Dogs have a sophisticated system of nonverbal communication, a “Body-Language”. In general dogs will display “big-body” silhouettes in an effort to bluff, intimidate or dominate. The dog may have its ears up or forward, its tail up (or tightly curled in a curly tailed breed), its hackles (the hair on its back) up. It may stand tall, and try to loom over or make direct eye contact with the individual it’s threatening. Dogs will also display this body language to the human members of their social group, and may misread human body language. For example, the dog may interpret a person bending over and staring into its eyes while patting the top of its head as a looming, threatening approach.
“Small body” silhouettes-ears back, tail lowered, avoiding eye contact, pawing, rolling over- generally indicate submission, or if the posture is accompanied by tension and withdrawal, may indicate fear.
Also look for the degree of muscular tension — is the dog relaxed and loose, mouth slightly open, maybe tail wagging? Or tense, with mouth hard closed, and body rigid?
Behaviors to Review
Make your practice with the dog fun for both of you.
Review previous rules re: Exercise, company, consistency, use of lures & rewards, and practicing with realistic distraction.
Practice Loose Leash Walking (LLW) in a new and pretty place, and then take a break to enjoy it. Take your dog to breakfast at a sidewalk cafe, and practice down-stays. Practice your “comes” during a hike in the open space.
Practice “hands-off” Loose Leash Walking, with your long-line trailing. Remember that as you raise the standard in one way as you teach a behavior, you will temporarily relax the standard in other ways. So, for example, as you work in increasingly distracting areas, you may temporarily return to using a food lure. Don’t get sloppy – keep your dog in position, and enjoying it. Consider using the ” distractions” as rewards–That is, if your dog can focus and LLW for 10 steps, for example, then he gets to play with the other dogs, or chase a seagull off the beach…Gradually increase the number of steps it takes to earn the reward.
Practice distance, duration and distraction on stays.
Rehearse having your dog hold a stay as he sits at your side, both of you facing forward.
This is a great position for him to hold as he greets people, so once he can hold the position for 20 seconds, have family or friends help you rehearse polite greetings.
Initially, you may want to slide your dog’s leash under your foot, so it is too short to allow him to jump. (Be careful not to be pulled over.)
Reward your dog for remaining in place as your friend greets you quietly, but ignores the dog.
Once he can handle low-key greetings, gradually up the ante…Have your friends make eye contact with the dog, speak quietly to him. He must stay ’til rewarded and released.
Up the ante again…Practice silly greetings. Can he stay as your friend rushes up and hugs you then gushes over how adorable the dog is? (Note: if your dog is fearful or reactive consult with your instructor before practicing these over-the-top greetings.)
Rehearse stays by the door.
Initially only touch the door handle. If your dog holds his stay, reward.
Next, wiggle the door handle as your dog stays. Reward his success. If he gets up, depending on how sensitive your dog is, you can reprimand, “ah-ah”, or simply say ” Too Bad”, and sadly show him the treat you had ready for him, then put it away in your fanny pack.
Try opening the door 1/2 an inch, then 2 inches, and so on, giving your dog appropriate and well-timed feedback, until he can stay while you swing the door open and closed.
Next, invite the same nice people who helped you with the controlled greetings to act as visitors, so you can rehearse the “door-bell-ring-person-enters” part of this sequence.
Have the dog lie down. Hold a food lure against his nose, then bring it round to his shoulder so that he tucks his head to his shoulder and lies rolled to one hip. Then, move the food lure around the dog’s collar; as he moves his head, he will roll his body too.
Once the behavior is smooth, precede the behavior with the verbal cue (” Rollover”, or any other cue of your choice.) Remove the food lure from your hand, and prompt the behavior with a motion of your empty hand. Gradually reduce the amount of motion it takes to prompt the behavior, until the dog can do it on a verbal cue alone.
Have your dog sit, then hold a food treat concealed in your fist at the level of his collar. Wait ’til he paws at your hand, click immediately, then treat. (This is a behavior in which it is very helpful to use a clicker to mark and capture the (brief) moment of behavior you want.) Once your dog is reliably pawing the treat, try this with your fist empty, click, then treat from the other hand. Once the behavior is fairly reliable, you can give the cue “Shake” just before you elicit the behavior.
Practice “Come”. Owner stands still, no attention-getter, and, as always, only one cue. Use long-line to prevent errors, if necessary. You must practice with distraction, in multiple locations if you want your dog to be reliable. If your dog is responding well, drop the end of the long line, while working on “come”. Use caution and common sense.
Make the Come worth your dog’s while. When he reaches you, give him a Jackpot reward. Feed him multiple small bits of treats, gush and exclaim, play a game of tug, Don’t just murmur “good dog”!
Questions? Send Penny an email penny @ whatagoodpuppy.com (remove the spaces)