Lets see how easy I can put this concept of walking your dog and how when your training this “trick”, which it is, you are really training several smaller “tricks” compiled into one. As the title states, it all begins with a look.
My clients often get frustrated that they can’t get the new puppy or dog to walk to the park or around the block with out weaving or pulling or stopping or barking. Lets forget about barking or reactivity for now and just touch on the basics. There is a reason I teach focus and attention first and continuously throughout my sessions. Everything else I want my dog to do for me is contingent on having this attention. So before I take that first step or better yet before the leash even comes out or clips on, I get my dogs attention. Forget how I do this. There are many ways. The point is if I don’t my dog is most definitely practicing something else I would prefer them not to do like jump around, rush the door, or take off without me.
So very often I won’t even start the walking in a 6 week training course until the 3rd week. By that time we have learned how to reinforce properly and we have begun to sit, hand target and offer eye contact by default. All of these I use on my early walks. So to be even more clear, I don’t want my clients doing much real walking initially either. What! Yep. I don’t want the dog to practice walking incorrectly either. They can get their exercise out with play and you can take your walks without them. To socialize is the only reason I want my clients taking them out on leash and making mistakes here. When we train walking we are generally walking in circles and back and forth, in fact you can do it all in your home in many cases.
Think about this. All the problems you face on a walk manifest when your pup or dog takes their eyes off of you. I don’t need them to competition heel but imagine your dog pulling 6 feet ahead and breaking his neck to look back. Doesn’t happen. How to they sniff pee or eat leaves and look at your face? They can’t. So why not teach the hell out of attention and focus? I do and I don’t ever take that for granted even as an adult. Instead of expecting a walk I work on reinforcing your dog with treats about every 2 steps and clicking or marking the look in my eyes. I walk slow and turn a lot. I change direction and keep my treats coming right to my left leg which is where the nose is. If my dog gets ahead of me, I stop immediately and click and treat the second they look back to find me and move on with a turn which puts them behind me again. As soon as they start to follow I click/treat again. Remember if they get ahead of you, your reinforcement rate is probably too slow. In between all of these movements I am stopping and getting a sit with eye contact. The instant I my foot moves to walk I click/treat the dog for not taking off ahead of me and by default paying attention to my face rather than my leg. Last but not least in this walking training, remember to talk and engage with your dog. Use his name and make kissy noises, keep their attention or lose it and start over. The leash should be the last line of communication if you are doing this right. If you are really good you don’t even need a leash but that is not advisable. For more training info please go to www.OCcaninecoaching.com or find me on Facebook.