A Sunday Stroll

This will not be one of the brilliant, witty posts.  You can stop reading now if you only clicked on the link because you expected me to say something clever.

Or whatever, keep reading and prepare for disappointment.

We worked on leash walking again today.   <—— NOT CLEVER.

THERE IS NOT EVEN A PICTURE.

You have been warned.

This time, Ranger and I took to the road.  The ice has melted for now, and I wanted to get him some practice out in the neighborhood where we will actually be walking.  I do not plan to take the stroller out for 3 miles of 20 meter circles in our postage-stamp-and-a-half backyard.  So, he needs to know how to walk in real life.

My kids and the neighbor children on scooters and otherwise performing normal kid-flailing (they were playing “Humans vs. Zombies” through the streets) were wonderful distractions that polka-dotted our walking practice like tiny manic Pac-Men.  Kids are GREAT distractions, so if you aren’t sure how to include your child in dog training, just tell them “be REALLY annoying” and then try to do the stuff you think your dog can already do.

It may sound as if I am being tongue in cheek but I am not.  This is actually a great way to proof behaviors.  <—- SEE, STILL NOT BEING CLEVER

Ok, so we worked on leash walking.  Ranger wore the head halter and we did several types of little drills – really, not even big enough to call drills – several iterations of planned motion that would teach Ranger that staying next to me is the place to be.

First, we did a few straight-line walking bits. Ranger received a click and treat for staying at my left side but far enough behind me that he would not have to back up or jump out of the way to…

Turn left. There is a sweet spot right in front of your dog’s shoulder, and if you edge over into it your dog will turn away from you just in response to the body pressure.  Click and treat! I actually learned this in my horse training experience, and it applies to dogs too.

In addition, if you throw in enough random left turns, your dog will realize he needs to stay back far enough to be prepared for these, and will eventually self-correct “forging”, also called “getting ahead of you” (except dog trainers like to make up lingo that makes them sound clever.  Remember however that I am not clever so I will stick with “getting ahead of you” from now on).

Now, if you thought left turns were so amazingly fascinating and innovative, just wait until you hear that we did…

Right turns, too.  If you start with a very gentle right turn, your dog will speed up just a tad to catch up to the “click and treat” spot.  If you make some of the turns a little sharper after a while, your dog will speed up more.  By consistently rewarding this increase in pace to stay by your side, you’ll turn this into part of your dog’s repertoire without having to encourage him, tell him to hurry up, or (no no no!!) “correct” him for lagging behind.

Besides changing pace for turns, heeling practice should also include speeding up and slowing down in a straight line.  Since speeding up is WAY more fun, we start with that.  Ranger was a little bouncy and likes to pull ahead, which is a good indicator that his practice pace needed to speed up overall, so for us, my “fast” pace was really his normal and my normal walking pace was his “slow”. We’ll get to real slow-mo training once he is ready. It looks weird on the street, but it makes sense once you have your dog at the pet store with you and you’re trying to browse yet keep him under control.  Having a pre-trained “slow pace means give me lots of attention and stay by my side” becomes much more useful.

Ranger really did beautifully on his heeling practice. He is figuring out where the sweet spot is to earn his clicks and treats, and is starting to intentionally control himself or move forward to get into the Click Zone. He is doing a bit of crabbing out and has some bounciness in his steps, as mentioned, but I will work on these aspects a little later. Right now, I am rewarding him every time he intentionally puts himself in, or stays in, the correct area by my side.

Well, that really is about it for today.  I beg apologies for the lack of adorable pictures or wit today, but it’s not like I am in the running for a Pulitzer anyway.  I’ll be happy with our CGC title, and we’re making progress.

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