Leash Walks – Wild & Out-of-Control?
There are so many things to see and sniff outside the home territory. It’s more than just natural for dogs to investigate everything; reading the bulletin boards and posting messages is essential to who they are. But for part of a leash walk they can work for us. They can earn reinforcers, like treats, just for doing the right thing – like watching their leader.
Another essential component canine behavior is to check with the leader for opportunities to earn resources like food. As Carolyn walks with Mick next to her, she hands him a tid bit every now and then because she sees him watching her. She tells him to “Watch” to get his attention, setting him up to succeed. As soon as he looks at her he gets the treat. (You don’t hear her voice because our footsteps were too noisy.)
Notice that spring in Mick’s step? He’s having a good time. After of minute or so of work he gets the release word “OK”, meaning he’s free to be a wild dog.
Make it easy for your dog to get it right. Start by teaching and rewarding “Watch” in places where distractions are minimal. Repeat hundreds of times, occasionally in slightly more challenging situations. The old “Yank and Thank” method (jerk the leash followed by verbal reinforcement) of teaching good manners on a walk isn’t much fun for anybody. Your dog will catch on by herself, that just watching the leader earns a paycheck -right away.