October 1, 2012
Heading to an off-leash dog location with your inquisitive canine? Remember to bring along a few useful behaviors to make your outing an ideal situation. The following are a few I would bring along to help knock any challenge outta the park!
- Eye-contact: this helps to remind your dog of the fabulous relationship you share and that you’re there together. And, when they’re looking at you they’re not doing other things that you might find annoying.
- Walking nicely next to you (or in close enough proximity to where you feel comfortable) while they’re off-leash. Some dogs learn to discriminate that being on leash means walking next to you, and being free as a bird means they’re free as a bird.
You can simply follow the same steps for teaching on-leash healing, with the added steps of allowing the leash to drag behind while practicing in low distraction areas. Once you move outside and
to the park you’ll want to still have your dog drag the leash while at the same time using higher value motivators more frequently to help keep them focused on you. You can then switch to a long-line (as long as it’s safe for everyone) and slowly fade out the leash altogether once your dog has learned this new skill.
- Coming when called. The sound of your voice calling should be music to your dogs ears. Once again this is a behavior you’ll want to practice first in a low distraction area, then gradually moving to those places he or she would find more interesting. And, as above with the leash walking, you’ll want to use rewards your dog would do backflips over. You can read additional tips on teaching dogs to come when called on this inquisitive canine blog post.
- Leaving things alone when asked. A cue such as “leave it!” can be used during those times that might be more urgent – such as right before your dog decides to take a swim in a lake or go after a wildlife creature. Of course it’s best to interrupt their behavior beforehand using your “coming when called” but if you’re caught off-guard, this one can get their attention.
If your dog already has a baseline of these skills continuing to practice now and again helps to maintain proficiency. If you’re starting from square one we suggest you start by dividing overall behaviors into smaller, single behaviors. Asking too much at one time can send any animal over the edge and into a pool of frustration (humans too), so make sure you’re consistent with the less-is-more training plan.