I have been diligently working on resocializing my fear aggressive rescue and was wondering what your thoughts were on using fake dogs for that as opposed to just evaluating with them? My concern is that she will get comfortable with the fake dog and then instead of being calm when meeting real dogs, she will get even more afraid when a real dog does something the stuffed dog wouldn’t, like move or try to greet her. She has been in classes with other dogs for about a year now but she does not have any actual contact with the other dogs and will get scared if she is allowed to watch them.
And why don’t behaviorist use fake dogs? Do they skip that part all together? Are they always using their personal dog? Do they just say “no real way to test this so let’s not do it.”
My reactive dog group ended up with quite a variety of fake dogs, because they were so useful for getting new handlers/dogs started. Most of our dogs acted very similarly to the way they did with real dogs. A few were notably more scared of the weird new thing, though I couldn’t tell you for sure if that was because it was a ‘weird novel thing’ or a ‘weird-acting dog.’ Equally of note, almost all the humans in the group tended to treat the fake dogs as though they had aspects of realness too — we named them, spoke of them fondly, handled them with care, and occasionally petted them in an absent-minded way.
I think just selecting the use of fake dogs as the sole predictor of dog-dog aggression seems too narrow focused. I don’t know anyone in sheltering who looks at it that way, as the sole predictor.