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Set Ups are what actually help to change our dog’s feelings and behaviors around their triggers. (Which is why they’re so important if you want to see behavior change!) Here’s what they are and how to do them.

What is a Set Up?

It’s an intentional exposure to your dog’s trigger where you use your behavior tools.

How can I do a Set Up?

  • Artificially arrange one with family members/friends/neighbors/fake dogs or cats/trigger sounds on YouTube, etc. (Like we do in our sessions!) You have control over when triggers show up, how far away they are, and how long they’re there for.

  • Do it in the wild! (Like going to a dog park and parking at a distance from it, or going to a park where people tend to walk along a path that you can work at a distance from.) You intentionally go somewhere where your dog’s trigger will be present. You have less control over the triggers, but triggers may be easier to come by. We recommend scouting 1-2 locations that might work, and then bringing your dog there for a few short sessions to acclimate before starting Set Ups there around triggers.

What are the Goals?

We think of the goal of Set Ups in 2 parts:

  1. Maximize the time your dog is feeling and behaving positively around the trigger.

  2. Minimize the time your dog is feeling and behaving negatively around the trigger.

In this way, our dogs’ brains literally practice feeling good to neutral around their trigger. This is exactly what we want! The more often our dog’s brain says “Oh there’s my trigger, no big deal!”, the easier it will be for them to do in the future.

Here’s how to do that:

  • Help your dog stay under threshold (keep that bubble from popping). Maintain enough distance from the trigger that your dog can be successful.

  • Use your behavior plan tools as needed to find out how your dog is feeling and make their experience positive.

  • If your dog can’t respond to their tools, their bubble is close to popping or popped! Help them out by moving further away, removing the trigger, or distracting them until it’s gone.

  • Keep sessions short and sweet. If you need to build up time around your dog’s trigger, do it gradually. For example, if your dog has Big Feelings about guests, bring them out for just 5-15 minutes at the first Set Ups and then bring them to their safe zone away from guests for the rest of their visit. As they are successful, you can go longer.

For most dogs, having 2-3 Set Ups a week is a good place to start. (If your consultant recommends otherwise, follow that instead!) If you have any questions, let us know and we’ll help you out!