Week 2 - I’m On Your Side
Welcome to week 2! This week we will be doing more things to increase your dog’s offered engagement. It is so important that engagement is offered instead of cued. This is why we are teaching our dogs the value in engaging on their own terms. It is just as important this week as last week that we don’t say their name, or ask for anything specific. Instead we let them learn the value of engagement themselves - with the help of food.
Don’t be afraid to be generous with food when they come over to you. Give some, then pause for a few seconds and give more. You know those “blackjack dealer hands” that you wave to say, no more treats? This week I want you to commit to never doing that ever again. When you do that you are telling your dog, I am no longer valuable. We don’t even want that in our engaged lifestyles with our dogs.
Instead, if you are our of reinforcement, just stop paying attention to them. That is a more important cue than showing them you have nothing. Always leave them with the possibility of reward and they will give you much more effort and engagement.
Bringing “When You’re Ready, Come Find Me…” Inside:
It’s time to bring what you’ve been doing outside inside. Stay out doing something mundane. Here I am checking my mail. If your dog engages with you, reward them. Notice I say “hi” every time he comes over. I do this initially when teaching engagement.
After a few months I fade this because they are already used to engaging. Basically, it is a way to mark the good behavior and tell them a reward is coming for their effort in attention. I don’t want a formal marker like a clicker or “yes.” This is a social marker, so to speak.
If your dog is used to you doing nothing interesting in the house, let them see you walk over with a treat pouch or food reward. Then after a day or two of this, stop making your rewards obvious. But still reward them for stopping over and saying hi.
If they start to bark, nudge, or demand treats ignore them or get up and leave.
Tell Me What You Want With Engagement:
Have a treat pouch, a bag, or a cup with some tape over it sitting in your lap. Have treats in it. If you dog comes over and looks at you or just sits, reward them from the container (with a yes or click if you like). If they bark, wait them out or get up and leave. The more they look at you, the more you reward them.
The goal here is to teach them to engage in order to get something they can’t get themselves. If your dog gets frustrated, you can cue an initial sit (like I needed to - my dog in this video is 14 and forgets sometimes).
Good Touch Bad Touch:
Finally for this week we are going to talk about the ways we encourage and discourage our dogs to engage with us. Our dogs have personal preferences when it comes to how they are touched. It can be a huge motivator or a huge turn off depending on their personal preference. How one dog likes to be touched will not be the same as the next. Sometimes we misinterpret how are dogs feel about certain forms of touch or overstay our welcome by touching them for too long.
We gauge enjoyment of contact by starting with consent on their terms. Present your hands and see if they want to be touched. Usually they will present the part of themselves that they want petted. If they present their head, don’t assume they want to be petted on their head. That is actually their least likely choice. Try under the chin, behind the cheeks or around the ears first. Rumps and shoulder regions are also a favorite for some dogs. As you touch them, watch their reaction. If they lip lick, pause and see if they change position or walk away. A lip lick is a note that they either don’t like it or have reached their limit.
Pet them for 3-6 seconds and then pause. If they stay there, repeat in the same spot or next to that spot. If they move but stick around, try the spot they present to you. If they get up, or move away, stop and let them leave.
Try this with them standing, sitting, and lying down.
Practice “When You’re Ready” inside 2-3 times this week.
Practice “Tell Me” at least twice this week but hopefully more!
Watch 3 videos of “good touch/bad touch” and then pinpoint your dog’s favorite forms of physical contact.
Bonus! Post about your progress in the comments and your instructors will respond!