Tips for Better Loose Leash Walking
As somebody said on one of these lists (sorry, I can't keep them straight) when you are training your dog you need to be more interesting than the spit on the sidewalk. Find what Murphy will work for, and use it.
Does he work for the click? Is it rewarding to him to figure out what he has to do to get the click? If not, then that's the first step. He needs to learn how to learn. WORK ON ONE THING AT A TIME.
Teach Watch Me separately from heeling, then put the two together. Frankly, I don't believe a dog has to watch me during heeling, they know where I am without the eye contact. They are dogs! Some dogs are more comfortable with using their peripheral vision to keep an eye on you. He's not going to lose you!
#1 Watch me (attention training)
Start with the dog in front of you, and c/t (click and treat) for eye contact. Smile! Drop the food on the ground so he has to look away to get the food. Wait for eye contact again. c/t. Do this at least 20 times (50 is better), praising and smiling the whole time. What a wonderful dog you are! I love you! You're an angel...you get the idea. Train Murph that looking at you is one of the most wonderful things in life! Love and devotion, all good things come from you! When he can't take his eyes off you, put it on cue. Pair the behavior with the cue, repeat at least 20 times. You don't have to do this all at once. 2 min here, 2 min there. Get lots of repetitions, reinforce fast and continuously. Don't be slow, don't be stingey with the treats. Do this every day in as many different places as possible. Do it in each room of the house, the front yard, backyard, driveway, sidewalk, pet store, parking lot, school yard, dog class. Repeat your training in every different location. Reshape in every location.
Get the behavior, put it on cue, make it fluent, generalize it. OK?
Heel is a position, basically dog's neck lined up with your hip. If you are standing still the dog is sitting. If you are moving the dog is moving to stay in position. Reverse your clicker and treats. Clicker in right hand, treats in left. Actually, I have my students wear carpenter aprons with treats in the pockets. Treats are close by, and easy to access. Slip leash loop onto apron strings for hands off training so you are not tempted to correct. Treats are doled out by left hand so Murphy doesn't have to leave heel position to get it.
C/t for him just being in position. Ignore any other movement. Only click when he is right there. Walk, clicking every single step in which he is in correct position. Use continuous click and treats. You are building a very important foundation with exact requirements. Take your time. Reinforce as often as is humanly possible. Constant click and treats!! Let him find it.
Feed from your left hand so he stays in position, but don't lure. Your hand should be at your waist. Practice this, hand at waist, feed, hand at waist, feed. Now practice it with Murphy. Hand at waist, feed, hand at waist, feed, at least *at least* 20 reps. 50 would be better.
Find other stuff he can eat so you can vary treats. Tiny bits of roast beef, shredded chicken, bits of turkey? Does he like fruit or vegies? Bits of apple, carrot, grape, etc. Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Froot Loops, etc. String cheese is mozarella in narrow sticks. Slice this up into dime thin slices. Use a mix of the above, whatever he can digest safely, so he gets a variety. Keep it in the freezer between training sessions.
Don't use the word heel until Murphy is reliably in the right place! Train in very short sessions, a minute, two minutes.
More on heeling. Some dogs do better with a target to find heel position. Teach him to target a piece of masking tape. c/t for every touch. Get him to follow the masking tape. c/t for every inch he follows it, slowly *slowly* increasing the distance until you are sure he understands to follow this dumb piece of tape wherever it goes. Put it on a stick, on your hand, put it on lots of other things. Wherever the tape his, he should follow it.
Then put a piece of tape on your pants leg. Have him target that tape. Since this probably seems a little weird to him, be sure to c/t constantly for any attention to and then targeting to the tape. Keep a high rate of reinforcement, and you will have a heeling dog. Slowly reduce the size of the tape over many training sessions until it is gone, and he is in the right place for heeling.
#3 Not doing what he is told
He's a baby still, don't expect adult behavior until he is 2-3 years old. Keep retraining and working with him as he grows up. This is life with dog. He's not even a teenager yet. Usually when a dog doesn't do what is asked it has nothing to do with authority, but more with the behavior being incompletely trained.
A behavior is not completely trained until the dog has been shaped and reinforced for each behavior until he does it reliably at least 90% of time *and* you have done this for each behavior in *at least* ten different locations (20 is better). This is called generalizing.
The most common student lament "I don't know why he won't do it here, he did it perfectly at home!" Right? Reshape and retrain each behavior in every new location. Home is only one place.
Here's my favorite way to bring home the idea of generalizing. You are very comfortable using your own toilet at home. When you have to use a strange toilet, it's a little, uh, inhibiting, right? Then if you use that new one a lot (your workplace, your favorite restaurant), ok, you get familiar with the place and relax. Now you are on the road. You might have to use a different toilet 3x every day. Pretty soon you forget about being squeamish about it, and just do what needs to be done. Get it?
Get the behavior, put it on cue, make it fluent, generalize it.
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