We worked on getting our targeting/touching behaviors even stronger, then moved on to starting the “hoop” exercise.
The goal is to be able to put the hoop in front of your dog and have her jump through it. You can eventually add a verbal cue, but in the beginning the hoop can serve as a sort of visual cue for your dog to perform the behavior.
- To start, wedge the hoop a bit between your knees or your feet, so that it does not move around and you don’t have to use a hand to keep it steady. Rest the bottom edge of the hoop on the ground.
- Have about 10 tiny treats in one hand; your other hand will be used as a target for your dog.
- Place the target (your hand or spoon) just barely on the other side of the hoop, clicking when dog touches it.
- Treat your dog by tossing the treat slightly out from the hoop, in the direction he is moving. Don’t toss it too far, or your dog may outsmart you by backing out of the hoop and dashing around it to grab the treat!
- When you have success at a few inches out from the hoop, move a couple inches further.
- Eventually, if you move the target bit by bit, and pony when your dog is ready for the next distance, your dog will be moving completely through the hoop eagerly.
Don’t raise the hoop until you have the dog confidently moving all the way through the hoop multiple times. Remember, add difficulty in small increments, so when you first raise the hoop do so only an inch or so.
If you’ve moved your target further out and your dog balks or tries to go around the hoop to target your hand, you’ve moved too fast!! Take a step back, and move your target slightly back towards the hoop.
We want our dogs to be comfortable with us handling them in a variety of ways. In addition, your dog needs to be okay with the vet, a friend, or the groomer handling him. To get this concept started, we are using something called classical conditioning — having your dog associate a human touching him with something pleasurable, such as his favorite treat. In your dog’s mind, a human touching him will predict something yummy.
- Grab about 10 super yummy treats — you could even use extra special treats set aside for this exercise.
- Gently touch your dog, lift your hand, then immediately treat your dog.
- When you are starting this out, do not roughly handle your dog; like all of the other behaviors and exercise we do, we start out small and easy, and build on that.
- Begin by touching him in places you know he enjoys. Some people start out touching their dog’s chest, then his back, moving on to more sensitive areas like ears, paws, tail, and top of head after they’ve worked on the easier areas first.
- Repeat the touch/treat pairing about 5-10 times.
- Watch your dog carefully! If you handle an area that makes your dog move away from you or quickly turn his head to see what’s going on, you now know that this is a sensitive area.
- You can work on the sensitive areas after awhile, but don’t do it so much that your dog is worried or annoyed — keep this exercise fun and lighthearted.
Remember: easy does it! You’ll get nothing by pushing your dog in this exercise, except a dog who is uncomfortable with people touching him.
This is an exercise you can do with your dog multiple times throughout the day. It only takes a minute and soon he’ll start looking forward to you handling him.
We did a bit of shaping in week 2, seeing how our dogs might interact with a large plastic set of stairs. Shaping is simply clicking and treating our dogs for performing small bits of behavior (successive approximations) towards a larger behavior. In this case, it was to see whether the dogs would start to climb up the plastic stairs.
- Have about 10 small treats in your hand, as well as your clicker.
- Your dog should either be off leash or on a leash that is very loose, so she can choose wherever she wants to go.
- This particular type of training rewards your dog for coming up with ideas on her own; so, absolutely no talking to your dog or urging her in a particular direction.
- Watch your dog carefully, and the very first time she interacts with the object — whether it’s touching it with her nose, stepping on it, or even just glancing at it — click and treat.
- As your dog continues to interact with the object, click and treat for each time she does something a little closer to the final behavior you’re looking for.
- The exercise might look something like this: she looks at the object (click/treat); she moves towards the object (click/treat); she touches the object with her nose (click/treat); she puts a paw on the object (click/treat); she puts two paws on the object (click/treat); and so on…..
Some dogs need to “learn” how to work this training method, so the first few times you do this, consider doing it only for 15-30 seconds.
If possible, remove the object from the area (or move the dog away) when you are not working the exercise. The reason for this is that you do not want your dog interacting with the object when you are not there (or paying attention) to click and treat for her efforts to interact with the object!
Things to Bring
- Your Pup!
- Well-behaved children and spouses 8 or older.
- A flat collar, harness, or martingale collar.
- Lots of pea-sized soft treats in at least two different flavors. 200 tiny pieces are not too many. Some suggestions: Hot dogs, String cheese, Meatballs, Chicken or Tuna, Baby food (in a camping tube), Vienna sausages, Liverwurst, Thin-sliced Beef.
- A fanny pack, carpenter’s apron, or treat pouch to hold your 200 tiny pieces.
- A 6-foot leash.
- A mat, bathmat, towel, or blanket for your puppy or dog to rest on.
- Water and a bowl for when your pup gets thirsty.
Do's and Don'ts
- Do let us know if your pup has any food allergies so that we can be careful not to give him a troublesome treat.
- Don’t bring prong, choke, shock, or citronella collars.
- Don’t bring Flexi or other retractable leashes.
- Puppies and dogs should not meet while on leash in class, or while coming and going. There will be opportunities for off-leash play for compatible puppies, and good neighbor exercises for older pups and dogs.
- Don’t feed a heavy meal before coming to class. In fact, your in-class treats can serve as your dog’s breakfast on class day!
- If your puppy or dog is ill, please leave him at home to recuperate, but feel free to come to class without him so that you can learn what’s on the agenda for that day.