Saber Has A Fear Of Bikes
Saber has a fear of bikes, one that becomes overwhelming when the bike is in the same room as him. The fight or flight response in him is definitely flight. He cowers and physically shakes if a bike is in the same space as he is inside.
Outside he is not so bothered.He will walk on by, or let the bike pass him without too much reaction. He just watches as it goes by. Then he ensures it leaves his space and has not the slightest reaction at all.
I have scoured the internet for as much information as possible and intend to put all this to good use.
What Caused This Fear?
I have had Saber since he was 7 weeks old, as his mother got an infection and could no longer be with the puppies, so he came home with me a bit early. He has escaped only once in the time he has been with me. He was taken to a council kennels where he spent the night. I wonder if whoever found him and caught him, maybe used a bike to corner him. This would explain his fear of bikes.
I really can not think of anything else that could have caused this terrible fear.
My Plan Of Action
I intend to change his fear of bikes. Having borrowed one from a friend for a few weeks. My intention is to use these methods to help him overcome his fear of bikes.
Desensitisation to his fear of bikes
- Begin by exposing your dog to a very low level or small amount of whatever it is that’s causing his fear. For example, if he is afraid of bicycles, start with a bicycle placed at a distance of 100 feet from your dog.
- Reward him for calm, non-fearful behavior in the presence of the bicycle. Gradually move the bicycle closer to him. As long as your dog remains relaxed, reward him with treats and praise. If at any point he becomes anxious, move the bicycle further away and proceed at a slower pace.
- When your dog can remain relaxed in the presence of a stationary bicycle, move the bicycle 100 feet away again, but have someone ride it slowly by him. Again, gradually increase the proximity of the slowly moving bicycle, rewarding your dog for remaining calm and relaxed. Repeat this procedure as many times as necessary, gradually increasing the speed of the moving bicycle.
Counter Condition Him
Counter conditioning works best when used along with desensitization and involves pairing the fear stimulus with an activity or behavior incompatible with the fear behavior.
- Using the desensitization technique example described previously, while your dog is exposed to the bicycle, ask him to perform some obedience exercises, such as “sit” and “down.” Reward him for obeying and continue to have him obey commands as the bicycle is moved closer to him.
- If your dog doesn’t know any commands, teach him a few using treats and praise. Don’t ever use punishment, collar corrections or scolding to teach him the commands, as the point of counter conditioning is for him to associate pleasant things with the thing that frightens him.
I have purchased a clicker and intend to use the device to assist in adjusting his behaviour.
How Does Clicker Training Work?
To begin with a dog is taught that the sound of the click means he will get a tasty reward. When he does what is asked, such as sits or lies down, the clicker is pressed and the click sound is immediately followed by a reward. This gives a dog instant feedback and reinforces the particular action, choice or behavior he has just done. The dog soon associates the sound with something good and responds quickly again in anticipation of receiving a similar reward.
The clicker device is usually hand held which makes it difficult for some people to use. However if the clicker is put on a finger or worn attached to a ‘bracelet’ around the wrist, it can be easier to access while leaving hands free to hold a leash. Some people prefer to use a simple word such as “good” or “yes” as a verbal marker instead of a clicker while others like to use a verbal marker while pressing the clicker so that both markers become the reward. This can make the transition from using the clicker to just a verbal cue, easier.
I will use the clicker to assist in the training him out of his fear of bikes (hopefully)
How to ‘Charge’ the Clicker:
- Start with a handful of really delicious treats cut into small pieces.
- Every time you click, give your dog a treat. Do not click and treat at the same time; the treat must follow the click. You can also throw the treat onto the ground and click just before your dog eats it.
- Repeat the process while you are standing up, sitting down, or moving about and in all different kinds of environments, so your dog understands that no matter where he hears the click, he has done something right and will receive a tasty reward.
- Repeat this exercise a few times a day for a few minutes at a time until, when you click, you notice that your dog is eagerly anticipating the treat.
I have never used the clicker method of training him before, I usually just use a marker word such as yes and no. This time though I intend to use the clicker because I believe this is going to take a new and slow approach.
I have already charged the clicker over the last couple of days, teaching him the “look at me” command with it. A command with which he is already familiar, so using the clicker to help enforce the command.
I am collecting the bike tomorrow and intend to start training Saber straight away. I am going in to this with a state of mind that it will help Saber. My intention is to video some of the training sessions and hopefully show the effect of the training.
Does your dog have any fears? Comment below and let me know if you managed to change your dogs behaviour. A fear of bikes.
After only two days 4 sessions with the bike, i have got Saber to walk to heel next to the bike. Even though it is only in the yard, it is a massive breakthrough. Saber will touch and sniff the bike showing only small signs of the terrible fear he had. Once I have built up his confidence, hopefully over the next few days, It will be time to take his training on the road so to speak.
Advise Given By A Dog Trainer
“Hello John, You will have to do this very gradually. Think of his favorite things in life – a ball, chicken, a dog friend, a favorite person, ect…Make a list of his favorite things. In a safely fenced in area, do something with him that involves that wonderful thing.
Once he is engaged in something fun and focused on that, have a well-known friend he trusts calmly walk the bike around the yard pretty far away from him at a slow pace. Keep the bike far enough away that he can stay relaxed and having fun with your fun activity but close enough that he can see that it’s there.
Practice this a lot.
When he is completely comfortable around the bike from that distance and that pace and will just ignore it, then gradually make it slightly harder by getting the bike a few feet closer or making the bike go a little faster…Only make it harder in one way at a time – either faster or close but not both.
Practice each new difficultly until he is completely comfortable with that, then make it a little harder again. Overtime the bike should slowly start to get closer to him and faster. Whenever he looks over at the bike and hasn’t reacted badly yet, make it a party. Praise him and get him excited – act happy and confident and not worried or sorry for him. He is watching your emotions to see how he should feel, so you need to convey confidence and upbeat happy or at least calm and relaxed.
If all you want is for him to overcome his fear of bikes, then he should be over his fear of them by this point in the training. Refresh the training every once in a while to keep bikes fun and to off set any less pleasant encounters with strangers on bikes. When he can handle the bike riding past him, if you are wanting to train him to run next to you while you ride a bike, then encourage him to run next to you while you run by a bike someone else is on while in a fenced in area.
You can use a favorite toy to encourage him to follow you. Only do this when he has already worked up to the bike going past him at a normal biking pace. Practice running alongside the bike until he learns to enjoy that activity and is completely relaxed and happy while doing it. At this point you can transition to normal bike jogging training for dogs. If you are not needing him to run next to you while you ride, then I don’t suggest working on this last part because it is safer if he just learns to ignore bikes and not expect to run next to them. Best of luck training”
Saber has been working hard with his behaviour adjustment training. He shows absolutely no fear or worry about MY bike, or me riding it around him, towards him and if I ride it away from him he follows without problem.
I can bring the bike inside and he doesn’t give it a second glance either. I have kept the bike inside and he sleeps next to it.
The caveat being, he is still nervous around other bikes and other people with bikes. Obviously more work is required!!
First of, let me say excuse me for the messy photo, but this is definitely good news for Saber. He finally no longer reacts to bikes, or most importantly strange bikes and their riders.
He will now happily let them ride past him without any reaction at all no matter where he is.
It has taken nearly four months but his fear and reactivity to bikes is finally over.
Any body out there had similar problems? join in the discussion below.