Monday, May 4, 2009

Leash Training, 102

This exercise is meant to be done after you've done Leash Training, 101. It's very useful if done correctly, but please follow the instructions carefully and don't overdo it.

The Beginners Frankenstein
I got an e-mail today from one of my clients. She has a chocolate Lab pup who’s a little over 4 mos. old. She’s been doing the Leash Training. 101 exercise, but wrote the following:

Hi, Lee! I was just thinking of you this morning as I was struggling to get Lucy to move along nicely during her walk. She just wanted to sit on the corner and wait for other dogs to come along (she loves meeting w/ other dogs). I tried treats and a squeaker and trying to get her to chase me but nothing seemed to work. I will read through the piece on your site to see if I can figure anything out.

Heres my reply:

The reason she
’s waiting for other dogs may have something to do with the way dogs play together, which is quite different from the kind of spatial dynamic we have with dogs when we play with them.

Spatial dynamic?

Yes, dogs move through space on a horizontal axis. We move through space on the vertical. This can create problems because no matter how much our dogs love us and trust us, they’re genetically engineered to have a knee-jerk, nervous reaction to anything with a vertical axis of symmetry. (We are too, by the way; it goes back to when our ancestors were struggling to survive and had to be careful around anything vertical, especially it it was moving towards them.)

I would do one of two things: I might come down to her level, maybe sit next to her, or get down on my hands and knees (silly situation) and do a play bow. In other words, I would act preylike, I'd behave as if I’m something shed want to chase and bite. This will re-energize her in a way that you become more magnetic to her instincts. In other words, if her problem is that she’s looking to plug her energy into something in the environment, preferably another dog, and you’re there, trying to distract her away from her goal, you need to become the thing that she wants to plug her energy into.

The other, simpler, and probably better alternative is the beginner’s version of what I like to call the Frankenstein exercise, where you act momentarily like a predator. It goes something like this:

She lies down and won’t move, wont listen to you, wont be teased into playing.

“I won’t walk! I want to lie here on the sidewalk until we meet another dog!”

When this happens I might step back, as far away as the leash will let me, but I’ll keep my body facing hers. Then I’ll hunch my shoulders a little and stare at her, making my eyes appear as big as possible to her. I’ll lean in from the waist. I might make a sudden move with my arm. My eyes will get wider. I’ll move slowly toward her as if Im stalking her and as if I might just kill her. Ill even growl menacingly, followed with a little soft praise to let her know it’s a game.

Of course my goal isnt really to terrify her, its more like what you do with a kid on Halloween. You scare them a little so that they shriek with a combination of fear and glee. Its also similar to a play tactic dogs have with each other. “I’m stalking you now. Am I going to kill you or are you going to chase me?” Its a game.

One thing that helps her understand it's a game is the low growl I mentioned, followed by the soft “Good girl...” (Repeat as needed.)

People will think youre crazy, but shell love it. And it should make her lock on to you and create a sudden surge of energy directed your way.

Too much energy and shell jump up and start zooming around in crazy circles. Just the right amount and shell just jump at you, which is what you want.

Once she jumps at you, that’s when you can either give her toy and play a quick game of tug, or just run away, getting her to chase you. Once she becomes energized like this you can then resume your walk, but in a more energetic, playful way.

By the way, it should only take 5 - 10 seconds to get her magnetized to you, and you can then use that magnetism to keep her walking, at least for a while.

Let me know if you have any questions or problems,

"Changing the World, One Dog at a Time"


summerinbrooklyn said...

Argh! OK so I've been doing it with TOO MUCH ENERGY...... Help! I've been doing this more with Summer now that we're in Singapore. There are virtually no dogs to play with here. we're on our own. It's funny, she has two doggy friends we run into every now and then, but even then she'll play a little but is less interested these days. So to compensate, I play a game with her when we walk through the park (offleash, illegally, but no one says anything). She likes to roll on the grassy bits here in SG (heat relief I suspect) and when she does, she gets a little nutty. So I often encourage her and turn and do the frankenstein thing, and on occasion she'll run at me, but only when I say Summer come, and otherwise she does the zoomie thing. I'm not sure how to tune it down to get her to run at me without giving her the recall cue... Other times I dart AWAY from her and this gives her the impetus to chase me. But again, she never runs and jumps on me, she'll run then at the last min, veer off to avoid crashing into me. At home we play hide and seek (OK OK I know, I shouldn't be playing at home... but it's so hot here that I sometimes have to limit her outdoor time but don't want to shortchange her on activity time...). At home, she'll run and jump on me, especially since I've started the game where I put her in a stay in the living room, then run into the bedroom, recall her and she jumps on the bed and "attacks" me... Perhaps more pushing exercises outdoors? Go back to the basics?

LCK said...

Hi, SummerInSingapore,

Nice to hear from you.

Knowing Summer as I do, I'm not surprised that she does the zoomies and/or runs at you then veers off.

I think there might be a simple solution: when you see that look come over her and you know she's going to run after you if you dash away, do that and when she gets close enough, but before she veers off (in other words, when the drive to connect is still strong enough), fall down and cry out, "Oh, no! You got me! You killed me! You're the king dog!"

Try that and see what develops. You can also do a modified version indoors, where you get down on your hands and knees, bat at her with your "paws," growling and saying, "I'm gonna getcha! What're you gonna do? I'm gonna getcha!"

Then roll over on your back and use the "Oh, no! You got me! You're the king dog!" thing and see what happens.

If she zips off to grab a toy it means that you didn't "set the hook" deeply enough before you rolled over.


LCK said...

Someone named "anonymous" sent the following comment:

"Thank you for posting this information, i really need this for my little Angel."

Anonymous also included a link to an advertisement in his/her comment, so the entire comment was rejected for that reason. I don't mind links to anything helpful, cute, or fun, but I draw the line at promotional links.