Captivating Connections:
Week 3 - What’s Your Worth

Great work on building engagement these last 2 weeks. I want you to continue to practice the “When You’re Ready, Come Find Me”… exercises in new places these next 2 weeks. I won’t be posting more videos of these exercises because it would just more of the same. You know what you’re doing. If they don’t come check in within 10 minutes of hanging around a new place, pack up and try a more boring location. For some dogs, a park might be too interesting. You might have to try a parking lot (make sure the pavement isn’t too hot), a driveway, or a porch somewhere. It is value to watch your dog’s body language to see when they are too stimulated to check in with you. If you visit a new place and they pick a spot and plop down, try to make yourself interesting by playing in the grass, building a cabin out of mulch or something similar. Also don’t get skimpy with treats. If they stick around for treats, fine! In weeks 5-6 we’ll talk about how we’re going to shift from that. But for now, be generous.

For the next two weeks we will be working on motivation! This week we are embracing your dog's instincts and turning that into motivation.

Ditch Your Dog

In the places you have already been successful with When You’re Ready, Come Find Me…, we are going to make things more interesting. We are going to start incorporating some instinct into our training.

One thing most primitive dogs like to do is play chase games. If you have a lazy livestock guarding dog, you might not get very far with this exercise. That’s okay. But for the rest of you, a game of chase should be stimulating for your dog. We are going to play this game in a certain way to maximize engagement.

With “Ditch Your Dog,” you are going to give them treats, either straight to the mouth or tossed on the ground, and then you bolt away. Tossing is best unless your dog will spend 30+ seconds searching for it. For those dogs, give it directly to them instead of throwing it on the ground. Practice in a fenced area or with a long line.

In the video, you will see that I am walking away from the dog. You can walk or run. Running is more fun for the dog and reinforcing. This yard was small so I could only walk. Use what works best for your space.

The first time you play the game, only do 3-5 repetitions and then run to the house or car. The next time 5-10 repetitions. Be sure to leave with them still interested. If you think “just one more…,” quit then. Trying to do “one more” usually leaves the dog bored.



Pretty Premack Please!

This week, we’re working with the Premack Principle. If you have taken other Couch Wolves classes you might already be familiar with it, but I’ll explain it anyway. Simply put, if you reinforce an offered behavior with a stimulus that the dog innately wants (and is usually distracted by), you will strongly reinforce that behavior AND slightly reduce the arousal and distracting elements for the stimulus. This stimulus can be food, toys, prey, sniffing, moving animals or objects, etc. For example, if you want to reinforce loose leash walking using Premack, you would take a few steps with loose leash walking and then run over to a really great spot to go sniff.

Today we are going to use Premack to reinforce attention. You will need an exciting distraction. It can’t be so exciting that they are barking, crying, or straining to get at it. They should want it if given the freedom to do so and be aware of its presence, but not be completely distracted. Now stand still. Wait for your dog to look at you. Don’t cue the look. When they do, say “yes” and let them go see the thing they wanted (on leash - safely).

Ethics and welfare: If the thing your dog wants is a live animal, make sure the animal gets a head start and won’t be injured in the process of this training game. Only use wildlife a couple of times and then move on. Don’t stress out other pets and wildlife. The cockatiels in the video are used to dogs. However, my presence rushing up to them was a little startling, so I made sure to approach more slowly in future reward bouts.

Special note: You can reward your dog with a treat for leaving the exciting reward.


Homework!

Practice When You’re Ready, Come Find Me… from the last 2 weeks in 2 new locations. If you have time - do more!

Play Ditch Your Dog daily!

Practice Pretty Premack Please! for a minimum of 3 sessions.

Bonus! Post about your progress in the comments and your instructors will respond!