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.