LEARNING OBJECTIVES FOR SHAPING POLITE WALKING:
• Establishing that both ends of the leash understand what a loose leash FEELS like. The leash snap hanging down becomes a conditioned cue for the dog that we are now walking on a loose leash.
• Learning to pay attention to the leash (J-shape and leash snap hanging down) and developing the handler’s role in keeping slack in the leash during the stages of training the dog.
• Understanding the need for good mechanical skills so as to give the dog a high rate of reinforcement.
• Using a high rate of reinforcement to both teach the dog the required skill and to keep the dog having fun while learning.
• Learning to work in baby steps towards a training goal.
• Learning to handle one’s leash with soft hands – almost transparent as far as the dog is concerned. The leash is nothing but an accessory required by our culture. To that end, training loose-leash walking with 100% positive reinforcement means making the leash “invisible” in its impact on the dog.
The first three steps:
1. Set Up for Success – clicker, leash and treat handling.
2. Standing with a Loose Leash – do this for one full minute.
3. Slow Drift About – do at least 25 click/treats before moving on to the next step. If you see that your dog has any difficulty, then repeat this step until your dog looks as ready for something new as Jack does in the video.
Make these three steps your warm-up to every Polite Walking training session. Revisiting these steps with a high rate of reinforcement further conditions the dog to the *feel* of a slack leash – and the handler too!
It’s important that your rate of reinforcement be very high – click/treat continuously if the leash is continuously in the J-shape. Hold several treats in your hand so that you can get a treat to the dog quickly after the click. It’s important that your treat hand remain still until after the click. These mechanical skills should be practiced without the dog in the picture until they are second nature. If you cannot hold several treats in your hand, use a food tube with lickable food to present for a quick lick as the treat.
Practice that type of treat delivery first without the dog. For a small dog, use a long-handled wooden spoon with something lickable on it for a quick lick as his treat.
By starting your Polite Walking training with the dog facing you, he has no need to pull – and, of course, you will start this in a location that has the least number of tempting distractions! Notice how quiet the trainer is with Jack. She is quiet so that he can concentrate only on the information from the click.
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