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Discussion Starter #1
Has anyone used a head collar/"halti" on their Chi? We just bought one for Finley...our trainer suggested it as the next step in curing his fear aggression issues. He's making progress with the BAT training, but not the way he should/we and she had hoped, so we were discussing additional things to try after his last obedience class. The head collar was just delivered today, so I'm looking for some tips on the best way to get him used to wearing it and "like" it. Thanks!
 

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Treats, treats treats treats and praise. If walking along and he paws at it then stop him from doing so.
Only know as saw it on 'it's me or the dog' lol Victoria is all about positive rewarding and not like caesar. Possibly check out her videos?


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I didn't really bother with the DVD, we just practiced putting it on and taking it off with treats once a day for a few days. He didn't really like it much the first few times on walks but he has completely changed when he wears it. We can walk within a few feet of pitbulls, dogo argentino, rottweilers even dogs that lunge at him or are very excited he doesn't really care about them anymore, although I will admit he has suddenly calmed down in the past few weeks.

Usually the bigger the dog the more excited he got to see them on walks. Now he only seems to get excited when coming head on with a big dog when we just start out our walk and he's got a lot of energy.

I tried out the head halter because I read that it was very good for excited/fearful/reactive dogs and everyone had such good reviews for it. I honestly have never seen another small dog wearing one (only larger pullers/lungers) but seriously, it works!
 

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Most dogs need to be conditioned to like head halted. There's a nice video here:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1wakterNyUg

My question would be what is your trainer trying to achieve with the use of the head halter?

Some dogs will shut down and therefore show less 'reactivity' to other dogs when they are wearing them but it doesn't change how they feel and they are still scared. This can then increase their fear and make the problem worse.

If you're using it for better control of the dog then I'd suggest that you may be moving too quickly and that you are working too close to the decoy dog.

Head halter a aren't commonly used on tiny dogs and I'm not sure how well they would work given the great distance between the halter and the end of the lead.

Good luck with it, I know how tough it is. I have been working with Nibbler for more than 18mths on his fear, anxiety and reactivity and he only recently was able to meet and play with a strange dog for the first time.
 

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I agree, I have seen many dogs who totally shut down when wearing a head collar, but the owners misinterpret this as improved behaviour.
I am not a fan of gadgets, especially with tiny dogs.
I would just keep working on the BAT technique, it is a slow process but will get to the bottom of his issues, there are no quick fixes with fear reactivity.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
I'm not looking for a quick fix, just a fix - I expect that it will take forever, but forever with no progress is not what I'm after.

The reason she suggested the head collar is because he is very "prey driven" when he gets within a certain distance of any the dog. He visually latches on with eye contact just LOSES it. She suggested this may be a good way to simply break the eye contact and divert his attention back to us.

I am not set on any one technique to help him, but I am certainly open to new ones if I think they're safe and will help him. I will see how he feels about the head collar - if he shuts down, hates it, is miserable, or whatever, then that will be the end of that. I know my dog and I know how to read him. But it seems like some people have had some success with a head collar so I'm willing to at least test it out.
 

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All right, let me ask you this then. How often should we be doing BAT training sessions for it to be effective? Right now, we take him out 6 days a week for about 15-30 minutes each day to work on desensitizing him around other dogs. We give him one night a week as a total "off" night. But - going out every single night for the next year and a half, two years, is not likely going to be very realistic. We are totally dedicated to doing what we have to to fix him and if it takes two years, so be it...but...is every night overkill?
 

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I'm not looking for a quick fix, just a fix - I expect that it will take forever, but forever with no progress is not what I'm after.

The reason she suggested the head collar is because he is very "prey driven" when he gets within a certain distance of any the dog. He visually latches on with eye contact just LOSES it. She suggested this may be a good way to simply break the eye contact and divert his attention back to us.

I am not set on any one technique to help him, but I am certainly open to new ones if I think they're safe and will help him. I will see how he feels about the head collar - if he shuts down, hates it, is miserable, or whatever, then that will be the end of that. I know my dog and I know how to read him. But it seems like some people have had some success with a head collar so I'm willing to at least test it out.
It's so hard to have a behaviour dog where you just want them to be happy and everyone tells you different things. I feel your pain so please know that my comments below are just observations of how I might do things differently and not a judgement on you or your trainer. I know you are and will continue to do the very best for Finley.

Given the above reason for the head halter I probably wouldn't use it. I doubt that it's prey drive that's making him lock onto the other dog with his eyes and the lose the plot. I suspect that he's really frightened. If you saw a bear you'd lock onto it and start looking very scary in the open that it would go away.

If he's going over threshold (freezing, barking, lunging etc) then you are sensitising him to other dogs rather than desensitising. Each time he goes over threshold, it releases stress chemicals into his body that makes it more likely that he will go over threshold again. What I aim for is session after session where the dog remains under threshold. If he goes over threshold then we take a break for a minimum of 4 days and he's kept quiet and happy to let the stress chemicals leave his body. You can google 'cortisol vacation' for more info on this.

It sounds like you may just be moving too fast. Trust me when I say that some dogs preferred pace with this stuff is glacial. :( What are your personal goals for Finley? Are they realistic? My goal for Nibbler is that he can enjoy a walk and not be scared if he sees another dog but I don't think he's ever going to be really social with other dogs.

Maybe take a step back with the BAT and work far enough away from the trigger dog that he doesn't go over threshold. As you have many sessions like this he'll start to change how he feels about other dogs and he won't be as frightened and then you can start to get closer.

I think 6 sessions a week would burn me out. With Nibbler I focused on not breaking him ( making sure that he didn't go over threshold on normal walks and he always got treats if he saw or heard a dog) and then did sporadic training set-ups when I could because I work when most people are available for training. I probably wouldn't do more than 2 set-ups per week but that's me and I do prefer incredibly short training sessions.

Anyway, I hope this ramble helped but whatever you choose will be right for you. Feel free to PM me if you ever want to chat or need some support because I know it gets tiring when you work so hard and do t see the results you want.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
My goals are extremely realistic. I don't care if he, and I don't expect that he, ever likes a strange dog ever. I just want to be able to walk him, take him to the vet, whatever regular situations arise, and NOT have him totally freak out and stress himself out because he's afraid. I don't expect him to ever like dogs, I just want him to be able to ignore them as we walk by.

I'll return the head collar then, doesn't seem like the way to go. At the time that the trainer suggested it, it made sense to me, but the more I think about it I'm not sure.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I should mention, that his 15-30 minute sessions are not all BAT training for each and every moment. We take him to a local park that is likely to have people walking dogs at any given moment (and where we used to walk ours all the time before these issues with Finley). So he's only actually doing the BAT training for a minute or two at a time, max. Just the time in which the strange dog takes to walk past us. Then we carry on with sniffing, walking, mix in some obedience training, etc., until the next dog comes around. He's realistically probably getting like 5 minutes of BAT training each session.
 

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If you saw a bear you'd lock onto it and start looking very scary in the open that it would go away.
We actually have ;) We live in bear country, in fact my office is situated in a place where bears roam the parking lot and sniff around at the back door. Before we got Finley, we were walking Gizmo and Tink through an area and walked across a steel grate bridge over a river. We had each picked up a dog because their feet were too small, they's slip into the holes on the bridge...when we got to the other side, I bent over to put Gizmo back on the ground, and as I was looking/standing back up, discovered a bear looking at us from literally six feet in front of me.
 

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My goals are extremely realistic. I don't care if he, and I don't expect that he, ever likes a strange dog ever. I just want to be able to walk him, take him to the vet, whatever regular situations arise, and NOT have him totally freak out and stress himself out because he's afraid. I don't expect him to ever like dogs, I just want him to be able to ignore them as we walk by.

I'll return the head collar then, doesn't seem like the way to go. At the time that the trainer suggested it, it made sense to me, but the more I think about it I'm not sure.
That sounds very realistic and I hope I didn't offend you by asking if they were, that wasn't my intention. I know how painful it is to see them stressed. At one point I even wondered if I was doing Nibbler's desensitisation & counter-conditioning more for me than him but then he broke his leg and I realised that I couldn't avoid all strange dogs. 😕 I think it's a good idea not to use the head halter, I'll look forward to hearing all about his progress.
 

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I should mention, that his 15-30 minute sessions are not all BAT training for each and every moment. We take him to a local park that is likely to have people walking dogs at any given moment (and where we used to walk ours all the time before these issues with Finley). So he's only actually doing the BAT training for a minute or two at a time, max. Just the time in which the strange dog takes to walk past us. Then we carry on with sniffing, walking, mix in some obedience training, etc., until the next dog comes around. He's realistically probably getting like 5 minutes of BAT training each session.
That sounds awesome! He's so lucky that you're taking the time to help him. Do you have other places you can walk without seeing dogs at all to give him a day off from dogs?
 

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We actually have ;) We live in bear country, in fact my office is situated in a place where bears roam the parking lot and sniff around at the back door. Before we got Finley, we were walking Gizmo and Tink through an area and walked across a steel grate bridge over a river. We had each picked up a dog because their feet were too small, they's slip into the holes on the bridge...when we got to the other side, I bent over to put Gizmo back on the ground, and as I was looking/standing back up, discovered a bear looking at us from literally six feet in front of me.
😂😄 I use that analagy all the time and you're the first person who's actually experienced it- that's crazy! What did you do? I live in Australia and I never really understand how foreigners are so scared of our wildlife. Sure, we have snakes and spiders and people and pets do get killed each year but we don't have to worry coming across a bear on our daily walk. You are braver than me!
 

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No no, no offence taken, I appreciate the input especially since you are working/have been working on the same issues with Nibbler. The three of them go for walks basically every night right now (unless it's seriously raining, which hasn't been very often in the last few weeks). They go around our neighbourhood, so they don't run into other dogs as often and it's a mostly dog-free walk. We have been taking him to the park for training sessions 6 nights a week for these short sessions simply based on the "the more practice you get, the faster you learn" theory, but perhaps toning it down for him to more like 4 nights a week would be better.

As for the bear...lol I'm huge animal lover of all kinds, so they don't particularly scare me (same as what you've said about the animals in Australia - you get used to what you grow up with). But getting THAT close unexpectedly was a bit of a surprise. He was more curious about us, and mostly the dogs I think, than anything. So we just threw our arms up to make ourselves "bigger" and started yelling at him to back him off. After a couple minutes he ran off and we went the other direction ;)
 

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No no, no offence taken, I appreciate the input especially since you are working/have been working on the same issues with Nibbler. The three of them go for walks basically every night right now (unless it's seriously raining, which hasn't been very often in the last few weeks). They go around our neighbourhood, so they don't run into other dogs as often and it's a mostly dog-free walk. We have been taking him to the park for training sessions 6 nights a week for these short sessions simply based on the "the more practice you get, the faster you learn" theory, but perhaps toning it down for him to more like 4 nights a week would be better.

As for the bear...lol I'm huge animal lover of all kinds, so they don't particularly scare me (same as what you've said about the animals in Australia - you get used to what you grow up with). But getting THAT close unexpectedly was a bit of a surprise. He was more curious about us, and mostly the dogs I think, than anything. So we just threw our arms up to make ourselves "bigger" and started yelling at him to back him off. After a couple minutes he ran off and we went the other direction ;)
It sounds like they have the best life! Nibbler is still very much a work in progress but he has taken amazing strides and has really taught me what I need to do to support him. I'm still amazed by your bear story, I know what you mean about being used to what you grow up with. Keep in touch and let me know how Finley goes with his training.
 

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I have severe arthritis and multiple 'artificial' joints so I really can't fall. I used a gentle leader on a tiny italian greyhound and it worked just fine. I loved it. She was a therapy dog, too. She was trained, but you never know with squirrels etc, she just might 'lose' it. I would use treats, and praise, and diligence to get him comfortable with it. And yes some dogs 'shut down', and thats OK with me, just as long as they don't get to 'practice' their reactivity. JMO.
 

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I think you are doing a great job with Finley, my comments about headcollars were intended to be very general, obviously you are very aware of his behaviour and would never do anything that makes him uncomfortable.
This type of training, actually changing how a dog feels about a given stimulus, rather than just how he behaves around it, is always going to take a lot of time.
We have had Delilah for three and a half years now, she is still a work in progress. it shouldn't be quite as long with Finley because he has fewer triggers, Delilah was literally scared of everything when we got her. (Traffic, grass, trees, wind, puddles, you name it, it freaked her out lol)
Our main focus was keeping her under threshold at all times. If she went over, it would be days before we could start to make progress again. Stressed dogs cannot learn, so keeping stress to a minimum was key. As she progressed, the length of time it took to recover from going over threshold got much shorter.
If something sends her over threshold now (usually something that sneaks up on us like wildlife, (NOT BEARS THOUGH!!!!) and the other day she encountered a kite for the first time) she is absolutely fine 5 minutes later. It is a little wobble rather than a complete meltdown.
So it is important to remember that just being around his triggers is stressful for Finley.
Any time he is within sight or earshot of other dogs it is difficult for him, not just when you are focussing on the BAT training. Stress is cumulative, so situations that are normally fairly easy to deal with can become the straw that breaks the camels back if the dog is already slightly stressed from before.
We found massage really helped with Delilahs stress release. We also used essential oils, tryptophan supplements and a DAP diffuser to keep her as calm as possible.
Any day we got through with her under threshold was considered a success.
 

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Yes, I know, sorry if my reply came across as snippy...just frustrated was all. I do know it's going to take a lot of work and a lot of time, I'm fully expecting that a year from now we'll still be working with him and I'm totally committed to that...but it's so TIRING sometimes lol. I just want him to be a totally happy, confident little dude. And he's SUCH an amazing little guy, seriously the happiest, cutest, kookiest, most adorable pup in the world (really, I'm not just biased ;) ), we want to be able to take him out and be able to show the rest of the world the same thing so they can love him like we do lol.

Anyway, we'll slow it down. Cut back the days/week we take him out for BAT training, work on getting some more controlled sessions in place with a friend's dog, etc. We are certainly happy that he is making progress already, so we're definitely going to keep it up.
 
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