sound class, the management class, and you know, some of that pieces, and there's kind of this idea that I think most of us have heard of but doesn't tend to sink in for folks kind of that first time, this idea that like, when you need the training, it's too late, you need to have it in place before you need it. Right. So can you maybe just kinda speak to that a little bit?

Amy Cook: Yeah. You know, there's, I think, in some ways of interpreting that. And in some ways people hear that, you know, it can feel like we have a leg up when we're experienced when we're either, you know, professional trainers or if we're experienced dog owners because we know the road a little bit better. We know what we need before we need it. We can prevent things from occurring or prevent a behavior problem by predicting that it could be a problem here. And so we're gonna, you know, take actions early on. Right. And you know, that, that I think sometimes can leave, you know, just even knowing that people out there are doing a better job of preventing something and predicting it than you were, can leave us a little like, ah, I don't know. I don't know how to make sure I'm not gonna have these issues. I don't know what to do if they're gonna come up or when they're gonna come up.

And, and I think you can make people a little vigilant and improvising a lot, but there is, you know, I'm sympathetic to that because you can't have experience before you have it. You can't just decide, you know, you can't just want to know all the things and then, and then you have them. Right? And so what I really wanted to develop for people, and wanna make sure I emphasize for people is that you can and should think about the issues. Maybe you can't come up with the issues that you're going to have before you have them, but certainly you become aware that you're beginning to have them when you, you know, when you start to see changes in your dog's behavior. And from there, from that moment when you've identified it, then you can say, all right, I need to have a proactive plan. I don't have to, and I don't want you to, as a trainer think you have to improvise in the moment and deal with things just when they come up and, and say to yourself, well, you know, I'll just come up with something I'm gonna do right when the problem comes up when we're out and walking and or spend really kind of not a lot of time thinking about that at all and say, and, and get blindsided by it. Right. And then definitely you're improvising, oh, like this happened. Oh, I better respond to it. Maybe making yourself a little reactive, if you know what I mean.

Oh, this problem came up. Oh, just let me just handle it and get through it and then forget about it. When we do that, I think, I mean, aside from the behavior that that can cause in the dog or or further in the dog, I think that it raises our stress level way too much. I think that that thinking that you have to improvise or just improvising because you're caught a little bit unaware and a little, you know, flat-footed, can make us feel more at the mercy of what's happening to us rather than as people who, you know, can, can affect change. And I don't want people to feel that way. So when it comes to these particular behavior issues that we're talking about today, whether you're taking your reactive dog somewhere or you know your dog is reactive to things, maybe you don't know what exactly or your dog is having some issues with sound. I want everybody to know that you can and should, and I can help you with making a plan before you encounter these things at all. So that when you have, when you do encounter them, all you do is you evoke the plan, knowing what you're gonna do ahead of time.

Like, okay, if this happens, I'm gonna do X, y, z, I'm gonna take these steps. Right? I think that's very calming. I think thar's reassuring to you, I think it's confidence building for you as the human. And when we have that, then we have something we can support the dog through. Right? It's the, it's a little bit like that. Put the mask on your face before you, you know, the, what is it? The oxygen mask, you know, on yourself, right? Like, I need before uou help somebody else. Yeah, Yeah. Before you can help somebody else. You've gotta be in kind of a good state.

So I, you know, I really want people to know that they can and, and should train these things, you know, ahead of time. And then I think that also gives you a little bit of a window to, to, to work because nothing's an emergency. If you're training it in your living room today, and you have all the time in the world to work on your mechanics or figure it out or think it through, you're not under the pressure of this moment is happening to me right now. I better, I need to fix this as best I can. You can, you can take a few minutes and write down your plan or think it through or stop what you're doing and regroup a little bit, which you don't ever think you can do when you're outside. So there's a, I think a great luxury in, in planning ahead of time. But you know, if you don't know ahead ahead, if you can't predict tight spots before they show up and you experienced them instead, that's okay, you experienced them now, now you know that these could be an issue. Now you can come back and make your plan, and go forward with that. It's never too late to institute something that's gonna help you. And I never want people to think that like, oh, the problem is already here. Oh, well I'm just gonna, I don't know what to do. I'm gonna throw it out. I really know that we can give you a–I can give you a plan to, to help you through the actual situation. And it's, and that's the good, that's the good news. And, and you know, behavior problems often feel like there's not a lot of good news to grab onto. Right. You're, you're know, you're like, oh my God, I'm having such a huge issue. I don't know what to do. Ah, it's all hard. It's like actually it's, it's, it's all very manageable, very doable.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. And I mean, I think that, like, kinda just thinking about what you said there, right? Like, there's also those cases where like your dog has an issue with a major sound sensitivity thing like the 4th of July. And then like, it's not a problem for you for months and months. And so you feel really guilty immediately after it happens. You know, you need to create a plan. You don't exactly know what that plan should look like, right? And then because it's not an immediate issue, you kind of forget about it until the next time. It's a big issue.

Amy Cook: It's a big issue. And you know, I think we all resemble that remark, right? I mean, you know, procrastination is a human thing. And for some more than others, for some of us more than others, I'll raise a hand right here. You know, if the problem isn't happening every day or if the problem isn't happening, you know, here in front of me, then it's something I'm gonna get to, I'm gonna get to it. Right? But, and, and I think sometimes this can be where managing reactivity and the sound, the sound sensitivity stuff can diverge. Some dogs have a sound challenge all the time. Maybe they're barking at things outside the window a lot or maybe they have a problem with the sound inside the house, you know, a beeping noise or something like that. But if not that, then, then the profile might be, Hey, I'm only sound sensitive when there's a thunderstorm. I'm only sensitive when there's the 4th of July. I'm only sensitive during hunting season. And so if it's not that right now, it's very easy to know you need to make a plan, but never quite get around to it. And then you find yourself on July 1st and second and third again or whatever, and oh gosh, I I, you know, I, my dog is, I Meant to do this. I Meant to do this. You know, or you, or you just maybe don't know that, that if we put some time into it, you know, ahead of time that that day is not, not near gonna be nearly as bad. Right. I think that's why I would like to technically put this class. I teach the sound class before the two big booming seasons, the 4th of July and the New Year's Eve time. And I'd like to put it the term before that, the term before this term, you know, the one before. So we have a lot more time to really get into it. But I think at that point people are like, oh, 4th of July is really far away, right? Oh, it's, it's, you know, it's only August. Why would I prepare for December? And so I put it here in the, the June term, the June and the December term so that it's, there's like that middle ground. It's like, you know, July is coming and there still is enough time to work it. We got six weeks to really work on, or almost six weeks to really work on, on giving yourself a plan and getting yourself and your dog through. So I hope that, you know, that people can kind of connect to that. It's, you got a month left. That's not, that's not a really long time, but it's not a, also a really short amount of time. You can get a lot of behavior changed in a month or you can get a lot of expectations and understandings changed in a month.

And then for the people for whom sound is an issue kind of all year long, then you jump in, you know, jump in whenever I, you know, whenever I'm, I'm here for you, which is, which is now, and, and for and for management people, that's a class I run often because that's a concept people need to kind of be able to grab onto really all through the year. Right. So Yeah.

Melissa Breau: So we've kind of danced around it a little bit, but you know, I think this idea of prep work before you need it or like kind of doing the work before like the moment when it's important applies maybe more to dogs with big feelings than like, even like other dogs, right? Like of course we need to train our contacts before the day of the trial, right? But like, no, for dogs with those, for dogs with those big feelings, like they're really going to struggle without the prep work, right? Because they're so in their emotions. Can you just talk a little more about what those situations are that maybe dogs might struggle with without prep work? Kind of what those things look like when things are, maybe the wheels are coming off, the bus wheels are coming right off.

Amy Cook: Right. I think that, you know, we can all connect to the idea that we have to train it before we need it, right? But I think that because when you're training behaviors that let's just for the simplification of it say behaviors that don't have a big emotional component, it's, it, it, that's hard to say for sure, but I think people know what I mean. There they go kinda quickly. Maybe they, maybe you don't get to reliability quickly. Maybe you don't, you know, you don't get to like a high level of performance really quickly of course, but you can change behavior quite quickly. You know, anyone who's taught a puppy class knows that if you gave them sit homework, they're gonna be done with their sit homework in, you know, a very short amount of time that they're gonna, you know, by the time they get there next week, they, you know, they will have gotten that one. Cuz sit doesn't take a week to teach, right? When it comes to emotional change, the timelines seem to be really different when there is already an emotion in place that is not the one we want to have paired with the situation. You know, like it's a negative emotion. They feel upset, they feel scared, they feel really stressed, they feel really agitated, whatever, whatever label we can put on whatever they're feeling, these things don't just dial back and work themselves away in a week. We don't get to change them that quickly. And so those are situations in which I want early detection and I want to take really seriously right away be because I know the timeline could be more extended. And also because by the time you see it, you know, we're not always as aware of the, the changes in our dog's emotions or, or if we're used to working behavior stuff, we, we know that it's going a little, it's going a little bit one direction. We're like, no, I should, I should get on that and get it the other direction. But we know we can right with, with emotion, we, I really don't want it to go too far in a direction.

I don't want it to go because, because by the time I saw it, it might already be getting pretty entrenched. And if it's entrenched, it might take me, you know, longer than I, I really want to have happened for me to dial it back. Plus if the emotion is, you were talking about a negative emotion, it's terrible for their experience.

They don't, they don't wanna be experiencing this and I don't want them to be experiencing it anymore than then they have to. So getting on top of issues that have big emotions in them, which is really what I'm specializing in. I mean, management is a big, is the reactivity is big emotion time, right? And sound sensitivity, that's big emotion time.

And most people who come to start this work have missed some of the early stages of that have missed when their dog was first having the question of like, am I really safe here? What is that? I dunno if I like this. We missed that moment cuz it's not so obvious to us. So by the time we're seeing it, they already have this emotion.

So you, you don't really have the luxury of a lot of time like, I'll get to this, you know, I'll get to this later that time you think you get to this later, now you have a much, much deeper hole. So I want people to take emotions, you know, very seriously. And, and to make sure that we at least get on top of prevention. If not dialing back and, and making new associations and getting new emotions going. If not that, at least preventing the rehearsal of the situation that makes your dog feel, you know, the need to defend themselves or feel really scared about something because we're just digging that hole too far and, and really sound sensitivity sound, sound issues. Not always, but way too often are very, I was gonna say the word contagious. I don't mean contagious, like not one to the next dog, but you know, oh, I know what you mean. It's like one sound to the next sound. Yeah. Like, and it, it generalizes and it, it gets worse often very quickly. And so whereas social fears don't tend to spread like that inside the same dog, like, like wildfire, they don't just jump from trigger to trigger to trigger typically sounds really can. And so we very much wanna get on top of a sound issue the second we think we have one, because it's emotional, it's upsetting to them, it's hard for them to experience and it can get outta control pretty quickly. So we wanna go right to that and help that emotion dissipate and at least not get worse.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. I feel like probably the biggest objection you hear, and I certainly have heard it like when we do webinars or whatever together, right? Is the fact that like, well, but when that happens, my dog won't eat. And I know you use food in management and in sound and so can you dive into that? Like what do you do about the fact, well my dog won't eat.

Amy Cook: Your dog won't eat. That's absolutely true. And I do hear it, I do hear it all the time and it's a reasonable thing to tell me, right? Because you hear, you're the layperson, you're the dog owner, and you hear that we're gonna use food for this situation. And the first thing you think is, well, I've tried that. Right? That's reasonable. I've tried to give my dog food, but my dog doesn't want it, so your program doesn't work. Or, so I can't help my dog or so, right. It's logically very consistent. I totally get it. And sometimes what people don't know is that that's fairly universal that I could say that most dogs, once they pass a certain point in being upset, also won't eat. There are exceptions. There are dogs who will eat all the way through every level of emotion. But at some point in their level of upsetness and their level of self-defense, their level of feeling unsafe, at some point food is not the priority. And for a lot of dogs that's an early point, you know, a little bit of worry. And I don't want any food for sure. So it's, it's, it's normal, I want people to know that first, that, that any dog trainer worth their salt knows that that is absolutely true of everybody. So don't worry, you're not unique. Your dog isn't, you know, unusual in any way.

But it does tell us that we need to start at a place where your dog does eat. And most people wanna start where they perceive the problem, they've perceived the sound or they've caused the sound, or they perceive the dog and the environment and the dog, the dog is gonna react and it's like, aha, now is the time to work. Right?

And, but, but there may not be food available to you or, or toys, if we're using toys. It's really the same thing, the same concept behind it. So instead of thinking I need to work where the trigger is or I need to work in the problem instead I want you to think I need to work where food is available and we start there, we start where your dog will eat. I don't care where that is. We're starting in your living room. We're starting in your living room, starting all training in your living room cuz that's what you have access to for the most part all day long, right? Or whatever. So I'm gonna start where your dog is comfortable to eat. The other reason I wanna do that is because, not just to make food available to me that way, but because I want your dog feeling safe in all of the work that we do. I know some other approaches or some other people or some other ways of talking about this pit, this as recovery. Like your dog gets scared or your dog encounters the trigger, or your dog has a stressor and then you help them recover from that spike.

You help them overcome the issue and then they get better. Right? It's not the model I follow. I instead suggest that people should start where a dog feels safe. Because then you're safe to learn, you're safe to learn everything that there is to, to learn about whatever let the lesson is gonna be. And your own safety isn't in question. That's an easier school time. It's an easier place to be, to learn new things.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. And absolutely, I mean, just thinking about the human analogy there, right? Like Of course, I mean, of course you don't want to, you don't want to have to learn when you feel unsafe.

Amy Cook: Certainly there are times in life where that's unavoidable, but if, but this isn't unavoidable. I'm the teacher, you're the student, I'm setting up the lesson, I'm gonna pick the place you, I know you feel safe and how you measure that, but at least partly is that you're eating and you're eating well, you're eating easily, you're eating without grabbing at the food with a lot of stress.

You're eating without, you know, tense body, tense face and all of this. We can go into the, into the signs, but into the signs of it. But I want you, I want to know that we're having school at a place where you, that you're willing to have school, that you feel good, you're eating. And, and from there, what we're gonna do is build the skills that I need to be able to, to, you know, use in other places when the sound is happening or when reactivity is, is possible when a dog shows up, when when your human trigger shows up, whatever it is, we're going to be doing certain things in those times, but I don't wanna install those skills, right? When you are at your most pressed, right, when you are at your most, you know, scared about where you're, we prepare all of those skills in safer locations. And so we start wherever food is possible for you and play is possible for you. For the sound class, we do a whole lot of play, actually management, all the, all the activities are games, food is involved, but it's a very fun sort of, you know, it's not just I hand food to your mouth and we're good to go. We're doing a lot of games with that too. So I wanna see all that activity possible. I wanna see you and the dog be able to engage easily. I want them eating easily.

And then we're installing all these skills. And I think what people who are new to it don't either realize or don't have faith in, but they should or they can lean on my faith a bit for them is that they'll be there for you under more difficult situations. If they're well-rehearsed, if they're well practiced, if they are familiar, and if they were installed in times of safety and fun that will carry your dog forward in a time that's more difficult.

If you're only trying to do things in the times that are more difficult for your dog. They've got nothing to rely on. They don't have a history with those skills. They don't ha they're not taking food from you now they're already feeling unsafe if you install it all ahead of time and make them very strong and, and your dog patterns. A lot of good feelings around those skills.

And you have a lot of games that really work in times of no stress. And then the only new thing is that there's a little bit more stress or maybe a lot more stress than there was before. You have a foundation that you can be pulling from. I think until you have experienced that, it's hard to believe that that's gonna work. You're gonna think, yeah, but it'll all disappear when the stressor comes. It's like, yeah, but it doesn't, it doesn't all disappear. You've put it in, you've put in a foundation, you've got something you can, you can rely on. It'll be a little challenging, it won't be that there's no effect of the stressor magically, but having something you can rely on gets you through.

Whereas improvising and trying to teach in the moment really doesn't. And so and so there isn't a dog that won't eat at some point dogs eat and you know, dogs eat and they eat their, eat their food and, and, and you know, if someone out there listening is saying, my dog struggles with eating at all, they won't eat in front of me.

They won't eat out of a bowl they eat in the middle of the night when we've all gone to bed. That kind of thing. That isn't the dog we're talking about here. That dog is in need of more, you know, help at a different level for a different, you know, for different challenges.

So your dog who is eating at home and you know, with whom you have a, you know, your basic training relationship with and, and they're generally fine if the triggers aren't present, that kind of thing, then, then we start where they do eat. And really it hasn't, it hasn't been a problem when people tell me their dog won't eat it.

That's just the thing I solve first. We solve that one and now we have the next thing to solve. You know, okay, now let's teach a, a, a game with the food. Okay, great, now let's teach a game in a different place in your house with the food. And we progress it forward and it, it, I think people get surprised at this kind of works, but they're like, oh my god, my dog was just coming along with magnet head or my dog totally partied after I said party during the sound protocol. And I didn't think he could do that when the sound was there. And it's like, because he couldn't before when the sound was there, the challenge was too high. We have to start where dogs can learn.

And I have yet to see a dog come to me that as long as, as long as they could eat in their own home and felt safe in their own home and could and could eat from their owner, a dog that, that that dog can have a plan to get from, from A to B for sure. And I just think that people can't envision it because they haven't had the experience yet.

And that, and that's what I'm for. I'm here to envision that for you and to, to plot you that plan for me to be, you know, like that's, that's what we're for. We can see where you're gonna go and where to start you. So Yeah.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. So we've talked a fair bit about the idea that can both for the sound issues and for, you know, reactivity, managing reactivity, the skills kind of need to be built before you need them, right? But I wanna talk a little bit more about the specific classes and so specific issues with sound and with management as long as that sounds good to you.

Amy Cook: Yeah, Absolutely. Please.

Melissa Breau: Ok, so let's talk about the sound stuff first. You know, you mentioned earlier something about like early warning signs for sound sensitivity and I'm hoping we can talk about that a little more. What are some of those, you know, early signs that a dog may be developing some sensitivity to sound and, you know, maybe if there is anything that handlers can commonly miss, you could kind of call that out.

Amy Cook: People miss early sound stuff a lot. I think dogs can be quite subtle with that one more so than, you know, other sign signs of reactivity or, or signs of guarding. Other things that dogs have have issues with. I think this one can sneak up on people quite a bit because we're trained to think or we're, I don't know, just the, the picture that we have in our head is that a dog will have a big reaction to the sound, like barking at it and carrying on in a really big way. Or that they immediately start to, you know, tremble and panic and either seek, seek us out for some kind of, you know, connection or reassurance or run away and dive under the bed, these, these big displays, right? But, you know, it's more true for some dogs and neither of those things ever really happen. They might never get to those really big displays and yet still be really, you know, having a hard time inside themselves or, or, and certainly that's not where they start, right? They will show all sorts of subtle signs.

So what should you start to look for? Well, I tend to say that any dog could have questions about, you know, a sudden sound or an unusual sound that's come into your environment. Like a new sound that's happening in my neighborhood is that someone moved in and they run a remote control car for fun once in a while up and down the street and it's quite loud and it, or it's distinctive. It does sound a little bit like a luring fabric. And so that was just a new sound entering the environment, right? With regularity. And so I say for those kinds of things, know that any dog could have questions about something new like that, that they don't have a framework for or any sort of sudden sound that happens your dog could have a big question about.

I tend to just make sure to look. So if you don't know if your dog does or doesn't really have this issue, look, you heard a sound, you, you heard a new thing, you heard something punctuate. I glance at my dog, I wanna see how my dog is taking that in and if my dog is paying attention to that and having some thoughts about it, maybe she's not showing fears that are easy to distinguish. But if my dog is processing that and thinking about it, I wanna know because I have sort of two sound profile dogs, one that could not care any less about anything in the environment that happens, barely notices, things like that. And one that's a noticer and is gonna, you know, tell me if she's gotten, you know, opinion or a concern and, and the one who doesn't think anything is sleeping through it, who doesn't even twitch an ear, doesn't even show curiosity toward it and doesn't change her body. And the other one for sure, one ear is like, what was that? What was this? And it's gonna be looking, thinking, listening for whether it's over yet and then is it over yet?

Okay, it's over. And then take a little bit more time to be like, okay, I think this is over. And then go back to whatever she was doing sleeping, probably note if your dog is noting it. And that doesn't necessarily mean that they're scared of that, but it's salient to them and they at least have some questions about what it was.

And if you can see in the pattern the, a pattern in them that they keep, that they always do that or they keep doing that for that sound, that's the thing I would wanna get on top of because that's right where they are either already not liking it and I don't know that they don't, but they could be there at the early phase, but yeah.

Melissa Breau: Right.

Amy Cook: Or they could be in a state of like, I don't know what I feel about it yet, but I have a question. Like I don't, you know, I, I don't know. I certainly don't have good feelings. I don't have good feelings. I have at least curiosity and it's not like the happy anticipatory curiosity.

So, anytime my dog is curious about something, if I can help them, if I can help form their opinion about it and something, you know, something that important, I'm gonna try to do that. So I'm gonna note that and if I have a pattern, cause there, there can always be a one-off, right? But I wanna note a pattern. You might see things like they just kind of get up and leave. I've had several dog clients I can think of right now and I've had one of my own a while back that, you know, when a thing happened, an unusual, you know, for one of the dogs it was a sneeze. Anytime somebody sneezed in the room, she just got up and she left. But she always did it. Like I don't, I'm not gonna react to that sound. I'm not gonna come over and lick your face a lot. I'm not gonna bark and startle. It's just like, oh, that I don't like that. And just got up and would absent herself and go lay somewhere else for a while before she can come back in.

It's like, okay, so that's not an emergency, that's not a full court press, but it's certainly something you don't like that makes you feel like you feel some kind of feeling and you gotta go somewhere about it. You don't wanna be in the room or that's happening. Okay? Like I can see that you've got it, but people don't notice the comings and goings of their dog. They don't see that you, I mean cuz dogs also just get up and leave the room to go sleep in a different bed, right? Yeah. So that's where it takes a little bit of like you being cognizant and kind of looking for just checking in with your dog when something punctuates, when the sound punctuates it caught your attention, glance at your dog.

Did it catch your dog's attention? They do other things like they might yawn every time something happens, they hear a thing and then, ooh, little tensed yawn. You know? And that, I don't know exactly what they're feeling, but if some tension came up and that's how they're releasing it and getting it out, if you see that consistently, even if you just see something else I didn't pick up or tell you or you you don't know, is a sign of stress. Cuz every dog's an n of one. Just see if it's happening all the time. If that's always what your dog does when that thing happens, you can say, no, maybe I could, maybe I could help you and support you in this and, and show you that, that sound or like help you learn that that sound now is just a signal that we're gonna have some fun times together so that you can develop a new meaning for that sound. I wanna inoculate you, give you a little bit of a buffer, you know, like, I don't know if you ha if you don't like this or do, but I am gonna give you a little bit of a new meaning just to give you some buffer to be on in case there are feelings brewing inside.

Cause a lot of times we just don't see the emotions happening until they're, they're already full blown. That happens a lot of times with dogs and crates cuz we can't see them in crates. And so, the first time we know that they have a problem going in the crate, the problem with the crate is that they're not gonna go in the crate when we ask them to.

And it's like, oh, I didn't, I didn't even know a problem was brewing for you in that crate. Right? Having as many early ways to check early that your dog is having an emotion will serve you a lot. So when sounds happen, take a look at your dog and see if they're listening, they're attending, they're monitoring it to see when it's gonna be done.

Or if they consistently do things like leave the room or come to you like something happened and they just came to you and then just laid down on the couch with you. That's all. They didn't look scared in particular, but there was a sound in the distance. Your dog got up from where they were, came over to the, to the couch with you and laid down with you and went back to sleep.

Like, oh, why did you, why did you do that? Like, maybe it was just a coincidence, but now I'm gonna be watching, now I'm gonna see if you're doing that all the time, right? And if you're not looking for that, you're, you're not, you're not gonna, you're not gonna see them and you'll, you'll miss, you'll miss that your dog is coping with the change in the environment. I wanna get in on sound sensitivity stuff as early as possible for the reasons we talked about before. So, so look for yawns, look for shake offs, look for leaving, look for seeking you for comfort. Even if they don't seem frantic about it, even if they don't seem upset about it, if they're using you to cope or using something to cope with that change, then, then they're coping, right? And we don't want coping except, except for that. Except for that we want them to cope cause they have to and, And not because, you know, coming to join you on the couch or leaving the room is a problem. But because it's signs that there could be a problem brewing Signs that there could be problem brewing and, and things that aren't a problem don't tend to have a consistency like that. Things that don't have meaning for your dog, your dog, you know, if your dog leaves every fifth time you sneeze that I'm gonna say that's a coincidence of some kind, probably, right? But if every time you sneeze or blow your nose or do something with your face, your dog's like, I'm just gonna slowly move outta here. Nobody sees me. I'm not drawing attention, I'm just gonna go somewhere else. You're like, why are you doing that? Like, why would you do that? I'm, I'm going to, I'm gonna raise this, the importance of this a little more. I'm not gonna just let this go until, until I do see that you have a problem. You know, that is the tendency of the person, oh, this probably isn't anything. I'll wait until I have a really, you know, a clear sign that this is a problem. It's like, actually I'd rather there, I'd rather misunderstand that there was a problem and do some fun training around it because if I was wrong and there wasn't gonna be a problem, well we just had fun training around noises. Who cares? Right? If I put it off until I'm certain there's a problem now I have a much, you know, harder hill to, to climb and my dog has been feeling upset for longer than she needs to. So I, I think early and often and and don't, you know, better, better to be wrong about whether you had a problem. Wait however that goes, you know where I'm going. Yes. Procrastinate. Yeah. Right, right, right.

Melissa Breau: So I think the, you know, you mentioned sneezing in there, which I think is a really interesting one. I don't think I've heard of a dog that freaked out about sneezing before.

Amy Cook: There are more than you think. I mean I've had one, but get in just that this week for somebody for sound class, it's like about stuff sneezing. I'm like haha, it really happens.

Melissa Breau: That's so funny. Yeah. So there's a wide range, right? Like you could do sneezing. I've heard of beeping. Beeping I've heard of like obviously there's like thunderstorms and fireworks and kind of the big ones, right? Right. Does the approach that you take differ at all based on like the source or the type of sound things we can control versus things we can't, that kind of thing. Are some easier to work with than others? Some can be easier to work with than others because they're a little more straightforward and easy to control or easy to prevent and easy to identify.

Cause some dogs you're not entirely sure what it is about that sound or is it, you know, was it something in the environment? Did I, did I hear, even hear the sound? I can see you doing the thing that happens when you're afraid of sounds, but I don't think I heard anything. Right. Those things can be harder for,

for a person to wrap their head around. But mostly things are pretty straightforward when it comes to sound or at least the way I I I work it. People often think that you have to have the sound under control so that you can, that you can reproduce it right? And turns out you don't have to do that at all or at least the way I work it.

You don't have to do that at all. I don't need you to control the sound. I don't need you to be able to, or, or let me tell you what I mean by control. I don't need you to be able to produce the sound at will so that we can work. In fact, we're not going to use your sound maybe ever, but certainly not for a long, long time. And I think that surprises a lot of people cuz people immediately wanna work the sound that's logical. I mean, I want, I want to make the sound and then help, excuse me, help my dog in that moment or teach him a new thing about the sound. And I'm like, no, we're not gonna work out with the sound at all.

We're not gonna teach your dog the sound protocol. We're gonna teach your dog what sounds in general might mean and how to play with me and how to, how to connect two things together to show that we can do that before we ever deal with, with sounds that might have some emotional component to that. So that means I don't really for a long time have to care about what sound your dog is afraid of, which is a great luxury means you can get started anywhere, anytime. You don't have to, you know, be able to predict or be able to, to reproduce. Now the exception to that or the the wiggle room in there is that I do want you to be able to control the sound in the sense of I want you to be able to, to control how much your dog's exposed to that sound to the best of your ability. I know you don't control thunderstorms, I know you don't control the 4th of July. We do have a plan for you though for those things. But you know, if you know your dog's afraid of a certain beeping sound, I've had dogs afraid of the, the, the beep, the Apple, the Siri sound makes when you talk to the beep. You know, so you're just not gonna do that one. While we're doing the reframing, I want you to be able to control as much of the exposure to the negative sound as you can, but we're not gonna use that to work with your dog. We're gonna use that to kind of bubble wrap your dog and help your dog feel okay while we're working.

Melissa Breau: So when it comes to, you know, are certain sound sound fears more difficult than others?

Amy Cook: Not, not typically, or at least not in a wide way of looking at it. Like for any individual dog, any individual dog's case could be more difficult than any other individual dog, but not clustered by sound. As far as, as far as I'm concerned, some fears are more quickly generalizing. Like I find dogs who are afraid of beeps and high metallic sounds can generalize very quickly to so many other sounds that are just like that, that it can be a little challenging to bubble wrap them, right? But that doesn't make it harder to work, to work with the sound. We establish the framework and the protocol outside of the,

the trouble sound. And that means you can work in safety for as long as you need to to get the protocol workable. And then from there we start using safe sounds that are not your dog's sound so your dog can start learning that sounds are great and non-threatening sounds that were neutral in the first place are now. Great. That's amazing. Plus you're testing that you can get that done better to find out that there's a problem in doing that before you know, before we get to your, your, your difficult sound and then, and then, you know, when we get to time to where it's, we can apply it to the difficult sounds, there is so much experience at sound work that sometimes, sometimes it's anti-climactic and your dog doesn't feel that way about that sound anymore either or they feel only a little bit that way and then you can evoke your protocol.

So I don't tend to see a pattern that some things are harder to work than others when it comes to object fears and sounds like that. Now that's not exactly this gonna be true when we're talking about other sorts of fears, which you know, might be where you're going. But, for sounds now they're pretty straightforward and that's good news. We, dog trainers will tell you all over that we want a straightforward problem, right? We want something that I can apply a recipe to something with 10 steps, something that I can communicate to you really easily that doesn't require you the owner to be like a real expert in the real subtleties of, you know, making a lot of different decisions. You know, sound is one of these things where I can, I can just give you steps to get through this and I think that's really reassuring for a lot of people.

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. If I remember correctly, right, you use classical conditioning to help dogs with sound sensitivity. Do you wanna just maybe talk a little bit about that and why and how it works?

Amy Cook: Yeah, I do for object fears, I do, and I'll say right off the bat that there's never a time when you're not working with, you know, classical conditioning. We all know that it's kind of the undercurrent, it's the water you're swimming in, we can't turn it off. I can't turn off classical conditioning. But since objects and a sound you could consider an object, it's not a, it's not a social interaction, right? These things as triggers aren't going to change a whole lot when they're being interacted with, you know, an object is gonna stay the same object that it is the whole time. It's an object. A sound is gonna be a sound. Whereas, a social fear has a lot of layers to it.

People are just incredibly variable and that makes things much more complex to address. But a sound fear or an object fear are great candidates for just kind of straight classical conditioning. What I do in the class. And so for, in classical conditioning means shorthand means make an association. I heard a thing, I now think this other thing because I can predict this great thing is gonna happen. I heard a sound, now I think about the great thing that's coming next, right? And for that in the class, I do my best to make it very accessible for people such that a lot of times people try classical conditioning, they've read about it a little bit. They've heard, oh, after the bad thing happens, give them the good thing and that'll cut it. And unfortunately that just doesn't cut it because of some execution errors or execution, you know, issues classical. In order to be done well in order to work at all it has to follow, you know, a number of of things that, that are, that are crucial. And I make sure in the class to or in my protocol to make sure all of those are gonna be hit correctly. We're not improvising on how much to give them, how much food to give or how much party to give. We are not just going to experience a bad thing and then try to put a good thing after it. That's often where it falls down. I break it apart into all of its pieces and say we're gonna build it from the ground up and I'm gonna make sure that the good thing that we're gonna give your dog is voted on by the dog as a good thing.

Like your dog says, I agree this is actually a really, really good thing. Cuz too many times we just give them food thinking, well a bad thing happened, here's some food now that changes your mind, right? And the dog is like, ah, I guess like that really wasn't that exciting. It wasn't really the valuable food I just got. It wasn't, it wasn't really very helpful cause the bad thing that happened was really, really bad. And this little bit of food isn't really gonna change much. It's like handing somebody a dollar, it's like, yeah, I'm, I'm glad to get the dollar, but I mean, just a dollar like that exciting really. Yeah. Yeah. So in order to, you know, make sure that your classical conditioning is gonna work, we start with the value of your party. Does your dog agree that this good thing is a good thing? Does your dog agree that this was amazing to experience? Good, now I can use it to, to help them, help them feel better. Too many times we don't have those little details, right? So I use classical conditioning for the straightforward object and sound fears because I can get it down into a step-by-step process that can be reciped for you. We test that it's really good. We can, we can look to make sure that the association can get made because we control the sound or the object and that makes it really straightforward.

And those things are often really challenging when it comes to social fears, which are, which are not straightforward. And, and you know, classical might be something I have to have be the kind of the ride along pony, the the thing that's gonna happen anyway. But it might not be the way that I kind of focus on.

Melissa Breau: Alright, so you did me a favor there and kind of talked a little bit about management in the question, even though it was a sound question because I wanna kind of switch gears a little bit and focus a little more on the management stuff for a couple questions. So can you talk a little bit about some of the skills that you want teams to kind of build to fluency so they can rely on them when they need them when we're talking about management?

Amy Cook: Yeah, so for management sort of broadly speaking, I'm going to assume that this is, you know, dog who's being reactive. Now of course that could be to a sound while you're out there. But very frequently this is about being reactive to environments in kind of a diffuse way. Just the chaos of an environment or many elements in an environment or you know, when dogs show up, when people show up because of the complex and sometimes pretty stressful nature of social interactions and being on a leash and being frustrated about that or scared about that. There's a lot of moving parts when your dog is reactive and, and when, you know, when you have complex issues or issues that you don't have a whole lot of control over.

Like, like you might be able to not have a beeping sound for a while. More time is gonna go by and you still have to get through life. You still have to get to potty your dog, you still have to get from A to B, you still have to drive your dog to a place to run them. You still have to conduct things and you're going to be exposed to your triggers because you can't control them in the same way that you might be able to control some of the sounds. So because of that, knowing that you're, you're gonna be a little potentially over threshold all the time or exposing your dog to things that your dog already has negative opinions about what management is doing for you is saying, I'm going to minimize your exposure to this. I can't control it, so it doesn't happen at all, but I can do things to minimize it and I'm gonna get us through the rough spots as quickly and efficiently as I can so that we can get to a place where you're safe again so that you can recover. Now that means that you need to have certain skills and I've clustered them into stationary skills and movement based skills. And, and why I do that is because most of the time if you encounter something out in the world, you're gonna be able to move past it or move away from it or find a different route to get around it. Most of the time you're gonna move away. Distance is your best friend. A lot of people feel like, well if I help them sit or help them control themselves, they wanna control the dog, like thinking that control is their best friend.

I disagree. Distance is your best friend. Get out of there, get somewhere else, get behind stuff, cross the street, take a different turn, get away. But the art of getting away needs a little bit of, leans a little bit of an investment because you know, your dog is maybe not, not helping along with the getting away part. Your dog is maybe barking and lunging, maybe defending themselves, maybe frozen, maybe unable to move and to get away. And so I want people to have quite a number of skills they can rely on to get their dog moving and get their dog moving in a different direction from wherever the the trigger is. So there's a cluster of movement skills.

It starts with magnet hand, which a lot of people have seen in different places. But, and that involves getting your dog's face, their mouth, their nose, their eating parts all very involved in your, in your hand. You can picture it if you're not sure if you're new to this picture as if you're holding a Kong, it's like a Kong hand and you've got a whole bunch of chicken in it or some of their favorite food and they're digging in the hole of that Kong hand as if you're holding a Kong. They're digging in the hole there and eating as you walk away. And you might say, my dog isn't gonna eat then. But again, we're back to the beginning where I said, we're gonna train this in safe locations. So movement skills, getting your dog out, changing directions, getting behind stuff. This all involves your dog continuing to stay fluid and move. The other cluster of skills are the stationary ones where let's say you've determined that there's no way for you to get anywhere. You are stuck in a blind corner, you're stuck in a driveway, you're stuck, you know where you are, you're stuck in the car, you're stuck, you know, because of the nature of what's changed in the environment. That thing is going to leave before you'll ever have a chance to fully leave. So you will need also stationary management, things your dog can do without going anywhere so that the environment around you can change.

And that usually involves keeping what I, what I call, keeping their face busy, gotta get their face doing something else besides looking at their trigger and ramping up about it and maybe barking then and maybe lunging then, right? So I want their face really busy. So there are face busying skills that I want to see the fluency as well. And a good one there is a, an assisted find, an assisted treasure hunt. And it's assisted because, you know, if you just put food down on the ground, even in a scatter, maybe they'll go for it and maybe they won't because they're kind of magnetically connected to the trigger that is out there, right? But if you assist in this, it makes that scatter that you put down there much stronger for them to connect to.

And, and that keeps their face actually busy. So, so the example there is you scatter the food and then you start pointing out all of the different pieces that they're missing and you squat down. So you're kind of blocking where they're looking and you're like, look right here, get that cookie. It's right here. You missed it. Look right here.

And they're like, oh, oh, I seem to be missing something. And it keeps their face very busy on the patch of food that you threw down. And then by that time, something has, has gone away. So those are sort of the two examples that can get people thinking, can I get my dog moving? Can I get my dog to go somewhere with me?

Or are they stuck? And do I need help? Kind of getting those movement skills going. And then if I were to have to stay in one place, can I keep my dog from connecting to that trigger? Can I keep my dog's face busy? So those are the two kind of categories and, and there are lots of other behaviors we can pull in those categories, but that's, that's what I want people to be able to concentrate on, on acquiring in a class like this because, you know, it it, part of minimizing a negative experience is disconnecting from it. If you can't leave, if the thing happened, the triggers there and it's already happened, that your dog feels kind of a certain way about stuff, your goal is to lower that load, minimize the impact of it, and recover as quickly as you can because you can't, you can't avoid every trigger of the world. You have to have a plan for what happens when they show up and helping your dog through it. And out of it is, is is the kindness that you can extend them while still being able to walk through the world, keeping your dog's face busy, getting your dog focused on movement and getting out of there that helps them not experience the trigger at full strength and not work up their big defense of themselves in, in the face of that trigger and then helps them funnel themselves toward recovery. So, and, and you know, truly that's where all things start. If we can't start to manage the problem, we, we can't really then focus on how to change the problem we're having in the first place. We have to stop the leak of the boat, if you will. And that's what management will do.

Melissa Breau: It's just one piece there that I've heard you talk about before that I'd love to also have you talk about as somebody who, like even in training when all things are optimal and wonderful, has occasionally spilled half my treat pouch on the ground or like done really awkward things. Right? Right. Do you wanna just maybe touch on the human fluency piece for a second?

Amy Cook: Boy, you know, I feel like, I feel like that's really it, right? I feel like it's not, you know, it, when I was asked to teach this class, Denise, you know, mentioned this might be a good thing to teach and I just thought, but like you just manage, you just, I didn't, I wasn't exactly sure all the things I was doing because I just do them already and they were right. Cause you've been doing them for a long time, you're very fluent. You just don't, don't be here. Go over there. You know? And it's like, and then you know, if you, but of course if I say that to a new dog owner or a person who's never had to do this before, they're like, what do you like go there? How, you know, and the way people come up with doing that, it's like, well that's not the like, oh no, there is a set of skills to this. I really do do all these things, but they're so invisible to me now because they're so automatic. It's like, if you remember learning to drive a car, you know, right now most of us, everybody within, within the sound of my voice probably drives a car and rarely thinks of how it's done.

Like I rarely, rarely think of exactly how I do make all the decisions I make cuz they've been reduced to being automatic. You know exactly when I'm gonna start breaking, you know, how many feet away, I couldn't tell you. I just know that there's a time I gotta start doing that and so I do, right? And so that piece can be missing in a new team or in a team facing a new problem.

And that puts you in a place where you're trying to improvise what to do, but you don't know exactly which things to do. And now nobody's leading, nobody's driving this bus anywhere because your, your dog already has like some reaction to have and you're like, oh god, which thing do I do? And how do I get the food out in time? That's not a place I want anyone to be. It. You have the luxury of time when you're in your house to think the small details through. How exactly am I going to get food into my hand quickly enough to get it out there when I need it to keep my dog's face busy. For some people that's already a fluent act, they just dip in and put it out there for other people.

They haven't thought this through before. They haven't needed to do this before. Training has been food in a Tupperware on the shelf and they haven't needed it out on walks or something like that. And so I'll see sometimes people will have a Ziploc bag in their pocket and then say, you know, I've gotta get food out for this for this moment of management. And it's like, oh right, I have to go in my pocket, I've gotta get the Ziploc bag yet I've gotta open it. I've gotta dip my hand in there. And by that time, that moment is lost, right? The time to find out that, that you need some plan around, around how to get these little details done is in your living room, right? So we walk up and down hallways in people's houses and I look at things like, can you get food in your hand quickly and onto your dog's nose quickly? If not, let's troubleshoot that aspect of it cuz you're gonna need that outside, right? Or you know, when you throw a scatter down, do you know how big of a scatter you're about to make when you throw food down?

Does it make a tiny little six inch pile? If so, your dog's gonna be done with that pile really, really quickly, right? If when you throw food down it goes all over the place, then now, I mean it might cuz you're nervous and you go blah, yep. And then now the food's everywhere and your dog doesn't know how to find any of it or you know, is walking toward the trigger to find it. Cuz through six feet away the time to find out that that's how you do that is not when you're, you know, when you need it. So we practice all these little pieces until they just become second nature. And by the end, by the end at six weeks, people who are running through their skills look just like they've been doing it all their lives.

It's just like, of course you just take the dog from here and you go over there, you put your, the on their nose and you walk and I'm like, right. It's very simple except six weeks ago you weren't sure where to put your hands and how to hold the leash, right? It is normal not to know that stuff if you've never had to use it before. And it's, it's a kindness you can extend to yourself to say, I'm just, I'm gonna break this piece down. I'm gonna think it through at the pace I need it to go. So I'm gonna move slowly, move my hand into the bay pouch, right? Then I'm gonna think, then I'm gonna think I'm supposed to put it by my pants, seem okay with the pinky side face back, right? That's what Amy said, right? Okay. Give yourself all the time in the world to think that until, and then it will become automatic if you're always under, under load trying to learn this cuz you have to do it now. Cause the trigger showed up, it's, you know, the chance it's gonna get to fluency is, is much, much lowered. So I wanna take you As somebody, right, who is actively trying to learn some new sports skills at the moment and trying to coordinate my body and like you watch the video and it's like, oh that looks easy. And then I actually go try to do it and I'm like, wait, how the hell?

Melissa Breau: No kidding.

Amy Cook: No kidding. It is exactly like that. Things look very, very smooth and easy when you watch someone do it. And, it can be especially deceptive. Like I don't think ballet looks especially easy. Me parts of it sure, maybe, but I just intellectually know. Plus it also looks like, wow, what an amazing feat of bodies, a body. I don't have you doing some crazy, you know, but when we're talking about well just dip, dip your hand into your bait bag and then put your, put the food on your dog's nose and you'll be fine. It's like, oh of course I can do that. I can do that without even seeing it. You just told me in words. I totally got it. And then you try and you're like, yeah, absolutely not. That did not go as well. I thought it would. Yeah, it's not, it's just not going or, you know, I put my hand in an awkward position or my dog doesn't know how to eat out of my hand in this new way.

They're used to me giving it to them from the thumb side and not the pinky side or you know, or, or whatever it is. And, and it really took me kind of breaking it apart, seeing how people learn it, breaking it apart again and being like, no, I, people don't know what to do with their leash. I don't think I've talked enough about which hand should hold the leash here. I mean I thought you would just, I kind of thought you would intuit that if you're, if one hand is feeding the other hand's, holding the leash, but absolutely not. People have all kinds of ways of doing stuff, right? So, so getting the little pieces together until, and, and then it feels awkward. Nobody likes it at first and then a couple weeks go by and it's like, I still dunno where my feet go and I blah. And then by the end of the class they can just walk from A to B and if they see trouble brewing, they can just take their u-turn, the dog takes the u-turn with them, they go a different direction. It's like they're a well oiled machine and that person can handle anything that comes up, even if it's, it bests both. Like even if it's a bigger trigger than you thought or your dog wasn't gonna take food, now your dog lunged, barked and almost pulled you off your feet. You know what to do. You get up, you have the leash, you start going, you just, you know what to do because you've been practicing it for six weeks now. So give yourself the gift of the rehearsal time it takes to, to get what seems like a deceptively simple thing to do. Get it, get it to fluency. Because once you're under load, you're gonna, you're gonna, you're gonna really want that fluency, you know? Because being under threshold means a lot of your skills are gone. And so it's only the fluid ones that remain when you're under a lot of stress. So getting to fluency is really important.

Melissa Breau: So you teased this a little bit earlier, but I think probably one of the most difficult parts of living with a reactive dog is often the walks, right? Especially if a dog and a handler team happened to live in a more urban environment or somewhere where like you can't just like peace out to middle of the woods somewhere to deal with your stuff, right? And in fact, you're doing a webinar on this for us that'll have it happened the day before the podcast. Okay. It'll probably still be available for a little bit. But you know, do you wanna just talk a little bit about strategies that handlers can use specifically to make walks a little bit easier?

Amy Cook: Yeah. You know, you don't, if you live in an urban environment, you don't control, I mean you, well you don't control anywhere, you don't control you when your triggers show up anywhere you live, but you'll be more challenged by them the more dense of a place you live, right? So, you know, getting your skills as quick as possible so that you know what to do when those things happen is priority number, you know, is, is a high priority. But in absence of that, or in times when your skills don't match the challenge you were just faced with because they just don't, that happens to anybody, right? You wanna focus on, I say getting to safety is job number one, however you get there. And that might mean rushing past the thing that your dog is lunging and barking at or it might mean turning around and running really quickly, you know, away it might mean ducking behind a car and that doesn't take a particular skill cuz it's kind of a damage control. Like, I'm just gonna go here. I know my dog was barking all during that, right? But getting to safety is job number one because from there you can focus on recovery. So your dog got past the moment now, now you can focus on shaking that off and regrouping and thinking of what you wanna do next. And why I say this is because oftentimes, oftentimes recovery is the first place that you'll see a change in your dog. Like there was the same bluster that there always was when you passed by that dog that lives on that street and your dog still barked at that dog but shook it off in 10 seconds and moved on with your walk.

Whereas a month ago that would've, you know, kept your dog vigilant for the rest of the walk and even once you got home, right? Recovery is often the place where we see really big changes. But other things you can do are really pick where you walk. I know that's not available to everybody. I know I do know that, but most of us can pick which block we walk on which direction we go. Many of us have a car and I know that it's a lot easier to just walk on your block when it's, you got home at six o'clock, you wanna take your dog for your potty walk. I know it's easier to just walk where you live. I get it.

But walking where you live is often very, very stressful and fraught for your dog because it's the same territory they go around all the time. It's the same dogs they know that are behind fences. It can be a lot, it can be really triggering. If you could just get in your car and drive two minutes to a neighborhood, that's just out of your walking range. Like it's just one mile away and you walk there. That walk could be so much better. You can, you can still do the neighborhood, you know, leashed walk, you don't have to rent the sniff spot every time of course. But if you just picked a different neighborhood that was more suited to what your dog's challenges are, maybe that neighborhood has bigger sight lines. So you can, you can prevent the issue a little bit or no parking on the side of the roads. You can see what's coming. You can see what's coming cuz there's no cars around or there's lots of cars around. So you got plenty of things to hide behind and not be so visible to dogs who are, who are in the environment or whatever, know what your dog is, is most stressed by. And then you can pick an environment that's just a little more in your favor. I know a lot of people, there's a thing called the Midnight Walkers Club, I think there's a book, there's a lot of people who pick the times they walk so that the, the triggers are minimized. And you can certainly do that and you should do that, but I know that that's not available all the time for everybody. You gotta walk when you gotta walk. I know that. So if you could, if you do have a car and if you could get in and drive not even five, it often isn't even five minutes,

it's just to a few blocks or a slightly different neighborhood away. You could have a a a really different walk. And I, I don't think people really understand that that could, could be a big difference. Your own home turf is often the the hardest place to overcome in, in fact, it gets harder as you get closer and closer to your house.

Whereas a lot of dogs are much more reactive on their front, on their property, on, on the, the street, really close on, you know, the two houses on either side and it gets a little bit less. So as they get eccentrically, you know, circles further out from the house, that that happens really commonly. And so you might find your dog is not that reactive until you're on your own street, right? So being able to drive can can minimize that. And I know that is a sacrifice. I know it, so think of it as just, it's just an extra two minutes, an extra five minutes on top of what you're doing to be able to reduce the rehearsal there. But if you're, if you're ever sort of stuck, if a trigger showed up and it's really too hard. Focus on getting the safety quickly, efficiently. Don't delay and try to get the magnet hand out. If you can't figure out like, oh, where, where's my food? Where's my stuff? Don't delay. Just get yourself to where you need to go as quick as you can to minimize the time your dog is spent having this issue.

Focus on recovery and then, and then keep walking and, and note your recovery piece cuz it might be the very piece that allows you to see that you're making progress, that you actually, right? Everybody tell Caper she needs to not play in 10 minutes from now. Not right now. Oh goodness. If, if this weren't a podcast, I would turn my camera on to show y'all. She's found a piece of cardboard and she's having a party with it all by herself. Throwing it in the air and attacking it and it's adorable. But yeah. But yes. Sorry, back, back to management. Everyone, you're fine. Back from cardboard, cardboard parties. It's all good.

Melissa Breau: You started to answer, which I was gonna ask you next, which was, you know, it's kind of inevitable whether we're talking about sound sensitivity or management that occasionally things are gonna fail and dogs can be exposed to something go way over threshold. Yeah, they do. And I, I know you kind of talked a little bit about just get outta dodge, right? Any other tips you'd wanna add in terms of managing fallout and or kind of planning for those moments?

Amy Cook: You know, when you have a plan, when you diagnose how you're gonna handle these emergencies, it tends to really help the recovery. If you get out of dodge the same kind of way, one of the first things we train is how to run with your dog away from something and not have that feel like panic. You know, we're gonna run, we're gonna get outta here and then we're gonna duck behind something and we're gonna recover. That's a pattern. You can, you can really, you know, train fairly quickly. It's not a lot of skills, it's just you having a plan to do that and then, and then your dog picks up that that's how you always do it.

And they can, they can really help recover there. That can really help them recover. And then note, you know, how often per walk this is happening or really don't want this to happen a lot of times. So prioritize what it takes to change that for, even if it's just for a month so we can get, have time to get some of the other skills. I'd rather they didn't have to have a big spike and then a get outta dodge under recovery 10 times on one walk, every walk you go out. It might be that for a period of time we don't take these walks, you do potty and back in so that there's not a lot of spike and recover, spike and recover, spike and recover and you know, but other than that it's, you know, it's, it's pretty straightforward. You look at the environment you have, we give you the highest priority skills to make sure you can minimize what's happening to you and get to recovery as fast as possible. And then, you know, if these are really difficult times for you, then when you are home, when you come in from the walk, you can do enriching activities that can maybe help shake off some of that stress. You can give your dog, you know, their meal in, in something that's fun to destruct, like, I don't know, cardboard, you know, you can focus on active recovery when you get home doing some play together, things like that. Or if your dog does like to do exercise outside, you can you, part of your walk can be stop and do some fun parkour stuff or fetch stuff if that's, if that's right for your dog to help dissipate some of these, these, these stress hormones that came up. But mostly I, I want to get you skills right away early on in the process so that we are lowering the cost of each of these walks while we're bringing up your skills for, for the kind of, for the backup to get the rest of it going. Hope that makes sense.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, I think so. From a wider standpoint, any kind of final thoughts or key points you wanna leave listeners with before we call it?

Amy Cook: Yeah, I think that, I think that focusing on your way you're thinking of this human would be my priority. I think that I want you to be able to predict and prevent things that make your problem worse and your dog's burden higher. But I don't want that to make you vigilant and stressed about it. I don't want you to walk out there and think, I've gotta predict everything that's gonna happen to us and prevent every one of these things. Boy, I better be very activated on this walk. Right? I think that's what happens when you are in an improvisational system. If you have a plan of what you're gonna do when things happen, then you're preventing anything worse from happening if you plan ahead of time how to predict. So, so like, hey, that's a blind corner up there. I predict that could be a problem. I'm gonna cross the street.

That's an active way of predicting rather than just looking at everything and wondering if, if there's gonna be something jumping out of the bushes, right? Like that's a, that's a tough block. I'm gonna take a different block. Oh, I see way up there. Somebody is starting to walk their dog, I'm just gonna change blocks here. Not, not as big a deal. I don't have to be that, you know, that improvisational predicting and preventing too many people take that on as I'm gonna try to control all these things I can't control. And what I want you instead to think is what is, what is my plan? What am I gonna do when these inevitable things do happen? I can't stop all the things. I can know how to react. Oh, look, that happened. I do plan A, oh look, that happened. Now I'm doing plan seven. They don't have names or numbers. I made that up, but I know, I know how to turn around. But they could, I could, I suppose. Yeah, I know how to turn around. Hey, something happened up there. Turn around. Not a big deal. I know how to turn around. I know how to use my feet to turn around. I know how to use my magnet hand to turn around. My dog knows how to turn around and we walk on as if nothing had happened. It doesn't feel stressful to me. It doesn't feel stressful to the dog. We just keep moving. I want people to know that they can get there and they can get there in well under six weeks for sure. You don't have to improvise this, you don't have to just be reactive yourself to whatever's happening. You can, you can think ahead of time and I can help you do that.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Well, thank you so much Amy, for coming on the podcast. Always so fun.

Amy Cook: Where does the hour go? It goes so fast. Fast.

Melissa Breau: It really does. It flies by. And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in. We'll be back next week. Don't miss it. If you haven't already, subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or the podcast app of your choice to have our next episode automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available.

Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast, music provided royalty free by bensound.com. The track featured here is called Body Audio Editing provided by Chris Lang. Thanks again for tuning in and happy training.


Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called "Buddy." Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training! 

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