"Scaredy Dog!" Seminar Review

On A Personal Note...

Ali, thank you once again for coming all the way out to Arizona to lead a “Scaredy Dog” seminar. The participants were unanimous in their praise for your
professionalism, not to mention your honesty and wit in dealing with a topic that is so close to many of our hearts. Those attending included owners of reactive dogs, agility instructors, and even one veterinarian (who also happens to live with a reactive dog). It was wonderful finally to meet you, Ali, as well as Pete and your exceptional dogs -- Montana, the ambassador of good will; and Acacia, recovering reactive dog (though no one would ever have guessed it from her gentle, calm demeanor).

Seminar Review

In the morning session, Ali spoke to us about reactivity in general, including what it is, who it affects, the roles played by genetics and socialization, the physiological effects of stress, medical considerations, and the degree of recovery that could be expected for any particular dog. She explained the importance of good home management, of setting up a calm environment, and of providing the optimal nutrition, exercise, and medical care.

Getting down to the “nitty gritty” of training regimens, Ali gave a us a brief introduction to learning theory, including the basics of classical and operant conditioning, reinforcement and punishment, both positive and negative. With questions coming fast and furious, she explained various ways of rewarding our dogs; what skills to teach them; the importance of our body language in communicating with them; and how to set them up to succeed, keeping in mind that their learning curve would be full of ups and downs, bad days and good. We watched video clips of some of Ali’s classes for reactive dogs, while she described the dogs’ case histories and progress.

And all that was just in the morning! After a lovely lunch, over which discussions continued unabated, Ali (ably assisted by Pete and Acacia) led us through a live demonstration of a class for reactive dogs. Five lucky people and their dogs went through exercises at Ali’s direction while the rest of us watched and learned. Some of the dogs were people-reactive; some dog-reactive; and some both. Some were clicker-savvy and some not. We worked in an elementary school gymnasium, under very carefully controlled conditions. One dog-human pair at a time worked in front of the rest of us on attention, tricks, and ignoring both distractions and the triggers that would normally have set the dog off. The dogs all did very well. In between sessions, we discussed what we’d seen, and Ali was once again peppered with questions, which she answered in detail and with humor.

All in all, the day was a resounding success. I think all of us came away with a tremendous amount of new information and a renewed sense of optimism. I know I did.

Dale Klausner
Payson, Arizona

Photo of Dale Klausner's dogs, Gus, Zoe and Zeke

Pictured above, Dale Klausner and Zeke. Pictured here, from
left to right, Dale's
three dogs:
Gus, Zoe and Zeke

photos by
Pete Smoyer

Learn more about reactive dogs.
Read Ali's book
"Scaredy Dog! Understanding & Rehabilitating Your Reactive Dog."

Here are some scenes from our Phoenix seminar sponsored by Good Dog Agility. It took place at an elementary school in Chandler Arizona. The afternoon sessions (shown here) were held in the school's all-purpose room. The class session took place in the media room so we could show video of some of our classes held in Allentown.
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