Disaster Alert! - Teaching your dog an early warning cue for unexpected noises

Part 1 - In Germany

You’re out walking your dog and see some kids at the bus stop about to set off some firecrackers. You know that a loud bang will happen right away and that your dog will be scared. Wouldn’t it be great if you could send him a warning: “Watch out, it’s going to be loud, but you don’t have to be scared. Everything will be fine.” And wouldn’t it be fantastic if, instead of running away in panic, your dog would even turn to you after an unforeseen bang? With the Disaster Alert for Dogs, you can kill three birds with one stone: You have the opportunity to inform your dog about an imminent danger, through training you will achieve that your dog will reorient himself to you if something unforeseen happens and at the same time your dog gets used to very different sounds and thus noise anxiety is prevented.

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.