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Tackling gear shyness

Gear shyness is a term used to describe when an assistance dog struggles with wearing a vest, harness or other piece of equipment.

This may seem like quite a small thing to tackle however this can impact the entire time they are working and training. The process of over coming this helps to build confidence and will over all help your dog to willingly focus on you and enjoy engaging in training.

Gear shyness is not always as simple as it seems. Please talk to me about this before attempting this technique. It could be as deeply rooted as your dogs entire relationship with training and working as an assistance dog. However, most of the time, especially if you have a poodle or golden retriever who are very sensitive dogs it is related to the feeling or weight of the harness.

Whilst you’re completing this process also make sure to discontinue using the piece of gear or harness until your dog can happily wear it.

Get your harness out, mark, Reward (tug game, ball, treats, dinner). Continue this until your dog becomes excited or interested in the harness.

Get down to your dogs level, have the harness infant of you both. Reward any interest in the harness that is on their terms (sniffs, looks). You can induce this interest by moving the harness about or pointing to it.

Hold the harness up and repeat this process. The item can look far more daunting held than it does on the ground.

When your dog is happily at this stage, lure their head through the harness using a treat

Repeat this until your dog begins to predict putting their head through

When they offer to put their head through reward this heavily

Introduce a cue at this point ‘Get dressed!’

When your dog is wearing the harness - good things happen (walk, play, dinner)

Reward a shake - this is good self management of stress and is the equivalent of a human sigh!


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