No two dogs are alike, and when you interact with them, you’ll probably have noticed that they behave differently. Some dogs make instant friends and socialize effortlessly while others cringe and exhibit defensive body language when confronted with a new dog or human.
This happens because the dog does not feel comfortable when you disregard a dog’s safety bubble. That’s why we need to train our dogs using bubble theory training, especially if they’re reactive dogs.
Bubble theory dog training is a training approach that focuses on creating a “bubble” of safety and comfort around the dog to help them feel secure and confident while learning new behaviors. It uses positive reinforcement techniques and aims to build a strong bond between the dog and the trainer.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at this fascinating, effective training method, how you can help your dog establish a safety bubble, and how to deal with a scared or reactive dog.
What is The Bubble Theory?
Every dog (and human!) has an invisible bubble around itself. It is used to carefully protect and maintain his personal space and he might become stressed when a dog in the distance or another potential invader is closer, especially if you live with a scared dog.
What is a Reactive Dog?
A reactive dog can sometimes be identified by overreactions toward some things. They may bark incessantly during a walk if they spot someone or another dog and at times, it might be so confrontational that you’ll have to drag them away.
This is what a reactive dog is, and how they react around unfamiliar situations. Often, they exhibit this behavior due to a lack of socialization, prior trauma when they were adolescents, or lack of training.
Reactive dogs have much larger personal space bubbles where they feel safe, whereas confident dogs have smaller personal space bubbles. This means that a reactive dog might start barking even when the stimuli are far away, while a confident dog can tend to completely disregard a passing dog.
There is a distinct difference between a reactive and an aggressive dog. An aggressive dog may show similar signs but is determined to cause harm and destruction, and it may bite or attack.
A reactive one is acting up just because they want to get out of the situation.
If not handled properly, your reactive dog can become aggressive in the future, which is why you need to start training them to avoid this from happening.
Bubble Theory Dog Training for Reactive Dogs
Bubble theory is a recent finding in the dog trainer community, but this technique has merits since it works well most of the time. It refers to the theory that dogs are best trained in a relaxed and calm environment.
It relies on creating a bubble or personal safe space around your dog during training. Inside this safe space, your dog will then be able to retain so much more of what you’re training them to do.
There are numerous benefits that you can get from bubble theory training.
By creating a comfortable and calm environment for them to train in, you can obtain and keep your dog’s focus as they are less anxious, deepening the bond and quality of training with your dog because there are no distractions.
Here’s a short Youtube video on the Bubble Theory:
How to Control Your Dog’s Personal Space Bubble
Now that you understand what a reactive dog is and about bubble theory training, we’ll dive deeper into how you can use this to improve your dog’s behavior and ability to retain its training.
Remember that each dog has a different comfort level due to their prior experiences, so you’ll have to adjust this technique to your dog’s personality and how ready they are to move on from one step to another.
Shrink Your Dog’s Personal Space Bubble
The first thing you need to do is to shrink your dog’s space bubble. As we mentioned, each dog might have a different diameter of personal space. The more fearful your dog is, the bigger their personal space bubble.
Some dogs, especially rescue dogs, might react very negatively toward you in the beginning, so take it very slowly with them.
But you should not give up!
The goal is to get your dog to be comfortable with you being very close to its face in addition to having deep and prolonged eye contact without confrontation.
If they react negatively, take a step back and repeat until they’re more comfortable having eye contact. Over time, they’ll develop more trust in you and will become less reactive.
What A Training Session Should Look Like
If you have established more trust with your reactive dog, you should start having your training session while remaining in the bubble without any distractions from outside. The goal is to have 2 to 3 feet of training bubble, just between you and your dog.
You will need to start establishing eye contact and not break it. Fearful dogs often will swing their head from your gaze, but you should immediately seek it again because it’s important to create a dynamic with your dog.
Then start training them with commands, armed with clickers and treats. Signal your command with the clicker and give them treats when they behave appropriately.
Clicker training is founded on the principles of positive reinforcement which is the only type of training employed by top canine professionals worldwide.
Start To Widen Your Dog’s Personal Space Bubble Overtime
As your dog is becoming more used to the small training bubble, now’s the time you try to expand its bubble. Your dog needs to become used to both small and large safe bubbles so that they react accordingly to any situation.
Monitor closely, and start creating a larger space between you and your dog during training. Make sure you maintain eye contact with them, because if not the bubble will burst and they won’t be listening to you at all.
Expand that bubble slowly, and if they react positively it’s time for you to introduce others into the bubble. It can be other dogs or people, but you should monitor this to see their comfort level.
The last thing you want is to burst a dog’s bubble and lose their attention and trust.
Reactive and fearful dogs can be tricky and likely became that way through no fault of theirs. With tons of patience and understanding, you can help them come out of their shell and help them be much more relaxed on walks.
Try to understand your dog’s body language and make sure not to let others into his space if he isn’t ready for it. When in doubt, always check with a qualified trainer or behaviorist. Good luck!