Happy Holidays!!! Last week I discussed the first steps of teaching your dog body awareness. First, we discussed doing ladder exercises, which builds the dogs body awareness. Next, we went over the steps on how to teach the dog how to "back." First we taught the dog the body mechanics needed, then we taught initiation, finally we added distance.
This week I will be discussing how to teach the dog how to move with handler and to be aware of the handler. When I teach body awareness of the handler I really like to do figure eight exercises. I like to set up two cones to figure eight around. When you begin you may notice that when the dog is inside it is bumping into your leg, and when the dog is on the outside it is going wide. So when the dog is bumping into you, don't move away from the dog. Make sure you continue moving in the same direction, you may need to use your knee to bump into the dog. Eventually the dog will learn that they need to pay attention to your body and where you are moving. As soon as you begin noticing the dog move its body to stay in position with you, make sure you mark it and give lots of praise. Now that you have the inside positioning figured out you can begin working on the outside. When your dog is starting to go wide, take off running in a straight line toward the other cone. Once the dog has caught up to you give it lots of praise. This is a type of surprise correction, and it will teach the dog to pay attention to you. When you are doing the figure eight make sure you the handler are moving freely and the dog is moving with you at a correct position.
The next step in teaching body awareness is teaching your dog side passing. Teaching side passing can be pretty tricky, but once you have you will see a big difference in your dog's body awareness. To teach it you need a heeling stick (can be found in any dog training catalog), and yummy dog treats or kibble. You want to have the dog's leash in your right hand and around your back and the training stick in your left hand. You want to lightly tap on the dog's back hock as you slowly move sideways. As soon as your dog moves his back legs and front legs at the same time stop and praise with treats. Slowly keep working on this eventually add more steps so the dog can begin to get the mechanics needed for the side pass. Once you have the dog moving 5 ft comfortably you can stop using the heeling stick. When you take away the heeling stick you may need to ask for less maybe one step. Then slowly add more distance. Once you have taught this to your dog you will notice the dog paying a lot of attention to your body movements.
A recap on this week's blog, figure eight exercise make sure you aren't moving around the dog, the dog should be paying attention to and should be positioning it's body around you. With side passes you need to slowly build the dog's body mechanics then begin to add distance. Below is two videos demonstrating side passes.
Now that your dog no longer pulls, you may still have problems with the dog bumping into you or getting into your personal space. I like to train all of my dogs especially the Assistance Dogs in training body awareness. The first thing I do is teach the dog how to walk through a ladder. I place the ladder next to a wall and slowly walk the dog through it. This teaches the dog how to focus on lifting their front legs , and their back legs. Once the dog has mastered the ladder, I teach the dog how to back up. To do this I make a narrow area, have the dog face me then I slowly walk into the dog. At first only have the dog to take 1-2 steps backwards. Give lots of praise for these steps. Slowly ask your dog dog take more and more steps. Eventually the dog should be able to move 10-12 ft backwards smoothly. Eventually you want to move to an open area. Start out the same way as the narrow area, only ask for 1-2 steps. Then ask for the dog to take more and more steps, this process will go a lot quicker since the dog all ready has the body mechanics. Next step, you want to train initiation. Initiation is where your dog will jump and start backing up right when you command "back." To train this, when you say back go ahead a move into the dog quickly. Do this several times your dog will start jumping and moving backwards right when you command "back." If your dog is slower you can even lightly step on their front paws. Eventually you can even look for distance, where you stand still and the dog continues to back up. To train this you want to have a toy or treat (with the Assistance Dogs in Training I only use toys since I don't want the dog to learn how to eat off the ground). Hold the toy/treat behind your back, command "back" once the dog backs a couple of steps backwards toss the toy/treat behind the dog and praise. Next time ask for the few more steps, and toss toy/treat behind the dog. Eventually the dog will continuously back up looking for you to throw the toy/treat. Below is a video of the finished product. This blog is the beginnings of teaching your dog body awareness. Remember it is important to first to teach your dog slowly the body mechanics of how to back up. Then add initiation, finally add distance. Next week's blog will be more on body awareness. Thank you for reading!
Does your dog pull on the leash?
A quick "fix" for your for this problem is to have your dog wear a gentle leader head collar. The gentle leader applies pressure around the dog's muzzle when your dog pulls on the leash. As soon as your dog submits to the pressure (stops pulling) the pressure around the dog's muzzle is released. This type of dog training is called negative reinforement (a pressure is applied until the correct behavior is exhibited, pressure is then immediately released). This method works very well and requires no leash corrections. Why does it work? If you notice in the wolf pack or even with dogs the "dominant" wolf/dog will apply pressure around the other dog's/wolf's muzzle to control it. If your dog can not handle the pressure aroud it's muzzle I suggest using the sensation harness. The sensation harness's only difference is that it applies pressure to the dog's armpits rather than their muzzle. Make sure to fit each of these correctly, if fitted incorrectly you will lose the effectiveness of the equipment.