If your dog is dragging you along the street or failing to come back in the park then you may have a dis-connection problem. Connection is the foundation on which lead skills and recall techniques are built.
Dogs naturally seek out connection, they are a pro-social species and able to adapt their behaviour for group survival. Knowing what to look for and being ready to reinforce it, can greatly improve your lead walking and recall problems.
In order for dogs to connect with us, we need to be prepared to connect with them, using our bodies and voices. If all the dog can see is the back of your head, they have no information on how to behave. Without connection the dog cannot focus on the execution of a behaviour, and they give up on us, running off, ignoring our cues or dragging us along behind them.
Failing to be connected with our dogs can put them under conflict, causing unnecessary stress. Being dis-connected means we don't notice the other dog coming towards us, the child reaching out to touch our dog, the jogger coming up fast behind. Our dogs can be trying to communicate their discomfort but we don't notice because our focus is elsewhere.
How can we improve our performance?
Be aware of where we are looking Did you know that dogs can work out where you want them to go next by following your gaze? Try it! In a safe space with your dog behind you try leading your dog from A - B by moving and looking at the path you want them to take. Compare this with how well your dog follows you when all they can see is the back of your head and shoulders. Using your gaze to increase connection doesn't mean staring at your dog or insisting your dog looks at your eyes. In fact you don't even need to be able to see all of your dog, simply stay aware of where your dog is at all times, how they are moving and what you would like them to do next. Putting these together communicates to your dog that you are connected and want to work as a team. If you want to speed up your dog's recall, using your gaze to follow your dog's running line, this can help your dog to run faster. In this video I'm working on a recall exercise with my dog, watch how I use my gaze to follow the line she needs to run between the tubs. Also watch how she is running to follow my face for information - this is connection, she needs to see at least the side of my face or my cheek to feel confident about what to do. Whilst we are working together like this she isn't thinking about the birds, the cars or people walking past. Recall Video
When walking your dog on lead, focus on the 2m zone in front of you, this will help your dog focus on the same space and walk within the length of their lead. Try to be aware of distractions during your onlead walks by using your peripheral vision, focusing all your attention on the other dog because you feel concerned, encourages your dog to do the same.
Be aware of where your dog is looking
Dogs go in the direction they are looking. Learning to look at your dog and notice which way they are looking will tell you what is likely to happen next. This is especially important when letting your dog off lead - if they are looking away from you as you unclip the lead, they will most likely run off in that direction immediately. This scenario leaves you with no time to collect your dog if something unexpected appears on the horizon. In class we teach dogs to remain connected with their person even once the lead has been removed. If the dog is looking at their person I know the dog is committed to staying with them, no matter what else is going on in the room.
Point with your feet
When moving together as a group dogs follow the body language of others. Dogs calculate which way the group is going to move by reading the direction the other dogs are looking and which way their bodies are pointing. We can replicate this with our own bodies by turning our feet in the direction we want to go next.
Experiment with this in a safe space, which is easier for your dog, calling them to come with you when your feet are pointing towards them or pointing to where to go next? As you turn remember to keep the connection with your cheek turned towards the side of your body the dog should aim for.
Need more information?
More reading - Teaching Recall
For more help
A 1 - 1 session would give us time to talk about what help you need for your dog and allow me to put some tailored strategies into place. For more information work-with-me
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