Sophie and Loose-Leash Walking, 4-17-14

Sophie is continuing to improve even to the point of being off leash on my driveway when I go to get the mail or the morning newspaper.  When we first start out near the farm gate, she is right by my side in perfect heel position.  I often don’t have treats at these times, so I have to rely on chest scratches.  She doesn’t like being touched on the head.

Today, we went to the end of the driveway and made the 90-degree left turn to the street.  We only went about 15-20 down the street when she got distracted away from me.  So we circled back toward home going clockwise to the right.  Then we turned left and circled back toward the street.  We spent the next 20 minutes or so making figure eights the width of the street (50 feet?) back and forth, back and forth.  If her attention left me, we circled toward home.  After her attention came back, we circled toward the street.

Newness comes in many forms.  Raising or changing criteria can come in many ways.  Watching Sophie’s body language, I am beginning to tell when she loses attention on me.  If I wait too long, she might go over threshold and I want to avoid that.

Working in the street itself is “new” and it’s raising or changing criteria from the tree-lined driveway.  Perhaps she feels more protected there – the gravel driveway is narrow and closely lined on both sides by large trees.

Working in small circles and figure eights allows us to briefly try out the “new” while quickly, but smoothly returning to the old and familiar.  I’m hoping this will help us build confidence in the more open street.

One of the interesting developments, however, is finding that the dog that used to be way out in front, is now way out behind.  I click when she’s at my leg and she’ll be at my leg to eat the treat, but then stop to eat it and I’ve continued to take a step or two, never adding any pressure to the leash.  I don’t really mind that she’s now behind me, because I know that we’re now on a sort of pendulum – first, way out in front; now, way behind – and that the wild swings will begin to calm down and shorten.  It just takes time and working on the details.

Since I would like her to continue with me while I walk, I try to keep walking while I treat.  But then she stops.  I can ask her to come to my leg and she will, but I’d really rather she were glued to my leg in a way.  I can alter when I click and I can feed forward now.  I was feeding backward for her being too far ahead.  Now it’s the reverse.  I’ll keep playing with the options until we get something that works.

After our LLW session, we went on the power-lines trail off lead.  What fun!

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About Laurie Higgins

I play with clicker training - with my horses, dogs, and cats. I also attempt to grow vegetables with the hope of one day being able to feed my family from my garden. My daughter and I are learning ballroom dancing. Well, we were. But she left me for a paying horse job, so now my husband and I are learning ballroom dancing. I'm also now helping Peggy Hogan, of Clicker Training Horses (and The Best Whisper is a Click) to teach people how to train their own horses using "clicker training".
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