Most often people train their dogs and puppies at home or at a trainers facility. The dog or puppy learns how to do basic commands and acclimates to the home or training facility and becomes easier to handle in those particular enviroments. Unfortunately, when the dogs are taken into another environment the owners are surprised to find that the dog or puppy is out of control. his is due to a couple of factors, not completing training the dog to respond in one environment before moving to a new environment and training in only 1-2 different environments.
With my recent addition, a 1 year old rescue Akita, I applied my own dog training advice. In just 4 months Jade as met over 200 dogs, rode in an elevator and has been in 2-3 new environments each week. To see her story go to my blog for the latest http://kcdogguy.blogspot.com/.
As a result she is non-reactive in any new situation and in each new experience I perform the same Come-Sits, puppy push-ups, stay and downs. If I get less than 80% success, she's less than an 8. I return to those areas until she is at least an 8 and preferably a 10. I have the advantage of having access to hundreds of dogs at Wayside Waifs. Jade's current goal is to do all of her exercises while 4 other dogs play off leash in the same area with her. At this point on leash she's about a 7, off leash a 2-3. Ultimately, my goal is a perfect 10 off leash.
Making your own dog a perfect 10
Think of each new environment as ever expanding circles.
Before we know that a dog is ready to go on to a new environment with a particular behavior we need to test the dog. For the example I will use SIT. Let’s say in your home your dog will sit 4 out of 10 times when asked to sit. At this level your dog is a 4 and is not ready to go into another environment, especially if you had to lure your dog into those 4 sits you received. In another 2 days your dog is now able sit 9 out of 10 times without a reward each time. At this point your dog is a level 9 and is ready to move to a new environment, in this case you would go from the house to the backyard. Once in the backyard the dog now drops back down to a 5, or only a 50% response/success rate. You return to rewarding more often and in just a day your dog is back up to a 9 in the backyard. Now move to the front yard with the dog and repeat. What should eventually happen is in the front yard the dog may only drop to a 7 this time. Why? The dog is starting to generalize and should need less training in each new environment. Be cautious not to jump to quickly to the next area. For example, you move from the front yard to your local dog park and the dog drops to a 1. This indicates you jumped to an over-stimulating environment too quickly, a better area may have been quiet less traveled park.
Dog training is timing and moving forward in small increments.
With each new area you may have to use a reward with each repetition, but only for the first 10 repetitions and then move quickly to every other, every 5th repetition and eventually 10 reps without a reward. Here is my suggested training transition schedule for an average dog:
- Inside the home
- Front yard or driveway
- Neighbors yard
- Gas station
parking lot or wide open public area.
- Local park – baseball diamond
- In the presence of another dog (10-100ft away)
- Parking lot of pet store
- Inside the pet store
- Dog park parking lot/entrance
- Around one loose dog
- Around 2 or more dogs
- Dog park
You can pick just one behavior you want the dog to do or wait for your dog to master several in each environment.
In my situation I would visit all these areas and get my dog to a perfect 10 on leash then repeat working these areas with my dog off leash or with a long lead. Since I train primarily with a long lead or no lead I moved through the above areas in 8 weeks with Jade.
I would not suggest moving the dog to the next area without working the dog up to at least a level 8. This may sound like a long process, but for the basic commands Look and Sit this is just a 5-10 day period. Remember, if you have no control over the dog you probably transitioned to a particular area too quickly. You can take your dog to the dog park or pet store before they are a perfect 10, but be aware they will not perform as you expect if you did not work up to the new areas.
Leash Walking to a perfect 10( 2 leash method)
I found that if given a chance when the dog pulls on leash the owner immediately pulls back causing the dog to pull and so the circle begins. To alleviate this problem and save hand, arms and shoulders of the owners I thought of a 2-leash method to walk dogs.
Begin with 2 leashes on the dog, on that will drag on the ground and the other you will hold lightly in your hand. Now imagine that you have a plane of glass the extends out to your left and right side. Start by standing on the drag lead at about the 3 foot mark and hold the other leash in your hand. Take 1-2 steps and then step on the drag lead and change directions This will stutter the dog a bit and he should turn to follow you. Repeat 2-5 times and then increase the number of steps you take before you step on the drag lead. DO NOT TIGHTEN the leash you are holding in your hand. This leash should stay loose and give the dog full length of the lead. Now take 3-4 steps and step on the drag lead, but do not stop. Try to keep a normal walking cadence as you tap the drag lead. We are trying to teach the dog without yanking back to walk within 3-4 of us, stop when we stop and turn when we turn. When you do stop, step on the drag lead and reward the dog.
Walking to a perfect 10
I measure how well a dog walks on leash by pulls per 10 feet inside and pulls per 100 feet outside. Beginning inside I will leash the dog to me with a 6 foot lead and walk down a hallway. If I am using the 2-leash method I will count the number of times I had to tap the drag lead. My goal is 0 taps per 10 feet in the house and 0 taps per 100 feet outside. This is a bit opposite of the 10 philosophy. With leash walking we want the dog to be a 0. Once the dog is non-reactive to the leash in the house and will walk around the home with me and not pull I am ready for the first transition, the backyard.
Once in the backyard I start counting my pulls or taps on the drag lead. If I can walk the dog 100 feet without a tap he’s ready for the front yard. Once I master the front yard I will then measure the number houses I can walk by before I have to tap. Once I can walk by 10 houses without a tap I progress to the next new area. Again, I want to teach the dog these basic rules, walk when I walk, stop when I stop and turn when I turn – without prompting. In this case you want to work your dog from 10+ pulls/taps to 0 pulls/taps per 10 or 100 feet.
Level 10 Stay
Stay should be taught as no motion whether the dog is sitting, standing, lying or on it’s back. Stay simply means do not move. Start with your dog on a 6-10 foot leash and just let the leash sit on the ground. If the dog should try and bolt, step on the leash and say Stop. Put the dog in a sit and present a flat palm to the dog and say Stay. Count to 5, reward the dog. Repeat 10 times doubling it each time up to 20 minutes(10 times). With each repetition take one step back from the dog. At the end of 10 repetitions you will be 10 feet away and the dog will be on a 20 minute stay. If the dog breaks at any particular point, work at that distance and time interval until they do not break and move. Once you can work up to 10-20 feet away from the dog and can get 2-5 minute stay 10 times you can move to the next area- backyard, front yard and so on.
To increase the dog’s staying power, during the initial phases start to wave your arms, turn around and make noise. Adding these distractions in will help desensitize the dog to distractions. Once the dog knows a Sit/Stay work on Stand/Stay and Down/Stay. Eventually the dog will learn that Stay means no movement in whatever position they are in.
Level 10 Come
Recall is the least practiced and most frustrating behavior for dog owners. To create a perfect 10 recall you need to train in several different environments, but also list your dog’s triggers. A trigger is what set’s your dog off or gets them excited. It could be cars, cats, birds, noises or anything that will distract your dog and cause him not to respond to Fido Come! The training starts the same as others, in the home. In the home take the dog’s food and split into 10 portions, get Fido in front of you and say Come and reward the dog like this the first 2 days. Then randomly call the dog to you in the house, once he comes when called 8-10 times in a row progress to the backyard and eventually the front yard. Use a long lead(15-30 feet long) in the front yard so the dog does run away.
Figure the Triggers
A trigger is anything that sets your dog off. List out your top 10 triggers and figure out at what distance your dog sees and the reacts to it. Your goal is to interrupt the sequence of events at the alerting stage and call the dog back before he reacts and bolts off. Be sure to have a long lead or a regular leash on your dog when practicing this. Set up situations that you can work on your dog’s top 10 triggers and start with the easiest one first. Once you can call your dog back 10 times from the easiest trigger move on to the next trigger.
Making your dog a perfect 10 is not difficult, just test your dog and establish his current level in different situations. If the dog is put in a situation you know he is not proofed for, don’t reprimand, but train him to react appropriately in different situations. The more places you train your dog the less reactive he will become and the more control you will have. Try this little tip, any new environment you go to with your dog, have them do 10 quick Come-Sits as soon as you are there. It sets the tone for the adventure!