When it comes to reactive dogs, you already know how much stress they can add to your life. In fact, just walking them can be a hassle because the dog reacts frequently to other dogs and situations that he considers threatening.
When it comes to training your dog to handle the situation better, you’ll have numerous methods that could work, and one of them is called the bubble theory. What is it, and why is it effective? Keep reading to find out the answers.
What Is Bubble Theory Dog Training?
First of all, consider that your dog gets uneasy and nervous around other dogs or even people. It could be because he’s been involved in a fight with another dog in the past, or because he gets nervous around hyperactive children, or even because he doesn’t like traffic.
Whatever the reason, you might be tired of your dog reacting every time certain people get around him or certain sounds are emitted. That’s when bubble theory dog training comes in so handy.
Simply put, bubble theory states that there should be an emotional “bubble” surrounding the dog and even the owner; in other words, an area where the dog feels safe and is therefore much less inclined to bark or react negatively. Different reactive dogs respond this way to different triggers. For one dog, it might be a worker wearing a reflective vest, and for another it could be thunder or fireworks. But whatever it is, the bubble theory can help.
The trick is to create that bubble yourself using counter-conditioning. While the bubble is invisible, if you use positive reinforcement to reward certain behaviors and reactions, the dog will eventually learn that once he’s inside that bubble, he is safe and therefore doesn’t have to react in a negative way. The main point you need to remember is that once he does start to react negatively, which could happen while he’s still being trained, it is too late to do anything about it.
In practical terms, this means that while the training is going on, you might still have trouble with your dog barking, pulling himself forward, and reacting in other less-than-perfect ways. Training takes a lot of patience, but the bubble theory is a proven one that has worked for all breeds of dogs along the way. In fact, any dog that has very specific triggers or reactions to triggers can benefit from bubble training. It’s up to the owner to train them and stick with it until it takes.
What Type of Dog Can Benefit From Bubble Training?
If your dog has a specific fear and gets stressed, nervous, or anxious when that fear or trigger appears, they can be a good candidate for bubble training. That being said, it’s important to take note of his reactions early on, because the sooner you start with bubble training, the more likely the training will be successful. Some of the reactions a dog may have to these triggers include:
- Turning their head away from the trigger
- Trying to get out of the way
- Sitting in a very agitated way
- Barking, growling, or snapping
- Licking his nose
- Blinking rapidly
- Tucking his tail under his body
- Pawing at the ground
There are other possible reactions as well, but the most important thing to remember is to be observant and look at the reaction of your dog, especially if you’ve noticed in the past that he has reacted negatively to certain people or certain situations. Again, the longer you wait to get started with the training, the less likely it’s going to be successful. With bubble training, what you’ll be doing is turning that negative reaction into a positive one, and it doesn’t have to be that difficult.
The Steps Involved in Bubble Theory Training
For successful bubble theory dog training, below are the basic steps you need to take:
Step 1: Create the Bubble AKA a Positive Environment
You’ll have to create a very nurturing environment that the dog feels comfortable in, but you cannot do this with punishment or any type of negative reinforcement. Instead, encourage certain behaviors by using play, treats, and praise.
For example, if your dog loves a certain treat, give him that as you’re training each time he reacts in the way you want him to react. Remember that you’re trying to encourage specific commands and behaviors.
Step 2: Never Use Punishment as a Deterrent
Punishment or any other method that is fear-based will not work with this type of training. Instead, the dog is more likely to continue to react negatively to the triggers, even though it might be a different negative reaction.
It may even make the reactions more severe. Instead, what you want is for the dog to be comfortable and feel safe while you’re training him, and to learn and then mimic the behaviors you expect from him.
Step 3: Establish a Personal Bond With the Dog
You want the dog to trust you and feel safe around you, and you want the relationship between you and the dog to be a positive one. Train with the dog frequently, incorporate some play time with each session, and only participate in positive interactions the entire time. With each training session, you should see a little bit of progress, especially if you’re using positive reinforcement the entire time.
Step 4: Always Be Consistent
The bubble theory dog training takes a different amount of time for each dog, so you’ll have to be patient. Reward good behavior as often as possible and be consistent. Also remember that every dog is going to learn at his own pace. If you continue to have training sessions, offer positive reinforcement for all of the “right” behaviors every single time, and be patient, it will eventually happen.
Step 5: Realize That It Won’t Always Go Smoothly
One of the main tips to remember with this type of training is that you’re teaching the dog to be proactive instead of reactive. As such, slip-ups will occur and problem behaviors will happen. The more you anticipate these behaviors, the more you can do to prevent them from happening, or at the very least, know what to do when they do occur.
Even with mess-ups, never use punishment or negative reinforcement, but simply show the dog that he should be reacting positively instead.
Bubble Theory for Aggressive Dogs
Yes, aggressive dogs can benefit from bubble theory dog training. In fact, this type of training is beneficial to most dogs. What you’ll want to do is try to decrease the size of the “bubble” so that it gets smaller and the dog is less afraid of the triggers that are close to him.
Consistency and patience are crucial, and while it may take a little longer when dogs are especially aggressive around their triggers, this doesn’t mean an aggressive dog can’t benefit from the training.
Bubble theory states that creating an emotional “bubble,” or safe zone, around the dog teaches him to react differently when triggers are present. Using counter-conditioning or positive reinforcement should be the road you take because negative reinforcement or punishment won’t work.
Once you train for a while, the bubble will get smaller until the dog learns to react positively even to triggers that are very close to him.