Remedial Socialization – The Watch the World Game

The original idea for this protocol was developed by Laura Van Dyne CPDT-KA, The Canine Consultant LLC, Carbondale, CO.

OBJECTIVE: To help a neo-phobic dog habituate to novel people in novel environments


Dog/handler teams are appropriate for this exercise when:

  • The dog is well bonded with and trusting of the handler.
  • The handler is very sure that this exercise will work. If there is any doubt, consult with a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) that is experienced in working with fearful and reactive dogs before proceeding.


The handler will need:

  • To read the recommended resources at the end of this document.
  • A hungry dog with a properly fitting harness or collar, one that they cannot remove or slip off. Shock, choke, or prong collars should NEVER be used.
  • A standard, 6-foot leash.
  • High value treats such as freeze-dried liver, meat, or cheese.
  • A vehicle with a door that can be opened so the dog and person can sit inside the vehicle together (hatchback or van with sliding side door) facing outward with the door open.
  • A parking lot with an appropriate level of activity, little or no action at first that is sufficiently large that you can position your car several yards away from any activity.


When to Start:

  • During a quiet time.
    • Sunday morning, unless it’s a church parking lot.
  • Park at a distant point with the door for sitting facing the parking lot.
  • Sit inside with the dog either tethered or securely in hand.
  • Give treats to the dog as long as the dog is not reactive.
  • The goal is for the dog to see something in the distance and anticipate a yummy treat

Training Sessions:

  • Are short and very fun – quit before the dog is sated, typically within five minutes.
  • Happen frequently and repeated in the same location until successful (don’t go to parking lot #2 until your dog is non-reactive and content in parking lot #1).
  • Are at the beginning level of difficulty until the dog sees something new and promptly looks toward its handler for the yummy treat.
  • Are only gradually increased in difficulty as the dog is successful.


The goal is to be able to:

  • Sit in front of a busy grocery store with different types of people, grocery carts, cars, etc. passing by. Ideally, some of the people are speaking other languages and are of different nationalities

Remember Thus far – the team is still cocooned within the safety of the vehicle


Graduate out of the car:

  • Only when assured of success.
  • Perhaps in the original parking lot (#1), at the distant (station #1) location.
  • Step out of the car and simply stand there holding the leash securely in hand, if the dog is comfortable it should step out and stay with you to get more treats (Stay at this level for as many repetitions as necessary).
  • Graduate to walking around the car.
  • With success move closer to the action in future sessions.


Graduate to an outside location:

  • Find an appropriate bench or take something to sit on (Suggestion-have the dog sitting next to its person; it’s a more secure place than being removed to the ground).
  • Choose a place that is so easy; your dog is practically guaranteed to be non-fearful and non-reactive – maybe it’s just a quiet place – no people, vehicles, etc. at first
  • Gradually increase the difficulty – Over Practice Success!


What could go wrong?

  • Someone passing by could want to, ‘Pet the dog’ or come to visit with the person. The cuter and smaller dogs will be more attractive to passersby.
  • Sometimes, for safety and success the handler may have to be assertive to the point of rude to keep people away**
  • Bring a helper to run interference if necessary.
  • If the handler cannot read the stress level of the dog accurately, the dog could get worse!
  • “Life Happens” – at any time, if things go awry, leave.


Many people in the general public think they are a dog person, “Dogs love me!” and they move in, forward facing, staring at the dog, with their hands reaching for the dog’s face (actually doing all the wrong things!). A handler comment like, “Please don’t approach, my dog is fearful.” seems to stimulate the worst in passersby so the handler may have to interrupt and, perhaps, cross the border of polite behavior to prevent problems.


Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( )


Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do? – WWM – APR2017 –

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful? –

Management of An Aggressive, Fearful or Reactive Dog

Remedial Socialization – Objects – Bring the Junkyard Home

Reward Based Training versus Aversives

Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress –

What Is A Pet Behavior Consultant? –

What Should I Do When My Dog Does Not Let Me Take Something They Have Stolen and Snaps or Tries to Bite Me?

What Should I Do When My Dog Growls?

©11SEP18, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >