Making Strides – Sophie and Loose-Leash Walking, 5-27-14

IMG_2474Sophie and I are continuing on our program of loose-leash walking and she’s really doing very, very well.

The last few days that we’ve been out, the weather not only has cooperated, but so have the distractions.  Either there weren’t any or they were far enough away that they weren’t really a huge deal.

One day, we had just barely started out together and were still on my 150-foot gravel driveway.  There was a family of five crossing the end of it on a walk and bike ride.  The kids were on bikes and the parents were walking.

Sophie saw them immediately and alerted, but didn’t lunge toward them.  She stayed next to me and watched them all very carefully.  I thought this was just such a huge success on her part – to notice, but not go crazy.

Two of the children decided for some reason to ride their bikes down a neighbor’s parallel driveway and into the neighbor’s yard.  This meant that they were about 20 feet or so from Sophie but not coming directly at her and there is a line of fully mature hickory trees between the two driveways.

Again, she was very focused on them and watched very carefully, but did not lunge or bark and took all the treats that I fed her.  She also offered to sit during this encounter!  Another first!

And while this was going, the little girl from the neighbor on the other side came over to say “hi” but Sophie didn’t even notice her!

She is also starting to slow a tiny bit before looking at me as we walk.  When I see it, I click for that rather than looking at me.  I think this is a huge positive development for her, too.

I will also click and treat for just facing forward; she doesn’t have to look at me all the time.  I will also let her slide the leash out of my hand to sniff the neighborhood pee spots, because, after all, that’s what dogs are all about.

She is now offering (not always, but sometimes) to come back to me and circle into heel position.  Yay, Sophie!

Yesterday on our walk, she saw a woman walking toward us on the street but on the other side.  Again, she alerted, focused, and watched her walk by.  Sophie did not lunge to the end of the leash.  When the woman was past, we were able to continue our walk.

Today, there were two people mowing their lawns – one on a riding mower and one using a push power mower.  The person on the riding mower held no interest for Sophie whatsoever.  But she did notice and focus on the person walking behind the push mower.  And he was far enough away that we could stop and watch until Sophie relaxed.

There were other noises, including barking dogs.  Apparently, Sophie is not bothered by those noises.

We were able to walk to the end of our street calmly and slowly.  We were able to walk on the adjoining street to the farthest point we’ve been able to do yet – the second driveway (one-acre lots), AND quite a far distance on the other piece of “our” street that is cut into two parts by my driveway.

When we enter new territory, I walk even slower but raise my rate of reinforcement even higher to help her through the newness.

I was very proud of Sophie today.  She keeps getting better and better.

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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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