|Phoenix gives the most beautiful attention on walks! She's a dream!|
Last week I told you all about how I am trying to work on my dog's leash skills. As I was thinking about a training plan, I started thinking about routines. We humans love our routines and it's really easy to get set in our ways. I am no different, in fact, I got super annoyed when a new neighbor moved in and promptly installed tie outs for her dogs directly on my daily path. Tie outs are not allowed in our complex but people do it anyways. Her dogs are reactive and they are now tied in the area Zoe loves most for pottying. Not cool, neighbor! Not cool! Not to mention Zoe is a pain in the butt about finding potty spots.
Anyways, I realized I was pretty much walking my dogs in a straight line, my route was direct and to the point. Just like Zoe and Phoenix, I had somewhere to get to. Without even realizing it, I was trying to get their walks around our apartment complex over with as quickly as possible. I was definitely set in my routine path and any deviation from this path annoyed me.
One big loose leash walking tip is to change directions or turn around and go the other way when a dog pulls. This is not meant to give the dog a leash correction or anything like that. It's to keep the dog from getting reinforced (getting to where they want to go) by pulling. I've been fighting the "turn around" method for 4 years and I just realized it. Turning around and going the opposite direction is not getting me to where I want to go. I was also unable to use this method back in the beginning because a lot of the walks we went on were with friends and their dogs. (Training is hard when you go on group walks and I don't recommend doing them when your dog is first learning.) Turning around meant the dreaded leash walks will take longer and we could be doing something else! (Like training tricks!) Turning around or changing directions was counter productive to my reinforcement (getting the walk over with and doing something else). Of course I love spending time with my dogs, going fun places with them and training them. I just don't like leash walks because they were so often frustrating.
|I'll just walk myself.. No worries!|
So now that I've realized that I've made a mistake by ignoring a loose leash walking method, I am trying it out! Every time my dogs pull, I turn around and walk in the other direction, then I mark and reward them for catching up to me. I am making sure to keep my rate of reinforcement high for keeping the leash loose, too. If a dog does happen to make the leash tight, I do use a "no reward marker" which is the word "whoops" then I say "this way" as a cue to get them to turn around with me. My use of a NRM is not meant to be punishing but what it does is tell the dog that the leash getting tight is not the correct thing I want. They don't generally find their NRM punishing and it was trained more like an interrupter.
Another thing I am doing is trying to switch up our route and also not walk in a straight line. We are not in a hurry to get anywhere. It's about the journey, anyways. I make sure I am completely unpredictable about where I am walking when I'm going to change directions (I do cue it with a "this way" cue so they don't hit the end of the leash by mistake) and I am attempting to make walking with me more interesting and fun. I also reward them with a food treat when they are in the bubble of space I am looking for and keeping that leash loose.
This week I also received a question from a reader and that question was about sniffing. "Is it okay to let your dog sniff on walks?" The answer is that it really just depends. It's up to you to decide what your goals are for walks. You could let your dog sniff and I do allow it but being able to sniff is contingent on them not pulling. A lot of times, I will have them sniff and let them find a spot to potty and then once that's done I ask for a more structured walk. Then if they are able to keep the leash loose for a while I will let them sniff again. Sniffing is on cue so they know when they are released to do it. Our cue is "go sniff!"
|I see you have some cookies up there!|
So I bet you all are wondering how this training is going? So far, I haven't been able to do much work with Zoe because of her paw but the couple of sessions we've had have gone great! She's picking it up very fast and seems to be enjoying our solo walks, even if they are sort of short (to make sure we don't make her paw/wrist sore again). Last week with all of my solo walks with Phoenix, I used the "turn around" method and she picked it up immediately. Phoenix is already a great loose leash walker when her sister is not present so it was easy for her to figure out. Both of my dogs seem to really love their one-on-one time and I'm really glad we are doing it!
I will keep everyone updated with how things go with Zoe and I have more tips on the way so stay tuned!
We are joining the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop! This month's theme is "Training Confessions" - feel free to share bad training habits or mistakes, an unedited training session or any other positive training post you would like! Be sure to check out all the other posts!