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Behavioral Challenge 2: Bicycles

Behavioral Challenge: Bicycles on walks. Tin Tin exhibited highly reactive behavior, like barking and lunging when he saw bicycles on walks.

In some cases he became so stressed, frustrated and over-stimulated that he would redirect and bite at the leash or at his owner’s hands causing serious injury.

Step 1: Setting goals and expectations. The goal was to minimize the intensity of these behaviors and improve his ability to connect and communicate with his owner when he became stressed by moving objects on walks.

Step 2: Implement Management Strategies:

  1. Walk in locations that minimized the probability of seeing bicyclists.
  2. Use a chain leash until redirected bites diminished in frequency and intensity.
  3. Go for short walks, since long walks generated unhealthy levels of of stress and arousal.
  4. Play tug or fetch, as an alternative to long walks.

Step 3: Establish Base Training. Tin Tin worked on skill sets outlined in the first three weeks of this training module. This included training check-ins with controlled distractions, as well as mat work with duration, distraction and distance. These exercises created a strong reinforcement history for being calm and engaged.

Step 4: Integrate Bicycles into Training Setups. Established skill sets were integrated into training set ups with a bicycle. The goal was to create conditions in which Tin Tin was capable of acknowledging the bicycle without reacting. We conducted four sets, with one minute breaks in between each set. A successful session was measured by an increase in focus, engagement and relaxed body language over the course of four sets. By this measure the initial set up proved to be too challenging. While we did see a decrease in reactive behavior, like barking and lunging, we continued to see other signs of stress like displacement behavior, eating grass and scratching, over the course of all four sets.

This meant that we needed to create conditions in which success would be more probable. We began training on a quiet road that allowed us to increase the distance between him and the trigger. Once he exhibited focus, engagement and relaxed body language in the presence of a stationary bicycle in all four sets, we systematically increased criteria in the next set up.

The next set up involved a person walking the bicycle….and ultimately riding the bicycle.

Step 5: Integrate Training into Real World Scenarios. We integrated these training exercises into real world situations where exposure to bicyclists was less predictable.

If he went over threshold we focused on improving his recovery time by increasing distance and reinforcing for engagement when he proved ready.

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