One of the biggest problems I find when working with clients is the amount of time they spend engaging their dog when outside. For a lot of dog owners, they take their dog to the park, let the dog off the leash and then walk round and don’t interact with their dog for 40 minutes or so and then wonder why their dog won’t come back to them.
For those of you with the easier to train dogs or dogs who more naturally through breeding want to be with us, this tends not to be too much of a problem. When it does become a problem is when we don’t have a strong bond with our dog and/or we own one of the more independent breeds.
One of the things I teach is to make yourself relevant and fun to your dog. Front load your walks and training sessions. What do you mean John? I hear you say. I mean interact with your dog before you let her off the leash. Play with her with a ball or tug, hand feed her some treats or kibble for nice behaviours such as sitting or looking at you. When you let her off the leash, only let her move a few feet away and call her back to you. Play for another few seconds, or give her an ear scratch and piece of kibble and send her on her way again. Do this regularly throughout the walk, every few seconds for the first couple of weeks. After a while, she will be more likely to walk round be your side, rather than run off. If she sniffs something interesting, wait till you think she’s just about to finish sniffing, and call her to you. Repeat. Once she is getting better at this, you can start to give her a little more time between interactions with you.
We did this technique last night at our outdoor training session. Tai, who is a Shar Pei and tends to run off to play with other dogs was stuck to Anna’s side within a minute or so of starting.
If you don’t interact with your dog like this or in a similar way, your dog will see you are being irrelevant when you are out. She will have the opportunity to self rewards by sniffing and meeting and playing with other dogs, If you use these opportunities to reinforce your training, she will start to behave in a manner you find more acceptable. If she wants to sniff, ask her to sit and then use the sniffing to reinforce the sit. If she wants to play with another dog or is playing with one, recall her and then release her to play again. That way she doesn’t see you as the spoiler of fun but rather the one who gives her access to it. This is different from the NILIF (nothing in life is free) protocol.
Keep training folks.