Even if one used luring for the sit or the down, eventually, after many repetitions, the dog knows what the cue, command or signal is. Now, if the dog doesn’t respond to the cue, instead of repeating the command over and over again at an ever escalating volume (while confusing the dog), one can simply reduce the dog’s choices and have some patience. Put the dog on a short leash, say “sit” and wait. Not much else the dog can do….eventually he’ll sit. Yay! Reward! Stay simple. Stay consistent.
Here’s what it looked like with Scout, a six month old Labrador who gets distracted by people and dogs, and ends up pulling on her leash and ignoring her owner.
First, we doubled the length of the leash to give Scout more room to get great reinforcement (I’ll get back to this in a minute). We started with recalls from the distance of five feet, ten feet, then 15 feet (the length of her leash). She received several pieces of food and praise from her owner each time that she was called. Then I presented myself and my puppy about 40 feet from Scout and her owner. Scout strained for several minutes at the end of her leash and her owner PATIENTLY waited for Scout to turn her head. When Scout made the CHOICE to turn her head back at her owner, she was called and given praise and several pieces of food in a row. I knew it would be more challenging once my puppy and I moved closer so added another layer of reinforcement for Scout. Here’s where that long line came into play. In addition to the food and praise, I had the owner call Scout AND run backwards. Running full speed at her owner would be far more fun than being stuck on a short six foot leash and simply turning around for a few bites of food. Her owner could now use food, praise, and fun physical activity as a giant ball of fun to gain Scout’s focus on her instead of me and my puppy. Note: we could have used a tug toy too, but didn’t have one at this session.
From this point forward, the owner never called Scout again. She just waited for her to turn her head and to look back at her. This took longer for Scout as my puppy and I moved closer - she really wanted to greet us. Her owner’s PATIENCE was really tested during this step. Scout began to learn that her CHOICES were limited: straining at the end of her leash with me and my puppy out of her reach, or gallop back to her owner for praise and food. Eventually she caught on.
When it came time for our puppies to go nose-to-nose, I would let them mingle for a moment then call my pup out of Scout’s leash range. Then her owner would PATIENTLY wait for Scout to look at her and she would repeat the run backwards - praise - food sequence.
After 30 minutes, I was petting, feeding, and letting my puppy play with Scout. When we would step out of her leash range Scout would, without hesitation, immediately run back to her owner. After 10 more minutes, we introduced the recall command while my puppy and I were in Scout's leash range. She was quick to respond because she had been heavily reinforced previously for making the CHOICE to run to her owner. If, at any point, she didn’t respond to her owner, I would take my puppy out of leash range and limit Scout’s choices.
Having PATIENCE and giving your dog (limited) CHOICES is a simple formula. Try it!
Puppies: Scout and Hammer brought to you by QuailRunLabs.com