Among my toolbox of force-free methods used for behavior modification, Leslie McDevitt's "Look at that" holds a favorite spot in my heart. I like to see the dog's emotions change as the eyes brighten up into what I like to call "the LAT look" coming from a dog who has happily discovered that looking at dogs now unlocks a world of rewards. The results are often quick and quite mind blogging when you look at how the dog used to react at the sight of other dogs before its implementation.
What's LAT "on the go?"
If you look at most LAT videos, you'll see that the dog is for the most part stationary, with the stimulus dog at a distance. This is a good place to start as you want the stimulus dog to be presented in stationary way as movement often triggers reactive behavior. After instituting pre-LAT behavior modification, I go straight into LAT in this way, with the reactive dog in an area, and the stimulus dog at a distance using a calm dog that doesn't move too much. However, at some point you'll need to raise criteria and add more movement and this means often using more "bouncy" stimulus dogs.
Because I take my reactive dogs on walks and walks are often where dogs are more likely to see other dogs, I decided to bring LAT along for the ride in what I call "LAT on the go." No, this isn't a new drive-through drink for people in a hurry who must rush back to their office. It's simply a more dynamic version of LAT, I came up one day when a reactive dog I was walking was repeatedly turning around to look at a dog walking behind us that must have worried him a bit. We walked more ahead, and at some point, I decided to pop a tasty treat in his mouth each timer he turned around. Treat after treat, he started looking at the other dog in a less worrisome way.
So now, I purposely prepare "on the go" settings where the reactive dog walks ahead and the stimulus dog walks behind at a distance that keeps the reactive dog under threshold. For dogs new to LAT on the go, we purposely turn around to look at the dog walking behind us. The moment of eye contact, the reactive dog is given a treat. This is done several times, until the reactive dog spontaneously looks at the dog because he knows a treat is coming.
While a lot of classical conditioning goes on in LAT, (the dog associates the sight of the other dog with treats) operant conditioning will happen inevitably as well. Through positive reinforcement, the behavior of looking at the other dog will repeat and increase in frequency. You'll therefore end up with a dog who will turn around to look at the other dog more and more. This is a good thing, and for those concerned about being stuck with a dog that will turn around all the time to look at another dog, I can say that criteria can later be raised to perfect the leash walking. Criteria should be raised though only once the dog no longer seems worried about the other dogs.
How to move from "LAT on the go" to attention heeling.
Here's what to do: at some point, when the dog is no longer reacting at other dogs walking behind, after looking at the dog, instead of delivering the treat right away, you'll bring the treat at your eye level and entice your dog to look up at you while walking instead of continuously turning around to look at the other dog. Soon, your dog will learn that the sight of another dog means to look at you and then do a few steps of attention heeling. This is a great way to train your dog to focus on you instead of focusing on other dogs and reacting. As mentioned, I like to move to this more operant form of LAT only once the reactive dog seems more comfortable with other dogs and his emotions are better under control.
Adrienne Farricelli All rights reserved, do not copy