Go out to eat and play
One of the most frustrating things dog owners face is when they have a dog that will work really well at home but looks like he has never had any training when they take him out. This happens due to a number of reasons and this program attempts to overcome one major one.
This is a video of my dog Venom, in this video we are at a brand new location and I have given him some free time to do as he pleases in this park.
At various times, including very high distraction I recall him, you can see in the video why I have no hesitation letting him off anywhere, any time.
Now going back to why dogs wont perform outside the home, one very big factor is that people train them not to.
That’s right, they teach their dog that this big open area that is full of grass, dogs birds and the coolest smells in the world is a place that I will rarely call you, rarely interact with you, so you go find your own fun.
Then when the dog is having a ball, perhaps chasing another dog, they call the dog away from the fun (dog). Now I know people don’t intend in teaching that, but that is the message learned, so let’s start out teaching a better message.
First I am going to explain this term “Environmental Landmark”. This means that when the dog see’s a certain “Landmark”, such as a park, open area etc. he predicts a certain outcome, remember Premack?
You take your dog to the park every day, you let him run around and have fun, he will see the park as the place where he runs around and have fun. You try get that dog to engage with you in the park, good luck.
So let’s change this, now remember this exercise is written for a puppy, it will not work the same when you have an adult dog that has already formed a “Landmark Value”. This is not a remedial program.
This program takes into account that you have been clicker / marker conditioning your puppy and your puppy expects a treat after a click or a verbal marker.
It expects that your puppy is used to wearing a harness and you have a long line.
Get the highest reward value items you have, be it toys, food or whatever you need and put those in your training bag. If your using treats put those in your treat pouch but wear that pouch now for some time whilst your with your puppy. Turning up at the park and fitting your pouch will cue the dog rewards are available, that’s not what we want.
So you have yourself ready to reward, pouch on for some time now and harness fitted to your pup. Drive to the park and get your pup pout of the car, walk towards the gate and let your pup take in a full view of the “environment”.
Your holding your puppy by the long line attached to the harness.
Get your pups attention by using either a Behaviour Interrupter or your trigger cue for drive work, whichever is strongest or will work.
Puppy turns around mark yes and move backwards away from the pup whilst your produce the reward. Puppy races to you and enjoys reward, walk further into the park and re cue or trigger again and mark and reward the same.
Do this 8 – 15 times and then keep your pups attention and head back to the car, put your puppy in the car, perhaps in the crate and give him or her a couple of small pieces of food, just to say well done!
Take a break and relax, if you’re up for it and have the time and a reward driven dog, drive to another location, repeat the same thing.
You want to do this every time you go to a new place, so that your dog see’s a park, a shopping centre, dog club etc as “Environmental Landmarks”, these Landmarks spell Engagement with owner in this location.
You want to be able to hop out of the car, get your dog out and as soon as the dog gets feet on the ground it is looking at you for a game.
It knows that this area is where you will pay it, it is what you have done the last 15 times so the pup expects you will always do it.
It is at THIS point, remember where the dog looks at you as soon as you show the dog the target environment, that we raise the bar.
You now want to start training at these locations, the Million Dollar recall program is excellent for this.
As you progress I will add some more subtle aspects to my predictability.
First lets talk about another term, “Concomitant Cues”.
Have you ever seen a dog get all excited when the leash is picked up? There is science behind why the dog feels this way, yes it predicts that something good will happen because something good has happened before after the leash has gone on.
Now tell me, when you have a new dog and you go to a big open park and let the dog off the leash for the first time, you are nervous because you are “giving up control.”
Why must you give something up, why not gain something?
Think of what we trained above and understand that we can control the Concomitant value of something too, when I take my dogs leash off, he doesn’t think he is free, this is a SIGNAL, a cue that I will reward him.
Lets train that now, you have a dog that gets to the park and thinks this is a place to engage with you, so now we want to add the leash removal cue to that.
At this location, your pup is looking at you expecting a game, you reach down now and grab the pups collar, just slip your index finger inside it.
Pull up slightly so the pup notices that you have done it and then let go of collar and say yes or click, move backward and reward as puppy chases you down.
Have fun with this and repeat it every chance you get, do the same when you take the leash off, take the line off the harness, CONVERT the belief that taking the leash or line off your dog is loss of control.
Teach your dog it’s a SIGNAL that you will reward.
Take this further by adding duration, this means that you will slip the leash off the collar and then stand there doing nothing, the puppy stares at you for a second or two now before you mark or click.
You then do the same but in that second or two you walk off a few steps, so the puppy runs with you asking you to play.
When I get to a new place and see my dog ANTICIPATE something I can’t control, I don’t let that event play out.
This is a picture of my dog Venom, here I am walking onto the training field and I have a tug in my hand and ahead there is a decoy wearing a bite sleeve. You can see these things do not drive him, I do.
He has been to my training field many times and he loves to bite the sleeve, I was walking him onto field and I saw him anticipate what was about to play out. So I connect my leash to his flat buckle collar and gave him a loose leash walking cue. He dropped into the relaxed state of mind you see here and did not act in any way that would suggest he would be doing anything else.
This is imperative I feel to maintain control of a powerful dog in any environment.
Remember that this is a conditioning program, so the reward style is going to be Operant. We are going to be building drive then releasing it into a toy or food after a marker from you or a clicker.
The power of this program is developed by running it consistently every time and raising the bar in terms of duration and distraction.
You won’t get the dog to assign a lifelong value by doing this once or three times, work on doing it 500 times, you can lose count once your dog engages with you every time in the target location all the time no matter what is going on.