The theme for this month’s Positive Pet Training Hop is the “fallible trainer”. I have two scenarios to share and after each I’ll share how I was fallible. Training is not something dogs do alone…the trainer has to learn and makes mistakes as well!
1. I know many of you were curious about what Luke did to make me so happy when I shared this photo last week in a post called “Proud Mom“. So I’ll tell that story first! We were working on our photo shoot for the Umbilical Belt and I took him for a walk to wear him out a bit before trying to have my hubby take the photos.
I need to set a little background: We had an elderly neighbor who loved to drive around the neighborhood and whenever he saw me walking a dog he would pull over and give the dogs a treat. Our beagle Kobi loved that old guy, and whenever a car passed us he expected them to stop and dispense a treat! The old man sold his house and moved but apparently visits friends in the neighborhood so we still see him occasionally. He has stopped to pet Sheba once or twice, and Cricket has gotten treats from him as well.
So when I was on that walk with Luke, I saw the old man’s vehicle sitting in a neighbor’s driveway ready to pull out. Now Luke doesn’t like strangers and I had no idea how he might react if the old man pulled over. I also knew there was no easy way to avoid it. Sure enough, his vehicle headed towards us and stopped next to us. I just quickly told him “this guy isn’t as friendly and he might bark at you”. I honestly don’t know if he heard me or not, but he didn’t say a word and just stretched his arm over to the window with the treat. Throughout all of that, I had told Luke to sit and he just sat there and never moved or made a peep! I was so proud of him! I gave him the treat and praised him profusely.
I was telling my hubby the story and praising Luke when he took that photo. I know things might have been different if the old man had even said something, but I decided to just be proud of Luke in spite of that. Having a vehicle stop next to us is not a normal experience for him, so I think it’s a good step.
How was I fallible here? Well, right after that happened, we passed our neighbor working in her garden. For some reason, Luke always barks at this neighbor (I think because she talks to him and he’d rather be ignored). I purposely didn’t yell hello to her because I didn’t want Luke to bark at her and ruin my happiness over the good thing that had just happened! I don’t always take every training opportunity that I should, sometimes I choose avoidance.
2. We’ve been practicing our loose leash walking, or heeling, a lot this spring, and it’s one thing we’ve trained Luke to do that I haven’t shared the details about yet. It has to be one of the most difficult things to train, because it takes a lot of coordination on the trainer’s part, and I am far from coordinated. I am going to share how our trainer taught us to do it, though I’m sure there are some that might teach it a bit differently.
I am not looking to have Luke walk by my side for every minute that we walk. I let him stop and sniff, and get ahead sometimes. I just don’t want him pulling on the leash, and I want him paying attention to me when I need him to. Also, if we’re walking on a road with traffic (we have no sidewalks here in the country), I want him close by me so I can keep him out of the road. These are all things we’d never trained the girls to do and I regret that. It makes walking so much easier and enjoyable.
First of all, Luke needs to be close to me (I say no more than a “dog’s length” ahead) to start. I use a 5 foot leash, shorter leashes are easier. He is on my left side and I am holding the leash and the clicker in my right hand. I also hold the slack of the leash to keep him close (our trainer said not to wrap the leash around my hand but to just have one loop). See photos below. Treats are in my left hand and we start walking and every few steps I click and give him a treat with that hand if he stays by me. Two important things to remember: don’t stop walking as you do this, and keep looking forward. As time goes on and he’s caught on to getting the treat, we added the word “heel”. This is easier to do in a training facility, as you can walk in large circles. Each time I turn a corner I say “heel”, click and treat as he follows me. I also had to remember not to give him a treat every time he looked for one. He should be walking, not looking for a treat.
Practicing at home was more difficult because our house is too small to be able to walk inside much. When we moved outside Luke was more distracted. But we just started inside the fenced in yard, and then moved to the driveway, and later to the road, as he got better.
It was also easier when we were at training, and our trainer could remind me when I screwed up by either stopping, looking at Luke, or not clicking and treating soon enough! I was definitely fallible when it came to this one, but Luke learned in spite of that! Now you might understand better why I love the hands free leash for walking, I wish our trainer had thought of that. Having the extra free hand really simplifies things. Eventually we stopped using the clicker and now Luke will heel without getting a treat every time. One other thing our trainer had us do is stop every so often and make Luke sit. He also got a click and treat for that.
3. One last thing. I had started trying to train Luke to put his toys away. Only I couldn’t get him to pick up or even take a toy, the first obvious step, which I thought he would do no problem. So once again this fallible trainer needs to remember to step back and take things more slowly. I have a new plan (thanks to a book I have on clicker training) and hope to share some success (or at least progress) next month.
We are joining the Positive Pet Reinforcement hop this week. It begins on the first Monday of every month and runs all week long. The hop is hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier, and Rubicon Days. Please visit them as well as other blogs through the links below for more positive pet training tips.