Focus And Attention
Rewarding Calm Behaviour:
Using a Clicker, or “Yes”, capture and reward your puppy for calm behaviour. This includes no jumping, no biting and no barking. Think of these as free “warm-up” treats. It's a great way to get your puppy's attention before starting your walk, and can also be used as a way of encouraging calm behaviour if they are getting a little overexcited indoors or outside.
They don't need to sit, or even offer eye contact initially, you are just capturing calm manners.
Rewarding for calm behaviours quickly becomes rewarding for eye contact.
Wait for your puppy to make eye contact (without prompting), then click and reward. The more a puppy is rewarded for a behaviour you like, the more they will offer it. Eye contact is the foundation of great Focus and Attention, and without it simple behaviours like walking and sit/stay become challenging.
Increase the duration of the eye contact from 1 second to 5-10 seconds before clicking and rewarding.
The Name Game
For a puppy to learn their name they need's to hear it at least 500 times, and respond to it correctly. To help them with this I like to play the Eye Contact Game above, then abruptly stop mid game. Your pup will quickly loose interest and choose to look away, as they do so call their name, and be ready to Click and reward for eye contact again.
Practice this variation of the game with your pup close at first, but as they starts to quickly respond you can wait for them to get further away before you call.
Walking Part 1. Finding The Sweet Spot
Loose leash walking, when mastered, looks simple...but believe me, there's a lot of work that goes into it.
There are many distracting obstacles during your walk that your puppy has to overcome. From greeting strangers, leaving food scraps, cigarette butts, feathers, other dogs...the list is endless. Over the next few sessions I will be teaching you a variety of skills to help you choreograph a beautiful, relaxing walk with your pup, so hold tight, there are a few basics to cover first.
Start with your pup in front, facing you. Keeping your body facing forward, take a small step back with one foot, and point to the space behind it (just behind your heel)...this is The Sweet Spot for easy walking.
Taking that small step away from your pup will help draw them towards you, while using your hand signal to lure them into The Sweet Spot next to you.
Once your pup has moved in behind your foot, step forward (making space for them to follow you), take a couple more step, then praise and reward.
Walking Part 2. Pulling Forward
STOP. Take a breath. You have plenty of time.
The last thing you want to do is let your puppy drag you around the block, through flower beds, after pigeons, or chase other dogs. If they find it rewarding, they will continue doing it – and many dogs seem to believe that the only way to get their owners to the park is to drag them.
Instead, we want to teach our pups that the only way to get anywhere, is together.
As soon as your puppy starts to speed up (before the leash get tight), Stop.
Wait for them to check-in with you, without prompting. As soon as they make eye-contact, say “Yes”, take a small step back with one foot, and lure them into that Sweet Spot.
Take a couple of steps forward, with your puppy walking nicely next to you, then reward with a treat.
If your puppy is too distracted to check-in with you unaided, you can help them. Call their name once, and if that doesn't result in eye contact make a squeaky/smooching noise, clap your hands, tap your feet...what ever you need to do to get their attention. Once they make eye contact say “Yes”, take a small step back with one foot, and lure them back into that Sweet Spot.
Walking Part 3. Lagging Behind
Your puppy may put the breaks on for multiple reasons, it's a very distracting world out there for a young one.
Things to remember: Every time your leash goes tight, it acts as a bicycle break. Trying to pull your puppy will only results in them digging their heels in harder.
Be patient, wait for an opportunity to invite them to move forward.
I love using 6 foot leashes (not retractable ones), which allow me to move away from my pup when they stop, plus allows them more freedom to explore without you having to follow them.
When your puppy stops, reel out the rest of your 6 foot leash until you are holding the handle (only if it is safe to do so), then throw your arm back – adding an extra 2 foot to the leash.
Throwing your arm back put slack into a tight leash, and often acts as break release, encouraging your puppy to move forward.
If the street is busy, keep the leash short (do not reel it out), but still throw your arm back to release the tension.
- With your leash hand behind you, use your other hand to lure you puppy in. Wait for the moment your puppy chooses to follow you, praise them with a “Yes”, wait for them to come in close, take an extra couple of steps, then reward with a small treat.