It's Assignment time!
Browse through the three assignments below and even if you have done these in the past, let's run through them anyway.
If you feel like you're running out of time, don't stress! You will have plenty of time to do these things as we work through the material.
The last thing we need is a stressed out dog-guardian too! 😉
"Elevator" is a great game to play with dogs of any age and size. This exercise builds impulse control in dogs and teaches them to keep all feet on the floor rather than jumping up for what they want.
How to train:
Step 1: Hold a small treat in your hand and show it to your dog briefly before you close your fist around it and bring it straight up in the air. This fist with a treat in it is the elevator. It starts at the penthouse and works its way to the ground floor (your dog's mouth).
Step 2: When your dog's feet are all on the floor (they can sit or stand or lie down - it makes no difference!), bring the treat down fairly quickly, in a straight vertical line, directly toward your dog's mouth. If the elevator arrives at ground floor (your dog's mouth while standing, sitting, or lying down) and their feet are still on the floor, open your hand and let them take the treat!
Step 2.5: If at any time your dog's feet come off the floor, the elevator shoots right back up to the penthouse immediately. Keep in mind, this is a brand new elevator; it does not squeak, say "no" or "ah-ah" or "hey" or anything else on its way back up. It's silent! When your dog's feet are back on the floor, the elevator moves.
Step 3: Gradually move the elevator a little slower until it takes you 5-Mississippi to get from the penthouse to the ground floor. Keeping in mind the criteria that your dog's feet must stay planted. You may choose to cue your dog to sit or lie down before the elevator leaves the penthouse at this point and make that position your new criteria going forward.
Teaching our dogs to chill out can be quite a challenge, and how do we know if it's really working? Can you teach "relaxation"? Can you teach an emotion? Relaxation is a state and just like with people, we can learn to slow our minds and slow our bodies, lowering our heart rate and relaxing our muscles. We can't teach dogs to feel an emotion, but perhaps we can help them recover from stressful incidents and slow down when they're overly excited.
Prerequisites for this exercise are "Elevator", "down", "settle" (simply luring them to the side while they're in a down so that they pop over onto one hip). We will not use a clicker for this exercise as it may be too stimulating for them. A simple, quiet verbal marker like "yes" or "good" will do.
Start with the elevator game and gradually work toward a down position. When they're in a down position, you can either cue them or lure them into a settle (over onto one hip). Sit with them either in a chair or on the floor beside them. Try to take deep breaths yourself - think yoga class or meditation!
Watch your dog. Mark any sign of relaxation or de-arousal:
- slowed breathing
- a still tail
- relaxed muscles
- lowered head
Some dogs cannot handle this for very long (dogs who are higher energy or higher anxiety). Start small - 60 seconds and then give them a break. Work your way up over time. We've had clients work through this and their dogs have put themselves to sleep working through this exercise!
Ideas for cues: "wait", "one sec", "hold", "pause"
Dogs don't naturally have city-smarts, so crossing a street is just crossing a street. Waiting for a traffic signal or an "okay!" is not intuitive for them. It is just so exciting to get to the other side! Unfortunately, it can be dangerous for us, the dog, and other people on the road. The wait cue teaches your dog to pause or stop at the curb until you give the all clear.
How to teach it:
Start at home with your dog off-leash
- Say the cue "wait" and then bring a treat down right in front of their nose and let them have it
- Move around and repeat!
- Now let's do it on leash!
On leash in your home or yard, take a few steps forward and then say "wait" and then bring a treat down right in front of their nose and let them have it.
Move around and repeat!
Generalise it to a walk:
On a leashed walk (not at a corner) tell your dog, “Wait” and then stop and bring a treat down right in front of their nose and let them have it
Continue walking and repeat randomly
Now try at a safe corner!
Be sure you are at a safe distance from traffic! Do NOT test this one at the very edge of a busy intersection in case your dog misses the mark.
On a leashed walk, approach a curb or corner. Tell your dog, “Wait” and then stop and bring a treat down right in front of their nose and let them have it.
You may choose to feed a stream of 3-4 treats in the exact same place and when it's safe to cross, give them a cue that means "let's go" and then cross the street.
Repeat at every curb and corner consistently. Over time you can wean them off the food slowly.
Door-dashing is a favourite sport of most dogs. It is just so exciting to get to the other side. But in addition to being irritating to us, it can also be dangerous. Sometimes what is on the other side is a busy street. The wait cue teaches your dog to pause or stop at the doorway until you give the all clear.
How to teach it.
- At the door, tell your dog, “Wait” in a cheerful tone of voice.
- Begin to open the door (just by a few inches at first). If your dog starts to move to go out, close the door. Without repeating the cue, begin to open the door again. If your dog starts to move to go out, close the door again. Repeat this action, without repeating the cue, until your dog hesitates even briefly as the door is being opened. When your dog hesitates, give them a cheerful “Okay” and swing the door wide open, letting them through.
- At first, remember to only open the door a few inches so your dog can’t rush out. As your dog gets better, you can then open the door a little more.
- For this method to really take effect you need to be consistent. Ask your dog to wait at every door, every time.
Where else can I use wait?
- All doors (even ones that lead to safe places like your backyard).
- Getting in and out of cars.
Ideas for release cues: “okay”, “go say hi”, “off you go”
We are taught from a young age to say “please” for what we desire – why should dogs be any different? It makes our lives easier if we can teach them to say “please” as well. Through this exercise, they will start to realise that sitting, giving eye contact, or waiting is reinforcing because it leads to squirrel-chasing, going through a door, saying hi to a canine friend, etc…
How to train:
Arm yourself with treats that are a different colour than the floor/ground you’re working on – there needs to be a contrast so that the dog can see them. Cut them a little larger than you normally would – maybe twice the size of a green pea.
Stand with your dog (on leash) and anchor yourself. Your dog’s leash should have about a foot or two of slack so that they can move around a little but not much. Anchor your feet shoulder-width apart, one just a bit ahead of the other, and bend your knees a little so that you don’t get yanked over if you have a larger/stronger dog. Anchor your leash-hand to your waist so that when the dog pulls, your hand does not move away from your body.
Step 1: Show your dog the treat and then toss it about four feet away from you where your dog can see it. Your dog will pull to get to it but you should be well-anchored so that you are not yanking them back when they go for it! Remain silent and still. The instant your dog creates slack on the leash, say your cue in an excited tone and then run with them to the treats so they can scarf them up! Repeat 5x. You should find that they loosen the leash up sooner and sooner with practice.
Step 2: Repeat Step 1, but only say your cue if your dog turns their head toward you or makes eye contact. If you're waiting for longer than 10 seconds and the leash is slack, feel free to cue their eye contact (if this is a reliable behaviour for them) and as soon as you get eye contact, say your cue in an excited tone and then run with them to the treats so they can scarf them up! Repeat 5x.
Step 3: Repeat Step 2, but do not cue their eye contact - wait for your dog to figure out that this is what works!
When your dog is a pro at this behaviour, you can start using this with other dogs, people, fire hydrants, mealtime, toys, doorways, dog park gates, whatever your dog finds most reinforcing!
Caution: Avoid yanking back on the dog’s leash when they pull toward the treats – you want to be well-anchored so it’s safe.