ClickerSolutions Training Articles

Targeting and Loose Leash Walking

> Has anyone started with the method suggested by Bob ... forgoing the c/t entirely, and just shoveling food at the dog when he is by your side ... Dog inches forward, food stops, person stops, walk stops.

I taught it *almost* that way, and it worked really well. This was for a client who wanted me to do all of the LLW training, as they were getting no where after trying for about 4 months. Young family, busy working parents of a busy, active 5 year old, too much going on. They wanted to walk the dog, and would, whether he pulled or not. Lots of reinforcement for pulling. Dog was a very smart 10 month male neutered Aussie.

What was interesting to me about this was I was going to be there once or twice a week working on LLW, and he was going to be walked and allowed to pull the rest of the time. I told them this was going to be a problem, but "he really needed the exercise." Okay. I understand. Especially with a 10 month old Aussie LOL.

He was fairly clicker savvy, his owners and I had been training him with the clicker or a verbal for about 8 months.

The first two hours (two one hour sessions about 4 days apart) I taught him to target my palm (both) with the clicker, then I added movement - I would take a step or two, holding my left hand down, palm facing backwards. He would follow me, and I would feed. I made sure to feed in position (always, always, always) and with my left hand. Also, I fed slightly behind me (I would hold my hand at the back of my leg to treat him).

Then I switched to the right side. The owners wanted him to walk on both sides with ease.

I started fading the hand target pretty quickly - after he would take about three steps. I would just pick my hand up for a step, then put it back down, he touched, I would feed. I would keep walking as I fed, pick up my hand, put it back down, he touched, I would feed. Gradually kept my hand up for longer periods of time, and extended the number of steps.

During this time I would treat him as he was remaining in position, without my hand down as a target, while we were walking in the backyard. And we started ending our little sessions with a sit instead of a touch.

After those two hours of training he was to the point where he would walk 15 - 20 steps with my hand up and stay in position, getting fed about every 7 - 10 steps. He would sit when I stopped. This all took place in their medium-distraction, but familiar, back yard.

The next three hours (three one hour sessions about 7 days apart each) we spent working on the sidewalk and the boardwalk (they lived across from the beach, sometimes being a dog trainer is really a bummer ;-D). HIGH distraction. I could walk inland into fairly quiet residential areas, which I did.

I adjusted the rate of reinforcement to the distraction: high distraction, high rate. Lower distraction, lower rate.

I switched the hand target to a tool to bring him back to position, whether he was lagging or forging.

If he started to forge (at all, even walk 6" out in front of me), I would make a U turn and, as I was doing so I would say, "Doggie, where are you going?" in a silly voice. At the same time I would drop my target hand. He would almost always turn around and come touch my hand. I would feed him and off we would go again.

There were a few times when he got so distracted, it didn't matter. He would sometimes spit the food out that I crammed in his mouth <g>, and this was usually when another was dog being walked across the street or closer. He would go out to the end of the leash (no aggression, just excitement).

I would do the U turn and cue him, but that usually wouldn't do it. If that was the case I would *gently* pull him away (slap my hand on my thigh, make smoochy noises as lures) and we would walk away from the distraction and he would fall right in. Touch my hand, feed, off we go.

In situations like that it is my preference to wait until the dog returns on his own, but I knew the owners would not be able to do that, so I dealt with it in a way I knew they could.

As we were doing this I would stop and practice sit-stays and down-stays around tolerable distractions (a few kids running around, people walking by, a dog two blocks away <g>).

After those three hours, we could walk through a field-trip of kindergarten kids (maybe about 60?) most of whom were saying, "Doggie doggie doggie!" and he would stay with me. I would feed more often (every five - ten steps instead of once a block), but he stayed with me and in position.

We could also walk past a dog about 6 feet away and he would usually hang with me as long as I fed him about every three steps. And as long as it wasn't another puppy.

The next training hour, about a week later, their maid shared the most wonderful thing with me. She told me that she took him for walks and he didn't pull at all anymore! I was so proud of my little student. We spent the hour walking the boardwalk, by kids and dogs and rollerbladers and down-staying and sit-staying with birds flying and landing nearby. He did great. His sits when I stopped were really good too.

Our last hour, I had a meeting with the owner. She said he was so much improved. We took a walk and I showed her all the cues: "Doggie, where are you?" and the hand targeting (which she was familiar with); gently pulling him away if he got completely distracted, adjusting the rate of reinforcement, etc. Had her do it, she could, no problem. And he did just great.

The whole process took about 5 1/2 weeks, 5 or 6 hours training.

Last I heard, the training was holding up pretty well. This was a few months after we finished. They have since moved to Connecticut and I have lost touch. I'm hoping I will hear from them so I can find out how he is doing.

It was interesting to me that the training went as well as it did since he was essentially being "untrained" at least 3 or 4 hours a week. My guess is that, first, he specified the behavior to me, and then he started generalizing it to the others as we kept working on it.

Hope this makes sense and is a little helpful!

Tmara Goode
copyright 2002 Tmara Goode


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