I’ve read many threads on here about people not being able to engage their dog with them. I thought I would start this thread and hopefully the “old timers” would chime in with their tips / experience / advice and expertise on what they did to have their dog engaged with them during play, training and just being there.
While I am by no means an expert, I have been pretty successful with a lot of things with Kyleigh. Engagement was never a problem with us as I started super young – 9 weeks!
My tips are for those at the puppy stage. I’m sure they can be used on older dogs – with some variation of some kind!
I used a martingale on Kyleigh until she was about 11 months old, then I switched to a pinch collar when her prey drive REALLY came out!
You are always fun – ALWAYS – no matter what it is you are doing, playing, training, guiding, etc. you are FUN!
I NEVER corrected Kyleigh until she was about 6 months old – I redirected, and didn’t give her a chance to finish what she was starting. For example – food on the counter – I would purposefully leave meat on the counter, have the leash on her and walk into the kitchen. Of course she’s going to smell it! We would walk past it and as soon as she moved towards it – her nose, head, body, whatever – I would say NO, then call her name, a quick tug on the leash (NOT a correction, just a redirection) and show her a toy and run into the other room with her and PLAY. This is redirection.
I NEVER used food for obedience training, and in my opinion, this is why I have better engagement with my dog. I didn’t bribe her to do something for food – I got her to do something because I was the reward, and I was better than ANYTHING else out there. (I have used food for luring a specific behaviour that I want – i.e. teaching her to crawl, turn in circles, sit pretty, etc. but this is NOT obedience, these are tricks!)
Here’s an example of how I trained Kyleigh to sit. Martingale collar on her, leash in hand and she’s standing. I’m saying SIT at the same time that I am pulling up on the leash, and touching her bum with one finger towards the down position. (Seriously, they all get this instantly!) Do it quickly three times in a row and praise on the third time: chest rub, toss them a toy, and then play for a full minute. Repeat this for about 10-15 minutes.
When I was teaching Kyleigh to down, I put her in a sit, sat down beside her, and applied a little bit of pressure on the leash (again on a martingale collar) in the down position, and said DOWN. I held the leash in that position until she lay down. (You’re not forcing the dog down, you are applying about 3% more pressure than the dog is and you simply hold it until they lay down.) Popped her back up, repeated quickly for three times, and then praise praise praise – same as above. Repeat for about 10-15 minutes.
ALL of my training was done through pressure and release with a martingale collar. (I learned this watching the move BUCK – if he can do it with a 1500 pound horse, surely we can do it with a 10 pound puppy!)
When I wanted Kyleigh to go over something new, I would guide her with the leash (pressure) and as soon as she was there I dropped the tension (release).
I was her reward – nothing else. She didn’t get to play with the toy herself, it was MY toy that she was playing with ME. (So, the rewards with the toys were interactive – tug, toss / fetch, etc.) And this kind of reward helps release more physical energy.
When it came time to teach recall training with Kyleigh, it was the EASIEST thing ever. I didn’t even use a long line. Once she had sit, down and stay figured out, I started in the back yard. Told her to sit / stay, backed up about 10 feet, crouched down to ground opened my arms and called her – Kyleigh COME … she flew at me. Repeated two more times, and then playtime with me was the reward. Did it over and over. Added distractions – food / toys, etc. along the “path” to get her to come to me, and a quick LEAVE IT if she veered off course and we were off and running.
IMO this type of “very basic obedience training” builds the bond with you and your puppy, mentally stimulates the dog and physically drains the dog. Creating this level of trust / bond with your dog makes recall the easiest thing in the world because by now ALL your dog wants is to be with you!!!
One of the most important things I find that a lot of people don't do or won't do was have fun in public with your puppy / dog. A lot of people are "nervous / afraid / don't want to look funny" when they are working their dogs in public.
Me? I couldn't care less. I'm out there working with my puppy / dog and we are having a blast. I'm pretty sure I looked like a total nutcase when I was training Kyleigh as a puppy in the parks / playgrounds / fields, etc. My praise is very vocal, and very physical with her. We look and sound like a bunch of hooligans. But you know what? When I walk my dog now, 4 years later, my dog walks with me, not against me. When I do obedience in a field and there's a soccer game going on 50 feet away and she's in a down stay and I'm at the other side of the field, and she doesn't move or even acknowledge anything else around her - that's engagement. And to see her FLY across the field when I call her? That is just pure awesome and joy!
I'll stop my book here LOL and hopefully lots of other people will chime in with their tricks of the trade!
Marion’s Zoo-Kyleigh, Raylan-cat, Echo-TAG,