This is the first in a series of pet travel training guest posts by Eric Goebelbecker of DogSpelledForward
The past few years have given us more and more pet friendly establishments. It’s a great trend, and it’s great that web sites like GoPetFriendly.com are here to help us travel with our dogs. But to paraphrase a famous comic book, with this power comes some responsibility. If we want to be welcomed with our dogs, our dogs need to be good guests.
In order to travel well there are two aspects of our dog’s behavior that are very important – attention and impulse control. I’ll be covering these behavioral areas in a series of guest posts here on Take Paws.
Attention is the foundation of all dog training and behavior modification. If you can’t get your dog’s attention, you can’t ask her to do anything! But if you can get your dog to pay attention – even (or especially) in the presence of distractions – you have a very powerful tool in your toolbox!
We know that we have a dog’s attention the same way we know that we have a person’s attention — when we have eye contact. We can train our dogs to shift their attention to us by training them to look us in the eye on cue … by saying their name. For some dogs this is intuitive and comes naturally; for others it is more difficult. But with time and persistence any dog can master this behavior.
I start out by capturing the behavior I want. I stand with the dog’s leash (so she can’t wander off) and wait. Eventually, she’s going to look up at me. When she does I say “Yes!” to let her know I like what she did and give her a treat. After a few times, she’s going to starting looking at me a bit more quickly each time.
After a few repetitions, she is probably pretty much staring at me. That’s when I start to toss the reward to her side to break the eye contact. This sets up the situation I need: I can now predict when she will look at me next. Then all I need to do is say her name as she turns back to me. Voila! I have effectively “taught” her to look at me as I say her name!
This short video demonstrates the technique:
Start out training this behavior in a quiet, low distraction environment and then gradually work your way up to more demanding environments. While practicing, remember: don’t repeat your dog’s name. If you repeat it too often she’ll either learn to tune it out or to only respond after you repeat it. If your dog is not responding, you have raised the distraction level too quickly. Back off and build your way up again.
Here’s a handout for practicing this exercise.
In my next guest post, we’ll work on impulse control.
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