Instructor: Donna Hill
Did you know that every time you take your dog out for a walk, you could be building on your connection? Learn some simple ways to maximize your time improving fluency and generalizing behaviors for competition too! Your dog will choose to stay engaged with you instead of pulling, sniffing or running away from you!
In this class, we'll use some games we can play on leash using behaviors he already knows. We will also learn how to use a long line effectively and how to get behaviors at a distance. If your dog is ready for it, you can try going leash free. We'll use sidewalks, trails, open areas and whatever else you have access to!
Did you know there are different kinds of walks? We will explore how much exercise and what kind your dog really needs and how often he needs it. Your dream of physically and mentally tiring your dog without having to walk or hike for miles (or throwing balls until your arm falls off) is possible!
Can you trust your dog? If so, he will learn to trust you! Giving him more choice helps build a stronger relationship.
We will explore the use of meditation, massage, and TTouch at home and on walks for improved focus (for both you and your dog!). Don't worry, it all has practical application! (I know, some of you are probably surprised that I, a science-based trainer, uses these approaches. Surprise! One of the benefits of an open mind is what it brings!)
Varying your locations is often a challenge so we'll address that too! With a list to draw from, you can plan an effective walk in minutes. All this will help you and your dog to become better working partners! We'll also look at an easy way to stay organized with all the possible locations and behaviors you can do.
We'll also take a practical look at the use of different reinforcers and the role they play in training in distractions. The goal is to get your dog focussed on the job you have asked him to do while ignoring what is going on around him.
Each week builds on the skills and attention of the previous week so you will build the relationship as you go. At the end of the six weeks, you may also see improvement in your dog's loose leash walking since all of the games have a component of connection with you and use Premack's Principle to strengthen them. Loose leash walking is usually a byproduct of building the bond! A dog that wants to be with you is a dog that chooses to stay close to you.
This class is just the tip of the iceberg on what is possible for walks. Be sure to join us to tap into this 'seldom used' training approach.
This class is suitable for:
- Dogs and handlers at all levels of skill
- Whether your dog needs to stay on leash or can work off, you will want to integrate this approach into your daily life and will discover things you can do to improve your relationship and your dog's ability to stay focused on you and what you are asking him to do!
We will focus on:
-where is your bond at now?
-different kinds of walks
-teaching and generalizing directionals (this is added for my former Stir Crazy students!)
-using a stations approach on walks (building from the ground up)
-some simple ways to teach your dog to change position near you (great for when he is leashed or long-lined).
-using distractions to your advantage
-use paw targeting to get exercise and do behaviors at a distance
-how to calm your dog on a walk (especially for the adrenaline retrieving junkies)
-practice loose leash walking and competition heeling games during real life walks!
This class is jam packed with tons of videos and lots of text (theory) behind the 20 games you can play with your dog. Take a look at our sample lesson as an example. You will get your money's worth and then some! Lots of info for after the course is over as well!
There are no scheduled sessions for this class at this time. We update our schedule frequently, so please subscribe to our mailing list for notifications.
Registration will begin at 9:00 AM Pacific Time.
For answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.
Enrollment limits: Gold: 12 students, Silver: 15 students, Bronze: unlimited.
Silver level for this class is offered as "Working Silver". In addition to asking GENERAL clarification questions about the class lecture materials, silver students will now have the opportunity to submit two short videos, one minute each, for critique and review. You may submit two questions. Each question MUST have a one minute video attached so the instructor can actually answer a question that they can see. The question must relate to a topic in the class and the video must be a demo of the question. Please see the discussion forum for a detailed explanation - feel free to sign up at bronze, read the explanation, and then come back here to upgrade to silver if that interests you, and if space is available.
If you are interested in a bronze level subscription, you can sign up at any time during the registration period.
Lecture 3: Generalization, Proofing or Concept?
Lecture 4: A Stations Approach
Homework Assignment 3
At least 5 behaviors that are on hand and verbal cue that are ready to be generalized to outdoor and other situations. If you have many more - GREAT! Let's start with your dog where s/he is at.
Equipment depends on the behaviors you choose.
Ideally, choose behaviors that don't need much equipment or you can use what is in the environments where you walk.
sit, down, stand, spin, paw, back up, leave it, the beginnings of loose leash walking etc.
nose target, paw target (of an ice cream lid),
around (use posts and poles), up and off (using logs, rock etc)
retrieve and finding objects by scent are handy to add variety
You and your dog will learn a few more during the class as examples.
You will need:
- a clicker with a raised button (i-clicker or louder),
- treat pouch or pockets (no plastic bags allowed on walks)
- and plenty of treats of varying value for each walk.
- 6 foot lightweight leash
- 20-30 foot lightweight long line (We'll have a discussion about long lines in class) Try your local hardware store and buy 20-30 feet of lightweight webbing that will shed dirt/water and a carabiner clip to tie on one end. If you want to buy online, look for biothane long lines
- digital camera or phone with a camera
- tripod or selfie stick that you can stand in a pot of sand etc for your camera
The first step is to decide how you are going to use the cues and then choose them. Hand signals come naturally for both directions and dogs tend to learn them quite easily. In agility if you are facing the same direction as the dog, you use the same hand as the side of dog: left hand for left turn, right hand for right turn. If the dog is facing you, you use the hand on the same side that you want the dog to turn. (Your right hand points to your right but dog moves to her left as she comes towards you).
If your dog does not understand how to follow a finger or hand point, you can try this approach using a target stick.
Verbal cues are more difficult. Some people choose a directional word to be a modifier of another cue. Left and right for example. These are used in front of any behaviour. Left paw, right spin. The direction tells the dog which direction to move in and the behaviour cue tells the dog which behaviour is wanted.
When using a modifier, it is always given before the behaviour cue. That way, the dog knows in which direction the behaviour will occur. It is more common in other languages to put the adverb before the verb (left turn), rather than after the verb (turn left) as is commonly done in English.
You can choose whatever cues you want: left or right, come by and away, dddd and pppp. Anything that you find easy to remember and makes sense to you and that your dog will be able to easily distinguish in whatever environment you plan to use it in.
Other people combine the modifier and the behaviour cue into a single cue. For example, a right spin might be cued as ’twist’ and a left spin might be ‘turn’, ‘Tick' means right paw shake and ‘Tock’ means left paw shake, etc. The challenge here is that the handler must remember which direction each of the behaviours is meant to be and cue the correct one from the dog’s point of view. This works well for behaviours used in freestyle but has limited application in other sports.
Using a separate directional modifier and behaviour cue has the benefit of teaching the dog the concept of direction. This is useful in real life (such as when dog loses a treat on the floor and you can direct the dog to his left to find it or when the dog is running ahead you can cue him which path to take). In most sports where there are two options for the same obstacle (directed jumping in obedience) or objects or animals to move around (send arounds for herding, etc) or directions to heel or with search and rescue dogs to direct their search from a distance. They are also useful for service dogs for specifying location of an item to be retrieved, which of two items to be retrieved, direction to move suddenly, etc. The challenge is that the handler must remember to name the direction from the dog’s point of view so if the dog is facing you, their right is your left.
Here is a list of some example combinations:
- left nose touch to hand, right nose touch
- left paw, right shake a paw
- left paw, right paw target
- left spin, right spin
- left retrieve, right retrieve
- right jump, left jump
- left tunnel, right tunnel
- right roll over, left roll over, etc.
- left step, right step (both front and back legs move together so dog steps sideways-side pass)
Teaching Verbal Cues (modifiers) for Left and Right:
There are several simple ways to start teaching directions. It pays to retrain it from the start with several different behaviours to help the dog generalize the concept early on.
Method 1: (dog facing you)
Start with one direction at a time.
With the dog laying, sitting or standing in front of you, place both hands about 8 inches away from and beside and slightly lower than your dog’s face. The more inclined your dog is to offer behaviours (is creative), the lower the position the dog should be in. For example, a dog in a down is calmer and more stationary than a dog in a stand.
Choose one hand to start with and wiggle the fingers a little. When your dog turns her head towards the wiggling fingers, mark and reinforce. All we are looking for at this point is the head turn, not a nose touch.
After a few repetitions, if your dog starts to ignore the fingers, wiggle fingers on the other side and repeat marking and treating for head turns.
Next, alternate sides unpredictably.
Once the dog is reliably turning her head to your hand on both sides, go back to working just the right one and add the modifier cue (right) just as the dog turns her head to her right. Mark and treat as before. If the dog turns her head the other way, do not mark or reward but instead, reset the behaviour by pulling your hands away and replacing them. This gives the dog a chance to try again but also learns that she missed an opportunity to get a treat because she hasn’t yet figured out the game. Most dogs need 50 to 100 repetitions (5 to 10 sets of 10 repetitions) of this before they start catching on to what a verbal cue means. Some need many more.
When the dog gets 100% on this, change sides and add just the cue just as she turns her head to that other side.
At 80% correct on the other side, you can start alternating between them. One left, one right. This pattern helps to practice the movement. This change also adds a huge level of difficulty until the dog catches on to the pattern so be prepared to do many training sessions. Again, at 80% correct, go on to the next step.
Next ask for directions unpredictably. This is what really teaches them to listen to the sound. This change also adds a huge level of difficulty so be prepared to do many training sessions. You may need to go back and review just one, then the other. Work to 90% correct. This is because you want to make sure the dog really understands what the cue means. An error here and there is allowed.
To make sure you are randomly mixing up the cues, use your deck of cards to select the ones and twos from all four suits. Shuffle the 8 cards and pull the top one. A one is right, a 2 is left. If she gets two wrong, she is not ready to move on. To make a smooth training session, pull all the cards ahead of time and record the results. Train from that list. Glancing at it between each repetition.
Now change the dog’s position. If you started in a down, train it in a sit, then in a stand. This helps to generalize that left is always left, right is always right, no matter what position the dog is in.
By this point, you should be able to present your hands and your dog turns her head in the correct direction after the verbal cue is given. So you now have the beginnings of a modifier.
Adding a Modifier to a Behavior Cue
Again starting with the dog in a down or sit in front of you, place your hands up on both sides of the dog again, but this time, give a modifier and cue together. Left touch. If the dog is correct, mark and treat. If the dog is incorrect, remove your hands and reset.
Work just one side at a time and give the modifier cue (right touch) and as the dog nose touches your hand, mark and treat as before. If the dog turns her head the other way, do not mark or reward but instead, reset the behaviour by pulling your hands away and replacing them. This gives the dog a chance to try again but also learns that she missed an opportunity to get a treat because she hasn’t yet figured out the game.
In this video, we have just started combining the right modifier and nose touch. I am also reinforcing for not guessing. You can see how when a new element is added, this makes it harder for the dog and we have to make it easier for her. I hadn’t planned on still reinforcing for not guessing, but realized she needed more reinforcement for it while asking for cues. Unfortunately, at the same time, there was a car stopping outside which was what she kept turning her head towards. Her look aways were not stress this time, although it may look like it. (Excuse the bathrobe. LOL!)
When the dog is getting 80% or better on this side, change sides. Repeat with left touch.
In this video, we have started working on left. Instead of paying for not doing any behaviour in between, I have switched to simply waiting her out. You can see at one point, she starts staring at me and I reinforce her by giving the cue. Success! After that, she remembers to hold herself back from guessing for a few reps, she then forgets again and I repeat pulling my hands away with the same result. This approach can be stressful for the dogs with impulse control issues so keep session short and make sure the dog has 50% or greater success range.
At 80% correct, you can start alternating between them.
Next do it unpredictably. Use your playing cards again.
In this clip, because I again have added another level of difficulty by combining the two directions, she goes back to guessing. I used ‘wait' instead of reinforcing for doing nothing. We have done the review training already of each direction alone in the sit before progressing to this point. (Can you tell she is a die-hard guesser? LOL!)
Now if you started in a down, train it in a sit right from the start, then in a stand. Work to 80% accuracy or better each time. Then switch to a new position.
Method 2: (dog facing away)
Start with one direction at a time.
Stand the dog between your legs, and have two large pots, bowls or small boxes to either side, about 4 feet apart. Hold both hands behind your back with 10 treats in one.
Drop one treat to your right container, mark yes, when the dog turns towards it. In this video I reinforce for coming back to the start position between my legs.
In this one, I have stopped reinforcing between my legs as Lucy understands where to come back to restart the game. You can see how much smoother the process is. It is ideal for fast repetitions.
Repeat a few times until the dog begins anticipating where you are going to drop it by looking there before you drop it. Here after I wait just a few seconds, Lucy looks to where the treat has always been dropped. I mark and reinforce this head turn. Repeat.
When the dog is reliably looking to the right, add the cue ‘right', at the SAME TIME as dropping the treat. Repeat for at least 2 training sessions of 10 repetitions. You are now capturing the behaviour of ‘right look’ or ‘right move’ or even right ‘get it'.
Now start adding the cue just BEFORE you move your hand to drop the treat. Mark each time your dog looks at the right bowl and drop the treat after marking.
Repeat the same process with the left.
Now alternate 1 to 1 between right and left. This is a harder step. Here I show how you can also train with the dog in front of you. The challenge with this approach is that there must be a neutral zone designated for the dog. A mat in the middle would help. You can see how Jessie is just sort of hanging out, not sure where she needs to be.
When your dog is at 80% or better, start randomly mixing up the order of the left and right cues. Give the cue and if the dog looks in the incorrect direction, withhold the treat. Mark that as an error and go on to the next repetition.
To make sure you are randomly mixing up the cues, use your deck of cards to select the ones and twos from all four suits. Shuffle the 8 cards and pull the top one. A one is right, a 2 is left. If she gets two wrong, she is not ready to move on. To make a smooth training session, pull all the cards ahead of time and record them results. Train from that list. Glancing at it between each repetition.
I actually taught this to Jessie in a creek pool to help her gain confidence in the water and build a positive association with it.
She was standing at the edge of the pool, sniffing the water’s edge. I was standing above her on the bank. I tossed a floating treat to one side and she turned to eat it. I would wait until she was facing away from the shore (me) and tossed another on the same side. Next I tossed the treat, and as she turned her head, I added the word “right”. After about 20 reps of that, I then gave the cue first and if she turned her head to anticipate the treat, I tossed it. Then repeated with the other side. Then mixed them up. It took about 3 visits to the creek to figure out the game and the bonus is she now enjoys poking in the water up to her chest.
Adding a Modifier to a Behavior Cue
If your dog can retrieve an object, you can start combining it with a behaviour cue. Choose an object that the dog has had previous practice retrieving but also one that is not too exciting. Use an object that won’t bounce or roll away, like a beanbag, stuffed toy, or sock. A toy that the dog gets overly excited about will affect her ability to focus on the task of learning directions at this point so choose one that has low value. Later on, you can use a higher value toy to proof your dog’s understanding of the modifier cue. (If your dog is not too excited about a ball, you can use it but train on a rough surface such as thick carpet, grass or sand so it won’t bounce or roll away when you toss it). Keeping shorter distances at first allows your dog to pick it up and bring it back faster for more rapid repetitions.
Stand as you did before with the dog between your legs and have two large pots or bowls to either side, about 4 feet apart.
Hold both hands behind your back with the toy in your throwing hand.
Toss the toy to your right container, mark when the dog turns towards it. Give your dog the retrieve cue and have her bring it back.
Repeat a few times until the dog anticipates where you are going to throw it by looking there before you throw it.
When the dog is reliably looking to the right, add the cue 'right retrieve', just as you toss. Repeat for a couple of training sessions. Now start adding the cue before you move your hand to toss the toy. Mark each time your dog looks at the right bowl and toss the toy after marking.
Repeat the same process with the left.
Now alternate between right and left.
When your dog is at 80% or better, start randomly mixing up the order of the left and right cues. Give the cue and if the dog looks in the incorrect direction, withhold the toy. Note that as an error and go on to the next repetition. To make sure you are randomly mixing up the cues.
Below are many other ways to generalize directionals.
Most extend beyond the scope of this class but will be helpful.
- Dog stands between your legs, facing forward and you give a hip tap. Dog turns head towards sound. Add verbal cue.
- Dog stands beside you or between legs. Cue left or right nose target to one of two Alley Oop targets or similar targets.
- Dog stands between legs and moves with you in desired direction.
- Dog stands in front of you and side passes (does a sidestep) in the desired direction
- Dog at heel and turns with you in desired direction
- Dog turning while heeling to change sides (dog starts on left and you cue left as you turn left into dog and dog ends up on your right-dog does a 180 degree turn)
- Dog turning while heeling to change sides (dog starts on left and you cue right as you turn left into dog and dog ends up on your right- dog does a Schutzhund turn)
- Put the dog in a neutral position sit as stand stay or sit stay. Cue the dog which direction the ball is going in. If the dog looks to that direction, mark and toss the ball in that direction. You could also kick a ball.
- Send the dog through a tunnel or cardboard box and cue her a specific direction as she comes out.
- Use a child’s fabric playhouse that has a right and left entrance (like a T-juntion) and cue one direction. A similar layout can be made by cutting a hole in the side of a box. Tape the ends up to add length to the tunnel if desired.
Prior to this training session, we practiced just lefts on their own and just rights on their own. This session I am mixing them up a bit.
I start her in a neutral position between my legs and help her by turning/leaning in the correct direction. That can be faded later once she is ready to train for verbals only.
Reinforcers are held in both hands behind my back so I can reinforce on the same side that she turned to.
She has trouble eating the dry Cheerios (which slows down the process).
Note each time she makes an error, I reset her between my legs but do not reinforce her. The back of the playhouse is solid but has a screen window. I used a water-filled milk jug at each corner to weight the playhouse down.
Give the modifier before the cue as before (Right In) ('In' is my cue for tunnel). In this session she got 7/9 correct but the last one she got wrong (not shown) so she would have got 7/10. Not bad for a change of criterion (mixing up the directions).
Once your dog starts understanding directions as a concept, you can apply it during a walk on a trail. With the dog walking ahead (on long line or leash free), you can cue which direction you want her to turn. This can be done either while the dog is moving towards junction or when dog stops to wait for direction. If she is walking ahead of you on a long line on a quiet street, you can cue it to get her to move left and right around parked cars.
When loose leash walking, you can use it to cue her which direction to walk with you. You can also apply it to the direction of turn after she understands how to do it. The left and right cues come in handy in Rally, Freestlye, Gun dog blind retrieves etc.
A sampling of what prior students have said about this course ...
This really was a very good class. I wasn't 100% sure what to expect & when the first lectures came out, I was a little worried that it was too basic for us, but when I took the time to go through each piece, it really was very powerful in how impactful it was for my dog's engagement with me. I will highly recommend this class.
Thank You. As someone still learning about how to engage with my dogs (newbie dog person) I am so grateful for your kind and encouraging style. Perhaps the greatest nugget is to love the dog I have, which reminds me to love my own failures as well. A good reminder that all relationships take time, nurturing, and commitment to understanding each other.
Hi Donna, I would really like you to know what a wonderful thing you have done for myself and my boy, Finn. Finn has been a challenge since we brought him home as an 8 week old puppy. I have never felt truly bonded to him. Since this course, all that has changed. I feel so relaxed taking him out now and I know he feels it too. We're a team and we're having fun. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Great course. I wanted to work on building a good relationship with my new rescue, work on loose leash walking skills, and socialize her. Good ideas for doing all of those at the same time.
Thank you Donna. You have provided so much valuable advice to Koji and I. I will continue to work through the class material for months to come.
Lectures were very useful, Donna's games are fantastic, numerous video clips demonstrating how to play the games were awesome and well placed.
Build Your Bond: Relationship Walks with Your Dog is my new favorite course at FDSA. This class taught by Donna Hill really broadened my thinking about what a walk with my dog could be. Where all of our walks were off leash in the forest before, both of my dogs are now walking both into public places on leash in town as well as on long lines in the forest. And I have started incorporating mini-dog teaching sessions in the forest. The games are so plentiful and terrific, that I am going to take whatever time my dogs and I need to make sure we don't miss a single one. Thank you Denise and Donna for making this experience possible for me. Martha C.