How to teach your dog to walk politely on leash, part two: getting out the door calmly

In my first installment on leash manners, I discussed the very basics of how to teach loose leash walking, and practicing this within your home before trying outdoors, where many types of distractions await. Far too often, people expect a great deal from their dogs but get frustrated easily once that long walk to the park with lots of joggers, picnicking parties, other dogs, squirrels, goose poop and more await. By practicing indoors first, you are going to have an easier time instilling the habits you want: proper heel position, eye contact, being able to follow you and take turns, and have slack on the leash.

Once you do have more practice, you will want to eventually get outside to practice, but before even crossing that doorway out, many people who have very distracted or excited dogs will be frustrated immediately because of their dog’s tendency to just bolt out the front door. This has to be addressed, because if your dog is to excited and not paying attention to you from this point, it’s even more difficult to have the attention you want and no pulling on walks as you get out the door with him!

Lola does a great job practicing waiting at the front door with mom

Lola does a great job practicing waiting at the front door with mom

Practicing waiting at the door is super-important. It’s not about “I’m alpha and have to go out the door before you!” It’s really about getting that connection with your dog and having attention, as well as a safe experience. Dogs who bolt out of doors may be able to snap their leash, or may jerky you so that you drop the leash, and then they risk running across the street where they can be hit by a car, or end up lost as they run away. It’s about impulse control and safety, not about dominance!

As with teaching any other cue to your dog, you will want to start this one at an easier level. Starting with the front door, or the door that leads to the backyard or the garage or anywhere else that can signal a fun outing will be far more challenging than practicing at the bathroom, bedroom or other doors inside your home. Using one of these “unexciting” doors, place your dog while on leash in a sit and say, “wait.” Count to five seconds, then click and treat. Repeat this one more time and then start moving your hand toward the door. Click and treat for the wait.

Remember to add a release cue from the sit if you want to take a break at any time during this process, or if your dog seems like he will want to break the sit. You can praise him after you release him so he understands the release cue is his signal for breaking the sit and/or taking a break. A sit, regardless of adding a cue like wait or stay, is important to maintain until you release the dog!

Eventually in the process you will touch the doorknob, turn it, open the door slightly, and gradually get it all the way open, and even taking a step through it, before releasing your dog to join you. You can vary the difficulty level so it’s just not always getting harder and harder, which will make it less stressful for the dog. Take breaks as you need and make your progress match what your dog is capable of doing.

The entire process is shaping the eventual end behavior: a wait at a door, regardless of it being open or closed, and whether or not you are with your dog or already on the other side, to get a release cue from you to join you. I use “wait” in this scenario instead of a “stay” because a stay means you need to come back to the dog and release him. In this scenario, I am releasing the dog to come join me, or I could even use a loose leash walking cue like “let’s go” if I prefer. A stay should always mean I come back to release you; a wait is more like, pause here a moment and then I’ll either release you or give you another cue.

Once you have practiced at less exciting doors, you can move to the exciting ones. Remember to break it down and reinforce the “wait” at all stages: no advancement to the door, a hand advancing to the doorknob, touching the doorknob, turning the doorknob, gradually opening the door little bits at a time, and then you crossing through the door gradually before releasing. If at any point your dog cannot maintain the stay, try an easier step and build from there, or do an easier step and take a break. You should always end training when the dog is doing well, and shorter sessions are usually better. Don’t be greedy! You don’t want to get frustrated, and you want training to be fun for both of you.

In my next installment, we’ll discuss how to work with walking outdoors and adding more distractions. :)

Thank you for reading and happy training!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

 

April 2015 clients

April was a tricky month with the spring weather but we all made it through! Rain isn’t always conducive to our outdoor sessions but we certainly appreciate everyone’s flexibility in dealing with it, the delays it can bring at times, and having a good attitude about working consistently with the training no matter what happens. We have the best clients! Thank you!

Check out April’s client photo slideshow by clicking on the below photo icons. You can see even more photos and slideshows on our Flickr site, and don’t forget that we also have a lot more photos and other great content on our Facebook page. We hope to interact with you more there!

Louie Hobbes Finn Harper and Bandit Betty Lola Zoey Lamb Sara Lupo Stella Raoul Oliver Zooey and Roxy Luca Moose KC Porter Jane Gruner <Tillie Jelly Gretel and Fitz Ruger and Bella Jasper and Nash Roxy

Also appreciated but not pictured: Charley aka “Chuck Norris” the Labrador retriever.

Thank you,
Laura

Client of the month: Louie the cockapoo

Louie poses with his favorite ball

Louie poses with his favorite ball

Congratulations to Louie the cockapoo, our April client spotlight!

Louie is a delightful young gentleman who has learned the value of a nice “sit” and “down.” He has been enjoying our Delightful Doggy Finishing School program, where he and his parents are excelling in the art of clicker training!

Smart as a whip, Louie catches on very quickly to all the cues we’ve covered so far, and enjoys the fun atmosphere positive reinforcement-based training provides. He gets not only delicious treats when he learns new things, but great praise and attention, and awesome playtime. He’s quite the dashing gentleman!

We are so happy to be part of the fun with Louie and his parents, and are so inspired by how much they love and interact with each other. It’s so fulfilling to spend weekly time with them and see how much they learn together.

Thank you for choosing Delightful Doggies to help you along your training path!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

How to teach your dog to walk politely on leash, part one

Leash walking is one the of the most-requested training topics I address with clients. Whether they have a new puppy and it’s a foreign concept, or an older dog who pulls incessantly, it is a very important part of having a great relationship with your dog. If you are frustrated, hurt, or otherwise not having a good time with your dog on walks, it can really impact your quality of life together, so I’ve decided to write a series on it!

Hobbes and his pops practice loose leash walking

Hobbes and his pops practice loose leash walking

When I begin teaching people how to walk their dogs on leash, we always start, as with training any cue, in an environment that has less distractions and where we can have success. Most clients can’t wait to go to fun parks where all kinds of distractions await, or on hiking trails that have such amazing smells, and they then get frustrated because their dog cannot concentrate on them or walking on a loose leash at all. From the start, there is stress and frustration, and a real need to start in a very easy environment, so we begin in the home.

If the dog is excited from the moment you pick up a leash, we have to also address that excitement first, as it can impact the dog’s ability to be calm and learn how to be on the leash. If the dog bites at the leash and is too playful or excited, it’s best to address these items and reward calm. If your dog knows how to sit, ask him to sit before you put on the leash. If that is too much, start with a calm stand. I wrote a blog a while ago on how to get puppies to stop biting on the leash, which you can read here, and there is a wonderful video from the incomparable Emily Larlham on how to teach puppy to be calm for the leash.

How do you hold your equipment? We advise, if you are walking your dog on the traditional left heel position, to hold your leash handle and clicker in your right hand so you can easily treat your dog with your left hand, as he’s on your left side. You can reverse this if you wish to walk him on the right. It’s your decision but picking one side and sticking with it will help make your experience better, as well as less confusing for the dog. You will be able to take turns easier and won’t have to worry about tripping over your dog if he tends to switch sides. Sometimes using a hands-free leash or attaching your leash to your belt with a carabiner can be a good way, especially if you don’t have a bad back and have a dog that doesn’t pull/isn’t too strong. If you feel it’s too hard to hold a clicker, you can always use a verbal marker, such as “YES” or “GOOD” to mark behavior instead.

When you do get the dog on a leash, I will reward for eye contact and proper position to start. If I want to walk my dog on the left side in a normal heel position, I will either wait for him to come to that side, and click and treat when he does, or I may lure him with a baited hand. By concealing a smelly piece of food or treat in my hand, I get his nose “attached” to it, and then slowly move my hand so he follows it to the correct position, and then click when he gets there, and give him the treat. If you do use luring techniques, be sure to fade the food quickly–it should be about following your hand–so use a treat only a few times, then lure without the treat. Your dog will understand quickly that following your hand is rewarding and this will often be a faster way to get him to follow you.

Before you start moving, ensure you are getting good eye contact by clicking and treating a few times for this. When I am ready to move, I say, “Let’s go,” and take a step forward, clicking and treating for the dog following beside me. I maintain what we call a “high rate of reinforcement” in the beginning: I click and treat every one to two steps. I practice taking turns and I click and treat for every turn the dog makes with me. I also vary my speed and directions of the turns I take. As the dog becomes proficient, I can then click and treat less, and give more praise and other reinforcement, like petting or even tugging on a toy, instead of always using food.

As you practice in the home, you can use hallways as a great way to reinforce a heel position (meaning your dog is walking with his shoulder flank to your thigh–walking right beside you). By positioning your dog between you and a wall, or even a fence or other similar barrier (even the side of a building), he will not be able to get to the end of the leash as easily and you can reinforce that heel position as you move along it.

Now–before you get out the door, we should go over some impulse control about making it out the door, which will be in our next blog. If your dog dashes out the door, you’re not only setting him up for not having the best attention on you, but it can also be a safety concern. We will go over how to handle that next time.

Thank you for reading and feel free to contact me with any questions!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Group meetup set for April 26!

Jasper, Jasper and Devon work on giving attention together

Jasper, Jasper and Devon work on giving attention together

We are very excited to announce the first group meetup session, scheduled for April 26 at Rosedale/Harvard Gulch Parks!

We will be meeting at 9:30a and working until approximately 11a in the parks, working on:

  • Loose leash walking skills
  • Giving attention/eye contact
  • Harnessing real-life rewards (squirrels, smells, the walk itself)
  • Working with distractions
  • How to properly greet other dogs on-leash

Please note that this group meetup is for dogs who are comfortable with other dogs and people, and for basic obedience/manners skills, not as a way to modify severe behavior issues.

If you are interested in joining us, preregistration is required! Email laura@delightfuldoggies.com to ensure your space. More details about the meetup are here on our Group Meetups page.

Thank you! I am really looking forward to all the fun we will have together,
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

March 2015 clients

March was another busy month and we’ve gotten behind on blog posts, but we’re catching up! I had a great time taking a short spring break to enjoy a seminar from esteemed animal trainer and Vice President at Karen Pryor Academy, Ken Ramirez. I learned so much and was very inspired! Coming up this April, I’m looking forward to learning from Dr. Ian Dunbar, who I personally proclaim the godfather of positive reinforcement dog training. It’s such a pleasure to meet and learn from such wonderful mentors, and to work with all the wonderful clients we had come and go during March!

Check out our photo slideshow from this month by clicking on the below photo icons, and you can see even more photos and slideshows on our Flickr site. We also have a lot more photos and other great content on our Facebook page, so don’t forget to join us there!

Aidan Bruiser Daisy Aria Molly Zooey Roxy Raoul Hobbes Lamb Lola and Betty Lupo Frida Sulley Daphne Gruner Oliver Moose Stella Jane Porter and KC Roka Sara Ollie and Linus

Also appreciated but not pictured: Charley aka “Chuck Norris” the Labrador retriever.

Thank you,
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Client of the month: Aidan the wheaten terrier mix

Congratulations to our March client spotlight, Aidan the wheaten terrier mix!

Aidan chills charmingly on his mat

Aidan chills charmingly on his mat

Aidan is a mature gentleman who has all the spunk of a one-year-old pup! He’s a very unique individual who was not only fun to work with, but also helped me learn and grow as a trainer, which is a very fulfilling part of the job I have.

Not only did Aidan make great progress in training, but so did his amazing mother. She is very dedicated to him and accepts all his quirks, and has learned to work with them to make life more harmonious in their household. We’ve been able to teach him many things, like how to relax and stay on his mat, and be more confident and in control of his impulses. He also benefited from a visit with Miss Courtney, one of our assistants and a wonderful Ttouch practitioner!

Training is a lifelong process and I know Aidan and his mother will continue to work with the tools they’ve gained in our training sessions to make their lives more peaceful and enriching. Thank you so much for choosing Delightful Doggies to guide you in this process!

Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

February 2015 clients

February is a short month, but it was busy! We’ve been seeing lots of sweet clients and we are so fortunate to assist you with your training needs. It’s been fun to get to know new clients and continue with existing clients. There is never a boring moment in dog training! Thanks for entrusting our expertise for your fabulous pooches. :)

Click on the below photo icons to view a slideshow of all our adorable February clients, and don’t forget to check out our Flickr site for other past slideshows. We also have a lot more photos and other great content on our Facebook page, so please like our page and follow us for more great stuff.

Frida Daphne Peanut Gruner Molly Rainbow Henry Daphne Luna Aria Stella Penny Pumpkin Sulley Bruiser Tucker Aidan Hobbes Daisy Oliver Zooey and Roxy

Also appreciated but not pictured: Charley aka “Chuck Norris” the Labrador retriever.

Thank you,
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Client of the month: Frida the blue heeler mix

Congratulations to our February client spotlight, Frida the blue heeler mix!

Frida is a proud Puppy Preschool graduate!

Frida is a proud Puppy Preschool graduate!

Frida has completed our Puppy Preschool program, and is cruising right along in our Finishing School program. Recently she has developed “down” as a solid default behavior, and is learning how to “leave it” and enjoy fun with the flirt pole! We have a lot of fun with her in class, and she has an awesome tuxedo cat brother, Alfonso, who also enjoys demonstrating how smart and sassy he is. It’s a pretty adorable household. :)

Frida was adopted from the MaxFund shelter by her mother, who has done an awesome job at giving her the best start in life. She has given her a great diet, a variety of enrichment toys and activities, and is committed to reward-based training methods. It’s a real joy working with all of them to see “Ms. Smarty Pants” (our affectionate nickname for Frida) flourish!

Thank you for choosing Delightful Doggies for your training needs! It’s a lot of fun working with Frida, Alfonso and their mother!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

How being a dog trainer has changed my life

I’m such a lucky person. Not everyone gets to do something about which they feel so passionately, and enjoy so much. My life has not only changed in terms of loving what I do, but in myriad other ways!

I get to work with cute puppies like Henry!

I get to work with cute puppies like Henry!

I am a more patient human being. Training dogs has taught me the fine art of how to take more pauses in life, and take it slowly. Each dog has their own aptitude for how quickly they learn and each is unique. If I take a moment to get to know them and set training up so they can be successful, I will be far more efficient with results in the end. I’ve also learned to be calmer, and move in a way that is more mindful. Working with reactive, aggressive, overly excited, fearful and anxious dogs definitely provides many opportunities to practice this ability, and it carries over in my own life.

I can make an impact. Not everyone can say their job improves the lives of other creatures and people on this planet, and it’s definitely something that has driven me to this career path. It’s so fulfilling to see people learn to understand their dogs better, and for them to have better communication between each other. Seeing the light bulbs go off for people and their dogs is definitely exciting, and knowing that you’ve helped a family regain a sense of peace and happiness is also out of this world!

I build awesome relationships with lots of dogs—and people! I get to play with puppies, help clients deal with frustrations and turn them around into awesome learning opportunities, and share intimate moments with others in a way that really connects me to them. It’s a pretty amazing, inspiring thing. I also get to network with other professionals to ensure proper referrals and build an awesome support system.

I’m more confident. Being a dog trainer means being a lot of things–as your own business, you are marketer, customer service agent, administrative assistant, scheduler, accountant and more. It’s also a little daunting to be new in this field. It has been a wonderful journey in teaching me that I CAN do what I set my mind to!

I’ve learned how powerful positive reinforcement-based methods are. I knew a little bit about behavioral science from taking psychology courses in high school and college, but until I had to learn about it in terms of dog training and behavior, I really didn’t grasp how powerful the science of using positive reinforcement to teach behaviors is. By focusing on getting behaviors I want and reinforcing them, I don’t have to go down the path of punishment and frustration. I am a more proactive than reactive. And it’s fun and makes everyone happy!

It’s truly a pleasure to work with all of you and your dogs, and I am so honored to get to lead the life I live. Thank you so much for your continued support!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies