The theme for this month’s Positive Pet Training Hop is the “fallible trainer”. I have two scenarios to share and after each I’ll share how I was fallible. Training is not something dogs do alone…the trainer has to learn and makes mistakes as well!
1. I know many of you were curious about what Luke did to make me so happy when I shared this photo last week in a post called “Proud Mom“. So I’ll tell that story first! We were working on our photo shoot for the Umbilical Belt and I took him for a walk to wear him out a bit before trying to have my hubby take the photos.
I need to set a little background: We had an elderly neighbor who loved to drive around the neighborhood and whenever he saw me walking a dog he would pull over and give the dogs a treat. Our beagle Kobi loved that old guy, and whenever a car passed us he expected them to stop and dispense a treat! The old man sold his house and moved but apparently visits friends in the neighborhood so we still see him occasionally. He has stopped to pet Sheba once or twice, and Cricket has gotten treats from him as well.
So when I was on that walk with Luke, I saw the old man’s vehicle sitting in a neighbor’s driveway ready to pull out. Now Luke doesn’t like strangers and I had no idea how he might react if the old man pulled over. I also knew there was no easy way to avoid it. Sure enough, his vehicle headed towards us and stopped next to us. I just quickly told him “this guy isn’t as friendly and he might bark at you”. I honestly don’t know if he heard me or not, but he didn’t say a word and just stretched his arm over to the window with the treat. Throughout all of that, I had told Luke to sit and he just sat there and never moved or made a peep! I was so proud of him! I gave him the treat and praised him profusely.
I was telling my hubby the story and praising Luke when he took that photo. I know things might have been different if the old man had even said something, but I decided to just be proud of Luke in spite of that. Having a vehicle stop next to us is not a normal experience for him, so I think it’s a good step.
How was I fallible here? Well, right after that happened, we passed our neighbor working in her garden. For some reason, Luke always barks at this neighbor (I think because she talks to him and he’d rather be ignored). I purposely didn’t yell hello to her because I didn’t want Luke to bark at her and ruin my happiness over the good thing that had just happened! I don’t always take every training opportunity that I should, sometimes I choose avoidance.
2. We’ve been practicing our loose leash walking, or heeling, a lot this spring, and it’s one thing we’ve trained Luke to do that I haven’t shared the details about yet. It has to be one of the most difficult things to train, because it takes a lot of coordination on the trainer’s part, and I am far from coordinated. I am going to share how our trainer taught us to do it, though I’m sure there are some that might teach it a bit differently.
I am not looking to have Luke walk by my side for every minute that we walk. I let him stop and sniff, and get ahead sometimes. I just don’t want him pulling on the leash, and I want him paying attention to me when I need him to. Also, if we’re walking on a road with traffic (we have no sidewalks here in the country), I want him close by me so I can keep him out of the road. These are all things we’d never trained the girls to do and I regret that. It makes walking so much easier and enjoyable.
First of all, Luke needs to be close to me (I say no more than a “dog’s length” ahead) to start. I use a 5 foot leash, shorter leashes are easier. He is on my left side and I am holding the leash and the clicker in my right hand. I also hold the slack of the leash to keep him close (our trainer said not to wrap the leash around my hand but to just have one loop). See photos below. Treats are in my left hand and we start walking and every few steps I click and give him a treat with that hand if he stays by me. Two important things to remember: don’t stop walking as you do this, and keep looking forward. As time goes on and he’s caught on to getting the treat, we added the word “heel”. This is easier to do in a training facility, as you can walk in large circles. Each time I turn a corner I say “heel”, click and treat as he follows me. I also had to remember not to give him a treat every time he looked for one. He should be walking, not looking for a treat.
Practicing at home was more difficult because our house is too small to be able to walk inside much. When we moved outside Luke was more distracted. But we just started inside the fenced in yard, and then moved to the driveway, and later to the road, as he got better.
It was also easier when we were at training, and our trainer could remind me when I screwed up by either stopping, looking at Luke, or not clicking and treating soon enough! I was definitely fallible when it came to this one, but Luke learned in spite of that! Now you might understand better why I love the hands free leash for walking, I wish our trainer had thought of that. Having the extra free hand really simplifies things. Eventually we stopped using the clicker and now Luke will heel without getting a treat every time. One other thing our trainer had us do is stop every so often and make Luke sit. He also got a click and treat for that.
3. One last thing. I had started trying to train Luke to put his toys away. Only I couldn’t get him to pick up or even take a toy, the first obvious step, which I thought he would do no problem. So once again this fallible trainer needs to remember to step back and take things more slowly. I have a new plan (thanks to a book I have on clicker training) and hope to share some success (or at least progress) next month.
We are joining the Positive Pet Reinforcement hop this week. It begins on the first Monday of every month and runs all week long. The hop is hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier, and Rubicon Days. Please visit them as well as other blogs through the links below for more positive pet training tips.
Groovy Goldendoodles says
Great review, and the pictures are very helpful. I think I probably need to start training and walking the boys “solo” so I can focus on just one at a time. Trying to walk AND train together is a date with disaster.
Thank you! It is tough because it takes more time to walk and train them separately, but for me that’s the only way to get it done!
Lara Elizabeth says
Look what a wonderful, focused pair you two make! Using a hands-free leash is a great idea, I have so much trouble coordinating leash, clicker and treats outside.
Jen Gabbard says
Good job Luke, you make it look easy (though I know it’s not). I think loose leash walking almost seems like a myth to some people – it really is quite difficult to get right. I love that you let Luke get ahead, sniff around, etc. I do the same thing with my dog and it gets really old hearing “whose walking who?” all the time; I think that’s due to the theory that a dog walking in front is being dominant…yeah. But as long as my dog isn’t pulling I don’t mind one bit if she stops to enjoy the scenery – it’s much more stimulating for her that way. And that belt looks awesome by the way.
I totally agree. Walks are supposed to be about the dogs having fun (and getting exercise)! Adding a little training in is just a bonus (and we sometimes do shorter walks that are just training). I agree that as long as I’m not being pulled I’m going to let the dogs do what they want and enjoy themselves. The belt really saves my hands and shoulders too…which take it harder the older I get!
You’re doing a great job. I have a really hard time when I’m trying to treat and walk because Delilah will start jumping at me for the treat or she walks in front/behind me and then gets the leash tangled. Most times I’m too worried about passing the distraction and don’t correct it, which is totally my fault. 🙁
Sand Spring Chesapeakes says
Way to go Luke and Jan! You should be so proud!
DZ Dogs says
Great post!! This is how we teach loose leash heel too! Ziva is my good heeling girl, my boys need more work and that’s my fault. I just need to get back into our formal training session.s 🙂
It’s so difficult when you have multiple dogs to have them all be well trained. I don’t work with the girls enough, but sometimes I do just want to go for a walk, you know what I mean? Luke is so much younger and I want him to learn while he’s younger so I do focus on him much more.
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
You always want to end a training session on a positive note; so, avoiding the other neighbor in Luke’s presence was a good move since you weren’t sure how he would behave. We all make mistakes — that’s just part of being human — but in this case, I would say you made the right decision.
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
BTW, we Golden Lifers are very proud of Mr. Luke!! He did great! He and you are a great inspiration for Ducky and me!! The Terminix guy is coming tomorrow to get rid of the ants (again). Nothing natural works with these little buttholes. It will give me an opportunity to work with Ducky at a safe distance.
Thank you so much, Sue! I hadn’t looked at it that way, but we always end our trick training sessions on a good note, so why not this too?
I’d love to hear more about how you work with Ducky when the Terminix guy is there. Since Luke’s biggest issue is strangers coming to our house, it’s something we really need to work on and so far we have not had much success. Keeping him at a safe distance isn’t really something I’ve tried.
Would you mind if I emailed you sometime maybe to discuss it further?
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
Of course you can email me!! Or text me. Or just call me on the phone….if you want to talk or text, just send me a PM on Facebook and I’ll send you the number.
Ducky’s main issue is strangers in or outside of the house. I should say just strangers, period, if I’m around (or if hubby is). With Ducky, it’s uncertainty as to whether she’s supposed to protect me/us or the other way around.
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
PS. This will actually be the first time I’ve kept Ducky at home (instead of taking her to daycare) when we’ve been expecting the Terminix guy. It will be interesting.
I think it’s no coincidence that a lot of these posts mention loose leash walking! It’s a difficult skill–I’m so impressed by you and Luke!
You know, I don’t think that avoiding triggers when you’re not in the mood to deal with them is a bad thing at all. I know that if my dog sees anything that gets her worked up on our walk, it’s probably not a good idea to practice Look at That [Cat] afterward–she has a harder time keeping her brain on and thinking straight instead of trying to chase the kitties than she would if she had just been having an unstressful walk. There’s also really something to be said for ending things on a good note for both of you!
Thank you so much for saying that, Meghan. It makes me feel better to think that I wasn’t just doing it for my own benefit, but that it might be the best thing to do for Luke sometimes as well….not overwhelm him with too many things to deal with on one walk.
Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady says
Wow, it seems like his training is going wonderfully! I am still working on koda with his leash manners. They are just awful unfortunately. I used to use a clicker with Mika, but I stopped after getting multiple dogs. It just became too much to try and jumble everything. Oh and BTW – don’t feel bad, I choose avoidance a lot too!!
ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
Thanks, Jenna! I find the only way to clicker train is individually….I know I couldn’t possibly be coordinated and fast enough for more than one dog at time! LOL
I don’t think I’ve very had a dog that walked well on a leash until Luke, not until they got older and slower anyway!
2 Brown Dawgs says
I have used that method to teach the heel position but without the clicker (only treats) and when the dogs were puppies. Talk about back breaking….lol. I agree, it was difficult to be coordinated enough to do it all and not to stretch the lead which defeats the purpose. It is a good method though if you can get all the timing down.
Hailey and Zaphod says
Way to go Luke!
I would love to use the clicker more, but Phod is terrified of it. It is such a neat tool and I have played with it some in my work (with people we call it TAG – teaching with acoustical guidance).
I am laughing as I saw Jurassic World last week and I was so bothered by the fact they taught the Rapports INCORRECTLY with the clicker.
Oh no, I’m going to have to see that movie now!
Luke was a little skittish of the clicker at first. We had to mute it some with some tape, but eventually he got over that. You can also just use a click pen which is much quieter.
The Island Cats says
Good job, Luke…not barking at the former neighbor. You deserved that treat.
Tenacious Little Terrier says
Thanks for joining the hop! Good job, Luke! Yes, juggling a leash, clicker and treats is quite the feat especially when you’re first starting out. I struggled a lot with it too at first but now I’m mostly used to it.
Mr. N knows how to loose leash walk but I’ve started teaching him heeling which is an entirely new bundle of fun lol. Small dogs + heeling training is back breaking!
Luke does still need some work on the loose leash walking part. He tends to forget himself sometimes, but usually I can bring him back to heel and then start over again. We also just need to practice a lot more, our walks tend to be shorter and more focused on heeling and paying attention to me.
Lauren Miller (ZoePhee) says
Great post! LLW training is something that I have a hard time teaching. Pulling is so easy to reinforce! Also great job for Luke for not barking at the old guy! 🙂 I much prefer celebrating success than focusing on failure.
Ann Staub says
Such an awesome story and good job Luke! I know I would have been proud too. What an odd position to be in lol… I picture my grandfather in the car, who probably would not have heard what you said or cared for that matter haha!
That made me laugh, Ann! I learned that you can’t really tell some older gentlemen anything, as you said, they just don’t care, they are going to do what they want anyway! My Dad was like that too.
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
So was my Dad, and so is my hubby. And he’s not even “older” yet! (He’s only 65!) 🙂
I often choose avoidance over training opportunities, too. Especially when it comes to our neighbor’s dog. It’s so much easier to just go back inside than to work train through it that I take the easy route far too often.
I think there is some truth to the thought that we should “choose our battles”, so to speak. Trying to do too much and having it not go well will just discourage us and defeat the purpose I think.
M. K. Clinton says
I love that Luke is doing so well on his training I’m going to suggest my son try the clicker training. Thanks for the information.
It is so much fun when you have a dog that really gets it!
Talent Hounds says
Haven’t used clicker training with Kilo, I should see if he responds.
I think it’s worth a try with any dog….clickers are cheap. Our two girls don’t respond to it as well, but maybe they would have if I had started them when they were younger.
Two French Bulldogs says
We always wondered about that clicker training. It sounds pretty good
Lily & Edward
How wonderful that Luke didn’t panic at your friendly, treat-dispensing gentleman! In truth, maybe the novelty of the experience (pulling up in a car, not speaking) helped. And now Luke has one more positive reinforcement associated with a stranger.
Love seeing the loose leash walking. You’re doing great.
And yes, coordinating a leash, treat bag, clicker while walking and avoiding potholes is quite a talent. I know professional dancers who probably couldn’t do it. 🙂
Thank you! I guess I am a bit proud of myself for actually pulling it off. 🙂
Hopefully Luke will become like Kobi one day, hoping that every car will stop and dispense a treat!
Way to go Luke. Bailie is a walking nightmare as she is constantly hunting critters and doesn’t know how to stop. She will outgrow it in time, I did too. Not much loose leash with her, but Mom doesn’t really mind most of the time.
Kobi was our worst. When headed out on a walk he’d pull and pull. Then when headed back he’d stop and sniff every two seconds! He did get better when he was older though (and we also used a gentle leader to slow him down for a while).