Last week I talked about watching my dog in a contained area, free to do as he chose. I talked about what I learned and why I do it.
If you tried that exercise and found it interesting, here’s another simple one to try. If this one sound familiar, that’s probably because it comes from my online class and book, Train the Dog in Front of You.
Starting wherever you want, attach a leash to your dog’s collar. No food or toys visible. Only one dog at a time. Now…go.
The only rule is that your dog makes all of the decisions. If you started from your house then your dog will select the direction of travel from the front door. Your dog will decide when to stop and when to go. Your dog will decide what to sniff and what to look at. If your dog chooses to backtrack then you will allow for that.
Your only job is to keep your dog and the environment safe. If you selected an environment that causes endless issues, for example, your dog wants to approach dogs in a place with a lot of dogs or is trying to pee on inappropriate things, then you picked the wrong environment. Try again. Work very hard not to reprimand, not to pull on the leash and not to re-direct your dog unless it’s required for safety. Be pleasant and warm if your dog checks in, but don’t start a party.
For this exercise, I selected an outdoor shopping mall for Brito and for Lyra, I selected a wide open park. You may want to do this exercise several times to gain the most possible information. Which sense is most dominant for your dog; does he stare off into the distance or is he all about his nose? Does he stop and listen for sounds? Does he try to taste things or eat them? Does he move quickly through the area or is he methodical and calm? Does he check in with you, and if so, after how long? Is he frantic? Does he enjoy this exercise or does it make him stressed?
Did this exercise provide you with any surprises? Information about how you might want to train your dog differently?
If your dog got the point where he just stopped and stared at you, what did you do next? If you decided to ask him for a few behaviors, how was his attitude? Did he stick with it, or did he opt out and go back to what he was doing?
I (and many of my students) found this exercise enlightening, to say the least.
Try it. Tell us about it in the comments if you wish!