You may have seen it online, you may have seen it at home, but chances are you have seen a dog freak out while they walk across aluminum foil. The reaction is so effective that many use it as a training tool for dogs everywhere. Apart from it's training tool potential, it is just good fun to see your canine friend lose their minds. Like tossing a cucumber beside your cat. It may feel mean, but the giggles are worth it. Why do they react that way? Is it an innate behavioral response? How do people use this as a training tool and how is it effective?
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The Root of the Behavior
So it I just the standard aluminum foil from the grocery store. Any brand will work really, and if your dog is afraid of it, you will be able to take note of that the second you start unrolling it. Just watch your dog tuck his tail between his legs and retreat into another room. This reaction departs a bit from the tale of the kitten and the cucumber when we start talking about why they are afraid. The kitten is afraid of the cucumber because they believe it to be a snake. When we are talking about dogs, it is unlikely the consider the foil to be a snake. It is the sound the foil makes as it moves and crumples, the sharp texture it makes under their paws, and the mirror like sheen across the surface. This is what your dog reacts to.
This has great potential and use as a training tool. Lay it down on your couch where your dog tries to sit, but you would like to keep him off. Place it in certain entry ways to train your dog not to enter certain areas of the home. Essentially any boundary you would not like them to cross, any perch you would not like them to get onto or rest on, or any other area you would like to keep them away from, aluminum foil can help. These features, although not unique to aluminum foil, are certainly not common around the house or your dogs life. These unique and unexpected principles cause the reaction you see when they step on it. That reaction is fight or flight, with nothing to fight. It is important to note that not all dogs are in fact afraid of aluminum foil, and some actually just chew on it instead. If your dog falls into this category, then it is not likely aluminum foil is going to work well for you as a training tool.
Encouraging the Behavior
You should not worry too much if this is the case with your dog and they ingest a certain amount of foil. Regardless of what the internet tells you aluminum foil is not toxic to your dog, and if they eat some of it they should be fine, although probably not enjoy passing it very much. Some is a relative term here, and aluminum should not be a regular part of your dogs diet, so if you try and train them with some foil and they just start eating it, you probably should move on to a different training method. That being said for dogs that this works for, aluminum foil becomes quite the tool. This stuff, when placed in the areas you would like your dog to avoid, will quickly teach them the zones that are off limits. Once the walk on it, crawl on to it, and the crinkling sound cuts the air they will freak out. They will quickly remove themselves from the area. They will likely only make this mistake a few times before they learn to stay away from the areas adorned with foil. At the point, they will likely stay away even after the foil has been removed.
Other Solutions and Considerations
People often assume that it is only their dog that is afraid of foil, they record the adorable reactions, then post them online for us all to see. If you are not careful, you can easily fall victim to the unending depths of internet reaction videos of dogs to foil. If you intended to use foil for training your dog and it turns out they are just not afraid, perhaps laying right on it like it was a blanket, then you may be here looking for another solution to your problem. Your best bet is a dog trainer. They will be able to help you set up the best practices in your household which can help you train your dog to behave the way you would like.