Welcome to Day 65 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!
Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.
Loose Leash Walking doesn’t have to be boring
At a glance:
- simple and fun games to boost engagement and choice
- your dog chooses to walk close to you without a lead, so that it’s easier when they are on lead
- engagement games, like these, teach the dog to choose you, even when you don’t have treats or toys, and even when there are distractions
- we start with simple training games and build toward more and more engagement
- cognitive based enrichment
- while children might be able to participate with some of these exercises, there will be lots of canine excitement and activity with some of these games so they might not be safe for kids
Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
- training exercises can be practiced in individual sessions of 1-2 minutes at a time; have as many sessions as you can!
Because today challenges will be pretty exciting, make some time, after each session, for some lapping and chewing on stuffables.
Think Rollercoaster Games!
We have talk lots and lots about engagement because I believe this is the key to teaching all sorts of behaviours, but more importantly the foundations upon which a wonderful relationship is built, with your pet.
We can formalise some of our engagement games, while still having fun, and teach our dogs to choose to walk with us.
Remember, engagement is about the dog choosing to engage, that they are working to attract your attention, and that you’re (both) developing a meaningful connection.
Engagement, for me and the dogs I work with, including my own, is about the dog choosing to engage, wanting to engage, finding me the most rewarding, over all the other things.
And that’s the key; the dog wants to be involved and to participate.
What do you need?
- food rewards – you can use your dog’s regular food, a training mix, commercial treats, home prepared treats such as cut up meats, cheese, vegetables or homemade treats such as liver or tuna cake
- favourite toys
- stuffables and lappable/lickables
- if you are working in an unsecured area, use a long line for safety and to prevent your dog practicing not recalling and having lots of fun, in the environment, with out you
- to teach the dog to choose you
- to teach a nicer loose leash walking position
- to teach the dog that choosing their human makes the magic happen
- to teach the dog that their human won’t nag or coerce
- to build that bond between dog and human
- to have a fun and rewarding experience in social situations, between dogs and humans
- to learn about learning – this is just another puzzle to your dog…”how do I train the human to make rewards available?!“…it’s all human training, for dogs!
While training exercises certainly fall into the cognitive enrichment category, they can provide so much more.
Working on choice-led engagement exercises helps to boost your relationship with your pet, enhances your ability to communicate with one another and builds trust. This is a level of social enrichment that’s tricky to replicate.
When we talk about enrichment being enriching, this is never more clear than when we start to teach behaviours intentionally. It’s the human’s job to set the dog up for success by making sure the behaviour is doable and that rewards are fast-flowing.
There’s no test at the end of this and you and your pet are not under any pressure. Learn to enjoy the time together, whether you achieve the goal behaviour or not. That’s what’s enriching here…the social and cognitive outlets such exercises provide (for both species).
What goals can you add to this list for your pets?
How can we achieve these goals?
- although you can use any reward that your dog will work for, using small food rewards that are quick to eat are best for some of these exercises so we can have lots of fast repetitions
- toys and your engagement, fun and play will work as excellent rewards too
- keep it simple and split behaviour – reward approximations toward the final behaviour, rather than hoping that your dog will offer the goal behaviour quickly
- take your time and work in many short sessions
- try for a couple of minutes at a time, 5-10 rewards each session, and then take a break
- plan each session – what behaviours are you looking for and rewarding?
- watch the clips and try out the exercise
- portion out your dog’s daily food and allot some for training exercises
- make a training mix by adding in something yummier and leaving it all to ‘cook’ together in the fridge; the smells will mingle, harder foods will soften a little, and everything will become more valuable
- remember to adjust your pet’s diet accordingly to accommodate the extra calories from treats added, where relevant
- split your food rewards into little bowls with just the right number of rewards in each bowl so that you are ready to go; stick bowls of rewards in places where you may need to teach and reward behaviours so that you have rewards ready to go
What adjustments will you make for your pets?
Applications of loose leash walking (LLW)engagement games:
You can easily see the value of engagement…it gets you great recall, it gets you nice loose leash walking, it gets you working around distractions.
All while providing the dog with choice. The choice to engage.
Today’s games will focus on engagement for loose leash walking. Your dog will choose to walk with you and you will make that rewarding – simples!
When engagement happens, the dog is fighting to engage regardless of the presence of distractions and triggers and regardless of whether you have treats or toys.
How ever you define it, engagement is chosen by the dog, rather than cued; engagement is not contingent on you having food rewards or toys.
The key to engagement is that you are not trying to get it, you are worthy of engagement and your dog fights to engage!
You can see that engagement is the foundation to teaching all the other behaviours; it’s what we build our relationship, with our dog, on and with.
Engagement is a two-way street
Making engagement happen starts with the human. If we want our dog to choose us, regardless of what else is going on and regardless of whether you have treats or toys, we have to work to prove that engaging with us is the best!
When the dog is engaged, choosing you regardless, he pushes into the learning and interacting process; he is more than meeting you halfway.
Reinforcement strengthens behaviour, so your dog’s disengagement is information telling you that you are not making sufficient reinforcement available for engagement.
We tend to pile on the encouragement, excitement, food and toys trying to get our dogs to engage. When their attention wanes, we attempt to get it back by offering access to reinforcers. Ask yourself, what behaviour are you really reinforcing?
Engagement makes good things happens. Engagement means that the dog accesses behaviour they like to do. Reinforce behaviour with behaviour.
What does your dog like to do? Make that happen contingent on engagement.
Loose leash walking is a task that most pet owners and dog trainers alike find difficult and tedious. You only need to look at the array of equipment that has been developed to give humans better control of dogs when walking. People really want to be able to walk their dogs without being dragged about and that is perfectly understandable.
But, there needs to be some compromise. Dogs need the opportunity to sniff, explore, observe the world, especially when they might have only limited access to this world each day.
Marching around housing estates and urban areas, on a tight leash, may not be providing for their needs and as such, expecting them to be able to trot along side us slow and boring primates, may be a step too far in terms of expectations.
If that’s what we want from dogs, we will need to put the work in along with providing them with outings that are more to their tastes.
Loose leash walking training doesn’t need to be all marching and no fun – I use tons of different games to help trainers help pet owners but today, and largely with my clients, I set the foundation in engagement and watch the loose leash walking happen as a result.
Option 1 Follow Me!
This is my favourite puppy game to introduce engagement, loose leash walking, polite greetings, to prevent biting and foot chasing, and to have fun with your pup! But, this is a great game for pups of all ages 🙂
I like to use Follow Me! indoors or in more enclosed situations so this can be a great rainy-day game, playing Follow Me! around the furniture and up and down the hallway.
This game is simple, you walk and when your dog catches up with you, you reward. You don’t have to do or say anything, just move in the opposite direction to your dog.
For puppies, this exercise can start while they are still on vaccination hold. You can practice off lead and then with the lead dragging so that puppy gets used to the weight of the lead.
Follow-Me! is a great game to teach children to play with puppies, to help reduce puppy jumping and biting. It also helps children develop awareness for where puppy is and how to walk calmly with puppy.
Set up a Follow Me! course in the house with some furniture and keep your dog’s interest by changing direction – you move in the opposite direction to your dog…they go right, you go left and so on. This will keep them moving with you and make it fun and exciting.
You can add simple behaviours like sit or hand targets to Follow Me! exercises. This is especially useful for puppies and dogs who jump up, mouth, bite at feet or trousers by teaching them an alternative behaviour to concentrate on, and to ask for your attention.
When you stop moving, as your dog catches up, you can lure them into a sit or down, use a hand signal for sit or down, ask them to sit or down, or present a hand target down low. Soon they will be offering this behaviour, when you stop moving and without you asking.
Playing Follow Me! exercises, allowing the dog to choose their human over other distractions, can help to build excellent engagement and starts to create nice loose leash walking position.
Option 2 Choose to Heel
This game takes the foundations established in Follow Me! games and formalises it a little. Instead of the dog just catching up with you, we raise our training criteria a little – now, we are rewarding when they walk beside you a little, engage with you, stick close to your leg.
Identify the Reward Zone – an area on one specific side, somewhere within leash range of your knee – every time your dog hits that zone, YES! and reward.
You can use treats and toys to reward but the most important part is to keep it light and animated. Make sure your dog wants to hang out close to you!
Take this game on the road!
Allow your dog to (safely) sniff and wander and every time they hit that Reward Zone, reward that engagement!
Practicing this game in lots of places will help your dog learn to choose you, to walk nicely and still have access to the environment, should they wish. Just reward where you want your dog to be!
Starting with just a few engaged steps at a time, you can build and build to nice loose leash walking that functions in your day to day life with your pet.
Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!
Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂
We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – have fun & brain games!