Disaster Alert! - Teaching your dog an early warning cue for unexpected noises
Part 1 - In Germany
Disaster Alert for Dogs – The Protocol
Step 1 – Noises are yummy!
You need a bunch of keys, an assistant and lots of very good treats.
Start by having the assistant drop the keychain to the ground from a very low height and at a distance from the dog. As soon as your dog orients himself to the sound, you click or give your marker signal and give your dog a very delicious treat.
- Noise – dog orients towards the sound – mark and give a yummy treat
Repeat this many times until your dog automatically reorientates towards you when the assistant drops the keychain.
After a while, your assistant drops the key from higher up or closer to the dog.
PLEASE NOTE: Your dog must never be afraid of the noise during this training. When desensitizing, we always train below threshold. If your dog is over threshold, it is not possible anymore for him to get used to the noise and to learn that there will be a treat after the reorientation! In this case, it is necessary to increase distance and to lower the intensity of the noise!
Step 2 – Generalization: ALL noises are yummy!
If your dog has learned that the spooky sound is not so spooky after all and that he reorientates himself to you as soon as he hears it, then you now need a lot of different things that cause very different sounds, e.g. a pot on which you can bang with a wooden spoon, a carton box falling to the floor, a tin box with rattling nails in it, a noise-making toy, bottles and cans banging together, a paper bag that you can inflate and burst, etc.
You introduce each of these new sounds just like the keychain in step 1. That means the helper starts again with a very low noise intensity and a large distance to the dog.
Practice in different places with different sounds. The goal is for your dog to turn to you without thinking at each unexpected noise. You can now use this tool outside and in case of emergency, for example if you are on a walk and suddenly a firecracker is set off somewhere. As soon as your dog hears the noise, you mark and give him a very good treat.
Step 3 – The info cue: Disaster Alert for dogs
Now it’s time to introduce a cue that announces to your dog that a sudden noise is about to happen.
Just before your assistant drops something, you say “Disaster Alert!”, so your dog learns that something will happen when he hears that informational cue and reorientates himself to you.
- “Disaster Alert!” – noise – marker – dog reorientates towards you – super yummy treat
Are you out and about with your dog and see that a sudden noise is about to happen, for example a firecracker is set off, you can now warn your dog with “Disaster Alert!”.
Of course, you can use this info cue in various situations if you see something that you know will frighten your dog.