ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

My Indoor Method for Helping Dogs Reactive Towards Other Dogs

Updated on January 11, 2016
I also use this method for dogs reactive towards people/dogs entering the home.
I also use this method for dogs reactive towards people/dogs entering the home.

Among my favorite force-free behavior modification techniques is a method known as "open bar, closed bar." This method is mentioned by Jean Donaldson in her book "Dogs are from Neptune." It consists of creating positive associations with a trigger the dog is reactive to. For instance, should a dog be reactive towards bikes, he would be fed many tasty treats when he sees the bike (open bar) and then all the tasty treats are gone when the bike is out of sight (closed bar.) Repetition after repetition, the dog starts looking forward to seeing bikes because bikes are associate with good things (treats).

As the owner of a cage-less boarding and training center, I often get dogs who are reactive towards other dogs. Many times dog owners want help with these dogs and decide to board their reactive dogs with me. We often work using pre-LAT behavior modification and Leslie McDevitt's LAT, another one of my favorite methods. I also use Open Bar and Closed Bar, but one day it was raining really hard and I couldn't conduct an outdoor session. When monsoon season takes place in the summer in Arizona we get often get torrential downpours and our primitive roads get quickly flooded. Frustrated about calling a session off, I got the idea of using an indoor version of open, bar closed bar, with a twist. One main advantage is that I have DAP diffusers in my training room so they could help a dog feel a bit more calmer than outdoors. Also, we worked in the previous days in desensitizing the reactive dog to common canine noises using "hear that." I was quickly impressed at how quickly this method worked, so I am sharing it with other force-free trainers. I baptized this method "open door, closed door."

How to Implement Open Door Closed Door

In order to get started, you'll need obviously a door that can be closed, a baby gate, some barriers (in my case I used large storage containers) small, bite sized treats that make a noise when they fall to the floor, a reactive dog, and a calm stimulus dog that you are sure won't ever jump over or push his way through the barriers. I often use a fake, stimulus dog before using a real stimulus dog. My fake stimulus dog is Rottie, so when the reactive dog sees my real rotties they don't get much upset. My rotties have solid sit stay so we usually start with that and then add movement. For safety and proper implementation, this method should be conducted along with a dog trainer/behavior professional equipped with a calm, reliable stimulus dog.

The goal: the goal is to have the reactive dog understand that when the door is open and he sees the other dog he gets a tasty treat. It's also important to keep the reactive dog sub-threshold by keeping the calm, stimulus dog at a distance. In the video below, you may see that I also give a tasty treat to the calm stimulus dog. I do this because I want the stimulus dog to turn around (a calming signal) the moment the reactive dog sees him. This takes good timing, and sometimes even with my best effort, the two dogs may happen to make eye contact I try my best to re-direct as soon as I can when this happens. However, I sometimes purposely allow these brief moments of eye contact to happen when I start raising criteria. I must confess I also give treats to my calm, stimulus dog because I want him to have fun too!

Following are steps:
1. Keep several tasty, bite-sized treats in your hand. These treats work best if they make a sound when they fall to the ground.
2. Create a barrier at a distance so the dogs aren't too close. This helps keep the reactive dog under threshold. You may need to initially gauge this distance based on the reactive dog's response. Don't flood!
3. Keep the door closed.
4. Open the door and immediately toss a treat behind the reactive dog so he must turn around to get it.
5. Afterward, toss a treat behind the stimulus dog so by the time the reactive dog is done eating, he'll see the stimulus dog turning around rather than making direct eye contact.
6. Repeat several times. If at any time the reactive dog gets stiff, you are working to close for comfort. Increase distance! Being a splitter and not a lumper applies also to behavior modification.
7. When you are done with the treats, close the door. Replenish and start all over. Make sure all your sessions end on a very positive note. The last time the reactive dog sees the stimulus dog for the day, he should get a bonus, that 4-5 treats at once and lavish praise.

In the video below is a sample of open door/closed door of this past summer. Back then, I just discovered this method and I wasn't that great in multi-tasking and timing the back-and-forth treat tossing. Now, I am doing much better, and it takes a shorter time for improvement to be seen. I will upload a newer video when I have time. This indoor groundwork can then be utilized outdoors. The dogs boarding with us did brilliant once the roads were clear after the last monsoon season rains and we worked on open bar closed bar. Best of all, the owners were quite surprised when they picked up their dogs and saw that their wouldn't bark, growl or lunge at our stimulus dogs!

Disclaimer: if your dog is reactive, please consult with a dog behavior professional. Trying behavior modification methods without the guidance and expertise of a professional may be risky and may put you at risk for being bitten.

Adrienne Farricelli, All Rights Reserved, do not copy.

Changing Dog to Dog Reactivity


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • moonlake profile image


      5 years ago from America

      Enjoyed watching the video. What a great idea too reactivate a dog. Very helpful hub. Sharing.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)