Leave it (At a Park)
So, you have mastered the commands of Leave it, and Watch Me
(well you know them and so does the dog, but only in limited environments ????)
You have even added the leash in the house and worked in the car, with the presence of dogs and people as distractions… So now what?
We take these skills on the road and hit a local park that is frequented by both kids and dogs (on leash variety, after all we are working on, on leash reactivity) The only real requirement is the size of the park. We need the park to be large enough so that if our dog overreacts to either people or dogs, we can retreat to a safe distance away from the distraction and have the dog start listening/responding to the watch me or leave it command and actually take treats… This came up in a previous blog but let’s review:
A dog that will not listen to a command they know or take a treat in which they love…Is over threshold and overexcited and basically not capable at that moment in time to focus on you the handler… No matter what you say, how you say it, how much you jerk the leash or physically correct (none of these, do I recommend) … is going to do any good! Your only option to an over stimulated dog is to move further and further away (distance wise) from the distraction, till the dog is capable of giving attention to you during the watch me or leave it command. In a general sense either command means the same thing “quit focusing on that and focus on me and here comes the cookie or other reward…”
So, the goal of these training sessions at the park are too simple stay at a safe and acceptable distance from distractions. Your dog can look at the distraction but not overreact or “practice” the bad behavior you are trying to fix!!! Yep if you are constantly putting the dog in situations or distances that they cannot handle, and they react…. You are allowing your dog to learn and practice the very behavior you are trying to fix.
Most humans lack the patience of working under threshold (not reacting or overstimulating) because the minute they see the tiniest progress they push the dog closer (If this is working, working closer must be better right? WRONG) The goal is to normalize your dog’s behavior around other dogs/people and to show them nothing bad happens and there is not reason to attempt to defend against or scare away the distraction object…
This sounds really easy but, in my experience, (12 years as a trainer) folks need a coach with this type of training. Someone to let you know you are pushing, someone to tell you back up/ add distance or even in some cases to remember to reward your dog. The stuff up till now many folks can tackle individually but going forward I recommend hiring a good positive reinforcement trainer to help and get you to this point and the next… Which is called Park Bench Bingo!!! So, get on the phone get someone to help/coach and come back for the next step after you can walk around the park at a safe distance to distractions, listen to commands and take treats!
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