Step 1 is morning training walks. Well, they haven't always been in the morning but we have been going on leash walks around the neighborhood almost every day! We do these in addition to our hikes so they are more for training than exercise. I was going to walk the dogs separately but it has been going well walking them together so I didn't need to. Something helpful I've learned is to make sure I have treats in either pocket since they walk on either side of me because I was giving Norman treats from across my body and he was learning to sort of walk in front of me and look back at me instead of next to me. Giving him his treats from the side he walks on has helped a ton!
Step 2 is heel. I was going to teach them a true "heel" but instead I have worked a lot on strengthening their "here" command which is like a soft heel. When I say "here" they know they have to walk closely by my side and not venture off 'til I give them the go ahead. They should be paying attention enough to turn with me and stop when I stop, preferably with a sit and eye contact. They already know this but it wasn't going very well. But after a lot of practice they are now better at it than ever! Norman is even learning how to get himself into position without a food lure! Though I'd still like to teach them a true heel some day.
Step 3 is recall. Recall practice is going awesome. Since they spend so much time off leash, their recall really has to be sharp. Kaya's recall has always been good but it's even better now. We've been seeing plenty of deer lately on our hikes and sometimes she'll run off on a high speed chase into the woods but with just one "Kaya come" she will make a flyball style turn and come running back to me. Norman's recall has never been as good but he's improving a lot.
I should mention that they do not need recall because they might run off or lose me. We can go on a 2 hour hike without me saying a word to them. It's more for immediate distractions like calling them away from people who are afraid of them, barbeques they are not invited to, stuff they shouldn't sniff or eat and dogs they shouldn't meet. Along with set up recalls like the one in the video, I also practice in practical situations with distractions.
Step 4 is learn a new trick. The new trick I decided to teach them is to go between my legs and sit positioned underneath me. I've worked with them several times on it and it's been a lot of fun. Kaya of course is really getting the hang of it and Norman has no clue but he enjoys getting treats. It's a lot harder than I thought it would be because it is such an odd position for them to be in but it's really fun and the dogs love it. I'll try to make a video soon!
Step 5 is Kaya's relaxation. This is one that I've added to the list and perhaps spent the most time on. Kaya has just been way too excitable in our new house and ignoring all my pleas to cool it so I came up with a system to help calm her down. I've made some posts about it so I won't get into the details but I'm so proud of her! Of all the amazing tricks and skills she has, this is the hardest thing for her.
I feel so much better now that I've jumped on all these things. Their lack of response to me had really become one of those niggling things that was really getting to me but I knew I never had the right to get mad at them being that I was the one who was not reinforcing and practicing these things with them. They are doing so great that we often get comments from random people on hikes, around the neighborhood and my own contractors are impressed! But most of all, I feel like our connection is so much stronger and I can trust them in situations that before would have been chaos.
I've learned that it's better to have goals that you're aiming for and maybe never quite reach than to walk around wishing things were different but not doing anything about it!
Has anyone else been working on refreshing their training skills now that summer's over?
You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks
A Bad Influence?