Delightful Doggies, Training & Behavior

Training methods matter

Methods are a hotly debated, and oftentimes controversial, topic among dog trainers. It gets even hotter when you toss in the variety of information on the Internet and media, and hobbyist trainers and dog aficionados who live and breathe for their canine companions.

I’ll admit, I’m a very passionate dog trainer. I got into this field because I love dogs, and I do love people, too, and want to see them happy together, as opposed to giving up and taking the dog to a shelter. I would be remiss if I did not cop to the deep love I have for dogs—it’s one of the strongest I have! No doubt most people get into this profession out of the same love for dogs. We have a wide variety of trainers here in Colorado, and if you go visit individual websites, you’ll see a lot of different terms, marketing jargon and labels used to define the methodologies of trainers:

  • Positive reinforcement
  • Balanced
  • Wolf pack theory
  • Natural methods
  • Traditional training
  • Force-free
  • Science-based
  • Clicker or marker training
  • Relationship-based or centered training

To most average consumers, all these labels sound pretty much okay or can mean a lot of things, depending on how you interpret them. Most people can say they want to learn how to communicate effectively with their dogs, and live in a “balanced” state or in “harmony.” But beyond these labels, how can a consumer really determine what the trainer is actually going to do to teach their dogs or solve problems they’re facing?

Dog training, and behavioral science as a whole, have made a lot of advancements in the last few decades. Karen Pryor’s Don’t Shoot the Dog is, in my opinion, one of the books that really made the case for operant conditioning techniques, and the superiority of using positive reinforcement to teach all animals new skills. On the flipside, in 2004, Cesar Millan’s Dog Whisperer TV show debuted, and the “calm-assertive energy” techniques as a pack leader to dogs began to take off. These two “schools,” if you will, and everything in between, are very much in opposition and can be not only confusing for dogs but people!

No doubt we live in a world where people are confused about how to deal with problem behaviors from dogs. I get a lot of strange looks when I tell people to just feed their reactive dogs for noticing triggers (the stimulus that causes the unwanted behavior). “But aren’t I reinforcing the (insert “bad” behavior here—i.e., barking, lunging, etc.)?” people will ask. It’s true that we always want to stay what we call “under threshold,” presenting that stimulus at a level where it will not illicit that behavior we don’t want, but sometimes we live in environments or undergo situations where that isn’t possible.

The key is understanding you can’t reinforce the emotions, and if a dog is truly upset and needs intervention to help them through something difficult, then we should do it, instead of getting frustrated and demanding something they cannot do—perform a behavior. It’s a great goal to want your dog to sit and look at you in the presence of other dogs, but if other dogs are scary for him, then it’s a VERY tough place to start for him! There is not a lot of understanding when it comes to our dogs and their emotional state, and this is probably one of the main reasons why I believe methods matter most. Time and time again, I see clients who have no idea how to make a positive association through successful desensitization and counterconditioning methods (DS/CC), even after seeing one or more other trainers or so-called behaviorists for their dog’s reactivity or aggression issues, and it’s mind-boggling!

Illustration by Lili Chin – click for a larger view

At Delightful Doggies, we choose to strive for situations where we can create a positive association for dogs with those items they find challenging, scary or overly exciting, and then we can get and reinforce the behavior we want. This means setting up the dog for success (so presenting that trigger in a very gradual, non-threatening way), making that association, and then getting a behavior because the dog has not gone over threshold, and sees the trigger as a good thing: It makes chicken happen!

On the flipside, there are others out there who will go too far too fast, or do not employ proper DS/CC protocols, and when the dog does have the reaction the person doesn’t want, the dog is punished. That usually ends up doing the opposite—it makes the trigger even scarier, and can make reactions worse—or suppress them. While the dog may not bark once you’ve used your punishment (making the handler think they’ve “fixed” it), they’re still a bundle of nerves underneath it all, and this training may break down. It may also cause your dog to enter a state of learned helplessness, even if they act the way they want you to moving forward. This isn’t fair to the dog, or help him feel confident and comfortable in the world in which we’ve asked him to live.

I recently shared a post from Sarah Stremming at Cognitive Canine (GREAT blog to follow!): “Why Positive Reinforcement ALWAYS Works.” So many times I have heard others say training didn’t work (regardless of the methods used). This blog makes the very valid point that it’s not the method, but the application of the method, that fails. If we set up appropriate plans and stick to them, they should work—even if it’s a punitive method! It’s very important to remind ourselves that our ability to see things through, to appropriately plan for and execute the training, is at the core of it all. Handler error and misunderstanding, poor timing, inadequate motivation/reward, etc., are all likely to blame than the method itself.

There have been trainers who used to be dedicated to more force-free, positive-reinforcement based methods who have gone over to incorporating more punishment. I have always been blown away by this because I came from the other end; I used to use a blend and was taught a more “balanced” way of training, until I found clicker methods and it totally changed my world. When I hear these trainers talk about how “positive reinforcement failed,” I often wonder why it did for them—and where their skill level is with the techniques. To me, methods matter a LOT. I want my dogs and their people to be happy, healthy and confident, rather than suppressing emotions for the sake of a behavior they may be able to perform, but not comfortably and due to the fear of being punished.

At Delightful Doggies, we are committed to staying away from punitive methods and honing our skills in using successful DS/CC and positive reinforcement to ease the dog’s emotional state, help them be calm and confident, and getting and reinforcing behaviors we do want. If we do this effectively, we have no need for punishment, and we believe the same for any dog, trainer or handler out there. It’s also proven to be safer to use these techniques over punishment. Don’t we owe it to our dogs, and ourselves, to be safe and happy together? We want to contribute to building a world full of people who can harness the power of the positive, to give dogs the ability to choose and make the best choices, and understand dog emotions and the power of a well-thought-out DS/CC plan. We hope you will join us!

Happy training,
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

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Delightful Doggies, Training & Behavior

A Weekend with Suzanne Clothier: The Elemental Questions

I was honored to attend a weekend-long event with Relationship Centered Dog Training expert Suzanne Clothier a couple of weeks ago, while she was here in Denver. A weekend full of learning with her was truly an amazing experience, and I took many great items of wisdom from it.

Out of that entire weekend, her “SEE the Dog: The Elemental Questions” made the strongest impression on me. I will admit it’s been hard to write about dog training lately, as I have felt some burnout at times. Many of my thoughts lately have been about the ethics—or lack of—within the dog training profession. The Elemental Questions Suzanne posited were very exciting and encouraging to me, as I view them as an essential way to determine if your approach with a dog is going to be based on trust and respect, and are in alignment with the ethics I strive to uphold.

The Elemental Questions are:

Hello? This is the introduction, the initial observation where we would look to the dog and how he interacts with the world.

Who are you? This is all about figuring out the dog’s perception—how does he respond to the items in his world? What does this tell us about the dog? Is he happy and confident? Or a shrinking violet?

Roo says, Yes! We can hang out together!
Roo says, Yes! We can hang out together!

How is this for you? This is the question you must ASK CONSTANTLY. It’s about being able to determine the mental, emotional and physical balance of the dog in the immediate situation. If we aren’t able to continue to ask and receive answers to this question, we risk damage to our relationship with our dogs, as the dog may be out of balance and in need of our intervention!

Can you? Is the dog able to pay attention to you? To sit when asked? To walk beside you? What is this dog able to do in this environment? With this distraction present?

May I? Will you allow me to look you in the eyes? Are you able to allow me to pet you? Do I have permission to take you by the leash for a walk?

Can we? What can we do together? Can we practice some tricks? Can we enjoy an outing to the park? Can we relax here together? This brings the relationship full-circle, being able to engage together in activities.

Answering these questions is very dependent on our ability to really read a dog’s body language, and make the best decisions based on that information. Dogs cannot tell us in English—we must be able to read, and respect, what their body language tells us. When we’re able to see what truly makes a dog happy, we can better fulfill his needs. When we’re better able to see the gaps in how comfortable he is, we can make plans to adequately address it. When we really understand the dog, and when he is able to think and learn with us, then we will have true training success.

I encourage readers to ask these questions of their dogs, and to always remember to ask, How is this for you? By really paying attention and listening to what our dogs tell us, we can make the best, most effective and efficient, and most humane training and behavior plans!

Let us know if we can help you better understand and build a relationship with your dog,
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Special Message, Training & Behavior

The Cesar Millan pig killer show: my response

I have struggled, ever since this story broke, to come up with my own response. It has been one of the most difficult things ever, to come up with the right words and response to this, as it stirs a lot of emotions and outrage for me. Many of my colleagues have done great jobs in their own right, and I have read many of these great pieces, such as Lisa Mullinax and Annie Phenix with Dogster. I have to echo their sentiments and the facts they present. There are so many aspects to this case, but I guess what I’d like to concentrate on is what I would do with a dog like Simon.

First, I will admit that a pig killing dog is not something I’ve personally crossed, as there aren’t many pigs in the city of Denver, where I live and work. Most of the dogs I work with are those with aggression and/or reactivity toward other dogs or people, and most of them are either fearful or are in physical pain, or a combination of both. I work behavior modification clients with a certified TTouch practitioner, Courtney Kirman. I do this because I find those methods complementary to the training we do, as it can help them feel more aware of their physical state, and help them feel better and more calm.

In fact, this is what I would first do with Simon: evaluate his physical health first! When was his last vet exam, and what were the results? What does his gait look like? Is he showing signs of being stressed or anxious–when and where? There are many things I use to help to try and figure out what may be at the root of the problem in this regard. When you have a headache or pull a back muscle, for example, it can cause you to have a “shorter fuse.” Not feeling well physically is an important factor, and I also want to ensure the dog I’m working with feels his or her best to maximize the ability to teach him or her what I want her to do, and make it a positive experience.

Once I’ve covered that base, I would also implement a gradual, under-threshold desensitization and counterconditioning (DS/CC) protocol for Simon. This means I would work with him at his own level of comfort and pace to ensure he gets used to noticing pigs: seeing them, hearing them and smelling them, and making it a very wonderful–in fact, THE MOST WONDERFUL–thing EVER! Once he views them as something wonderful and is in a “happier” state of mind, he will be able to make the right choices to behave around them.

Since Simon is a known killer of pigs, this will take some time. The more severe the response, the more work it will generally take to get a more relaxed emotional response. Killing pigs is something to not take lightly! I would also acclimate Simon to a basket muzzle; this way, he can be fed treats, pant and drink water if needed, but not be able to bite anyone or anything. Until he is conditioned on this muzzle, I would always work my DS/CC with him on leash outside the pig pen, so he cannot get to the pig(s) at all.

Outside the pen, I would be clicking a clicker every time Simon looks at a pig (or I could use a marker word, like saying YES) and follow it with the most wonderful thing ever to him, which may be boiled chicken, or bits of hot dog, deli meat or cheese. I would do this repetitively, and for a short amount of time. This technique is known as the Look At That or the Engage – Disengage game, and is a great way for a dog to learn how to acknowledge something scary or very exciting without displaying signs of over arousal, fear or aggression.

If he shows any signs of stress or aggression, I would make note of that and make more space, and perhaps take a break. It’s important to know the limits; I may make mistakes, particularly in the beginning, of getting too close or training too long, but if I pay attention to Simon’s body language and make those connections, then I can modify my plan to make it less stressful.

For instance, if I was doing this with Simon at a distance of 10 feet from the pig pen, and had been doing it for five minutes–let’s say he had been doing fine until the last 30 seconds, showing slight signs of stress like sniffing and looking away while licking his lips–then I’d resume training later at being 10 feet away for only 3 minutes, so he would be less likely to be stressed, and have a positive training experience.

It’s key to keep the dog from practicing any aggressive, reactive behaviors, and from as much stress as possible. No one can learn when they’re stressed–behavior modification is MUCH harder if there is a lot of stress–and it will not make for a positive experience. If I go too far too fast, like sticking him into the pen without any safety measures like a muzzle or leash on him, it can lead to disaster. It is always better to go a bit more slowly and to ALWAYS consider safety. I would not let him anywhere near the pen until he was acclimated to a muzzle, and without a leash. In fact, as I said earlier, the leash would be used outside the pen as well so we could maintain the right distance we need for DS/CC.

As time goes by, I’d be able to get a little bit closer and go a little longer with training, but it would all be dependent on Simon and the signs he’s giving me. If he’s doing well, I can gradually increase my criteria for him. But I must be careful and not get greedy, and no one likes for things to be harder and harder all the time. It’s best to stop while you’re ahead, especially if you’re blessed with a great accomplishment. Perhaps I’m up to five feet away and Simon is able to look at the pig(s) but then look back at me right away–then I’d click and jackpot with lots of food! The better the response, the better the reward, teaching him how to make the right choices. Our video of Lucy’s story goes through what we have done with dogs like this, who react aggressively to other dogs.

Lucy learned how to be calm instead of aggressive around other dogs in our behavior modification sessions
Lucy learned how to be calm instead of aggressive around other dogs in our behavior modification sessions

This is a simplified version of a plan–there are many other components to what I would do as well outside of DS/CC, like teaching other incompatible behaviors, doing impulse control work, etc.–but it does give insight into how I approach such situations. Our dogs are so smart, and willing to please us, that we shouldn’t sell them short and force them into situations that can backfire. We should always set them up for success and reward them for what is good. That way we can build trust and a dog that is confident and respectful.

And for the record, if you want to know my opinion on Cesar Millan–you can refer to this earlier piece of mine. I might also add, I consider pretty much all reality TV as total unreality. 🙂

Thank you,
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Delightful Doggies

Poppy is introduced to a TTouch half-wrap

This raw-footage (unedited) video features our partner, Courtney Kirman of Tender Hands Animal Training, coaching Poppy’s parents on the TTouch half wrap and how to introduce it to Poppy in a way that is very positive and at her pace. We used lots of yummy cheese and let her have breaks to acclimate slowly so it wasn’t overwhelming.

Check it out below and let us know your thoughts! We’d love to hear from you.

 

Happy Training!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Delightful Doggies, Training & Behavior

My recipe for successful dog training

There are many different methods in dog training. Each has its own pros and cons, and all trainers are individuals who are influenced by their education and hands-on experience. I wanted to take a few moments today to tell you a little more about my “recipe” for successful dog training; here are all my ingredients!

Having a loving moment with Charlie after a Walk & Train session
Having a loving moment with Charlie after a Walk & Train session
  1. Lots of love. If I don’t genuinely care for the dog (or his people!), then I won’t be able to connect with him to successfully teach him what I want him to know. This may sound a little hokey, but it’s a key ingredient. I think a high degree of my success is because I am genuine in the love and care of what I do, and for whom. The dogs—and people—can definitely pick up on it, and it sets the tone for everything else.
  2. Respect and trust. Likewise, if I don’t have respect for those with whom I’m working and build a trusting relationship, all will fall apart. One of the main reasons I use positive reinforcement heavily is because it builds trust. The more trust I build, the more my clients will comply with what is needed to be done to meet goals. The more trust I build, the more the dog will be motivated to work with me, and make the right choices. Respect and choice should be given and received from all.
  3. Proper management. A key element in successful training is management; if I allow the dog to continue with behaviors that aren’t desired, then they’re getting practice at getting better at them—and keeping them! If I don’t address criteria properly and my dog gets too overwhelmed, excited, anxious or stressed, then I will also have a problem teaching the dog what I want him to learn. Making sure I have the right setup and management plan in place is crucial to the success of everything else!
  4. Addressing emotions as well as behavior. If the dog with whom I’m working cannot relax, or is in a state of overarousal, excitement, fear or anxiety, then he cannot think to be able to offer behaviors I want. I may need to address this by teaching relaxation techniques, giving supplements, calming tools or medication if appropriate, and doing appropriate desensitization and counterconditioning to teach the dog that whatever it finds overwhelming is awesome. If I address the dog’s emotional state and turn it from something like fear into happiness, then I have opened the door to building trust as well as helping the dog return to a thinking state of mind, and reinforce behaviors I want instead of having a meltdown that frustrates and stresses all involved.
  5. Proper criteria. If a dog is being asked to sit in a very exciting environment (such as a popular, crowded park on a weekend) after practicing at home with no distractions, then I’ve failed. I have set the dog up to fail and will only frustrate him and the client, as I’ve gone from basic arithmetic to calculus! It’s important to know where the level of learning currently is, and how to build on it gradually for for continued success. Varying the difficulty, rather than making it constantly harder and harder, is also important—I make criteria easier at times, not just constantly more challenging. Doing this will make learning less stressful, more fun and faster for the dog.
  6. Lots of reinforcement for behaviors I want! It is so very important to be generous with reinforcement, especially when the dog is learning something new, is facing something particularly challenging, and when the dog is doing a great job. Good training has to have balance in this way; if I am too stingy, the dog may lose interest and it may all fall apart, or he may get frustrated because I’m not in tune with the great job he’s doing. You can always lessen reinforcement over time and repetition, and continued good performance, but it’s crucial to balance this with your criteria and the dog’s ability. I believe in being realistic and generous.
  7. Avoiding punishment, particularly physical corrections. Punishment doesn’t teach a dog what to do; it only suppresses behaviors we don’t want. If we properly manage, we won’t need to correct, and if we adequately set criteria, address emotions, and reinforce desired behaviors, it won’t be necessary. I’m not saying I’m perfect—I am human and have definitely lost my cool and yelled at my own dogs, or have been frustrated–but it is never okay to physically harm a dog. It may be a quick fix, but it can damage your trust and at worst, make the dog feel worse and therefore behave worse. There are too many pitfalls to punishment to have them in my toolbox, which is why I do not use electronic/static/shock collars and devices, prong collars or choke chains, or any tool that will apply pressure to a dog’s body or take away his choice. And while some tools may not physically hurt or damage a dog, psychologically it could be a whole other story, and set back your training instead of move it forward. I highly recommend reading the AVSAB’s statement on punishment for more about this.

I hope my recipe helps you better understand who I am as a trainer, and where my emphasis is. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Happy training!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Training & Behavior

How to teach your dog to walk politely on leash, part three: working outside and with more distractions

In our third and final installment of teaching a dog how to walk politely on leash, we are going to discuss working with more distractions. We have gone over the basics in part one with talking about how to begin, and working without distractions in your home, and how to get out the door calmly in part two, but now we’re going to discuss what happens once we get out that door!

Our walk & train client, Bogey, is rocking loose leash walking!
Our walk & train client, Bogey, is rocking loose leash walking!

The same basics apply outdoors as they do indoors: you will want to click and treat for eye contact, following beside you, taking turns with you, and being in the standard heel position. If your dog is highly distracted, I will spend time just working on eye contact/attention, and interacting with the dog, before I start moving. I use a TON of praise and feedback. I am always talking to the dog as she is following me, telling her how good she is.

Once I feel we do have a connection, I can begin moving. My goal, in the beginning, is not to make it all the way to the park crowded with volleyball players, geese, squirrels, bicyclists, picnic parties and more…that will come in time. At first, I just want to work on my block, or immediate neighborhood. Depending on the dog and how she is feeling and doing that day, I may make it shorter or longer. The key is to know how successful your dog can be, and not push her too far so that you are frustrated or don’t have her attention. It’s better to opt for a five- to ten-minute walk that is training-oriented rather than a 20-minute walk where you have absolutely no connection with your dog!

Walking up and down the block, I can vary my pace and also vary the turns I take, and when I take them. By doing this, I can teach the dog that walking on a loose lead with me is what is expected. Oftentimes I will use higher-quality reinforcement than what I was using inside; real foods can be more potent as well as affordable. Tiny bits of all-natural meats with no additives work very well.

If you have successfully worked on luring techniques with your dog, you can use these as well. Remember, it’s about following your hand, not a treat! If your dog can’t seem to follow your hand, go back to basics by first baiting your hand with a treat, concealing it, and getting your dog’s nose attached to your hand. Move your hand just a few inches to start, keeping your dog’s nose following it, and then click and give the treat. Do this maybe twice more with a baited hand, then do it without a treat baited in your hand. You will want to wean off the food lure as quickly as you can, and reinforce that it is about following your hand, NOT a treat.

Many dogs find other people, dogs, other types of wildlife, cars, bicycles and any other number of real-life things distracting. Some even find them a little frightening. Pay attention to what your dog finds distracting, and why. If your dog is interested or excited about meeting or chasing such things, use that to your advantage. If I know my dog wants to sniff a spot, I will get a behavior I want and then release him to go sniff as his reward. Likewise, he loves to chase squirrels so I have used this as a way to reinforce coming to me, or even just giving me some eye contact first. By pairing what the dog really wants to do with something you want, you are potently reinforcing what you want, and will have success, rather than seeing it as a burdensome distraction.

If your dog is scared of such objects or other animals/people, you can just feed—no clicking required. All we are doing in this case is creating a positive association with what your dog finds scary. When she sees this scary thing, give a high-value treat. Over repetition, she will understand that this object means something good, and her emotions will begin to change from fear to calm, even happiness. Then you can click and treat for actual behaviors you want.

If your dog pulls, stop walking. If you continue walking, your dog will learn that pulling is way to get where she wants. You can stop moving and wait for her to give you slack, or even call her back, and click once you get that slack, and treat once she’s back at your side. You can change directions once you feel that tension is about to happen, and click and treat for the turn. Another option is to pivot away at a 50-degree angle. By doing these and keeping your hand with the leash close to your belly button, you will be able to teach her how to give in to the leash pressure. Remember, you are always clicking for an actionin this case, the slack of the leash, but the reinforcement (treat) is ALWAYS coming from your heel position (on your left, or right if you prefer, side).

If at any point your dog simply cannot walk politely with you, then you have gone too far and/or long with your training. I see leash walking as a gradual expand of territory; I may walk a dog for the first day or two in the house and their yard without distraction to make it very strong before I even try to go out the door, and after I’ve taught her impulse control at the door. Keeping a high rate of reinforcement each time you get farther is important, as well as not grouping too much criteria together. If your dog is new and you take her to a popular park or hiking trail right away, it can be a setup for failure rather than success. Take the time and build your dog’s ability gradually. Above all, be patient and connected with your dog.

We love teaching leash skills and addressing problems like leash reactivity and over-excitement on leash, so contact us for more help!

(And don’t forget to check out parts one and two of this blog series on loose leash walking!)

Thank you and happy training,
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Training & Behavior

How to teach your dog to walk politely on leash, part two: getting out the door calmly

In my first installment on leash manners, I discussed the very basics of how to teach loose leash walking, and practicing this within your home before trying outdoors, where many types of distractions await. Far too often, people expect a great deal from their dogs but get frustrated easily once that long walk to the park with lots of joggers, picnicking parties, other dogs, squirrels, goose poop and more await. By practicing indoors first, you are going to have an easier time instilling the habits you want: proper heel position, eye contact, being able to follow you and take turns, and have slack on the leash.

Once you do have more practice, you will want to eventually get outside to practice, but before even crossing that doorway out, many people who have very distracted or excited dogs will be frustrated immediately because of their dog’s tendency to just bolt out the front door. This has to be addressed, because if your dog is to excited and not paying attention to you from this point, it’s even more difficult to have the attention you want and no pulling on walks as you get out the door with him!

Lola does a great job practicing waiting at the front door with mom
Lola does a great job practicing waiting at the front door with mom

Practicing waiting at the door is super-important. It’s not about “I’m alpha and have to go out the door before you!” It’s really about getting that connection with your dog and having attention, as well as a safe experience. Dogs who bolt out of doors may be able to snap their leash, or may jerky you so that you drop the leash, and then they risk running across the street where they can be hit by a car, or end up lost as they run away. It’s about impulse control and safety, not about dominance!

As with teaching any other cue to your dog, you will want to start this one at an easier level. Starting with the front door, or the door that leads to the backyard or the garage or anywhere else that can signal a fun outing will be far more challenging than practicing at the bathroom, bedroom or other doors inside your home. Using one of these “unexciting” doors, place your dog while on leash in a sit and say, “wait.” Count to five seconds, then click and treat. Repeat this one more time and then start moving your hand toward the door. Click and treat for the wait.

Remember to add a release cue from the sit if you want to take a break at any time during this process, or if your dog seems like he will want to break the sit. You can praise him after you release him so he understands the release cue is his signal for breaking the sit and/or taking a break. A sit, regardless of adding a cue like wait or stay, is important to maintain until you release the dog!

Eventually in the process you will touch the doorknob, turn it, open the door slightly, and gradually get it all the way open, and even taking a step through it, before releasing your dog to join you. You can vary the difficulty level so it’s just not always getting harder and harder, which will make it less stressful for the dog. Take breaks as you need and make your progress match what your dog is capable of doing.

The entire process is shaping the eventual end behavior: a wait at a door, regardless of it being open or closed, and whether or not you are with your dog or already on the other side, to get a release cue from you to join you. I use “wait” in this scenario instead of a “stay” because a stay means you need to come back to the dog and release him. In this scenario, I am releasing the dog to come join me, or I could even use a loose leash walking cue like “let’s go” if I prefer. A stay should always mean I come back to release you; a wait is more like, pause here a moment and then I’ll either release you or give you another cue.

Once you have practiced at less exciting doors, you can move to the exciting ones. Remember to break it down and reinforce the “wait” at all stages: no advancement to the door, a hand advancing to the doorknob, touching the doorknob, turning the doorknob, gradually opening the door little bits at a time, and then you crossing through the door gradually before releasing. If at any point your dog cannot maintain the stay, try an easier step and build from there, or do an easier step and take a break. You should always end training when the dog is doing well, and shorter sessions are usually better. Don’t be greedy! You don’t want to get frustrated, and you want training to be fun for both of you.

In my next installment, we’ll discuss how to work with walking outdoors and adding more distractions. 🙂

(And don’t forget to check out part one of this blog series on loose leash walking, if you haven’t already!)

Thank you for reading and happy training!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies