I was at a Home Dog Training lesson in Alpharetta last week with a client and his beautiful Bull Terrier names Zoe. We had worked on just about all the issues they had inside the house and the back yard and were ready to tackle his final issue, walking Zoe through the neighborhood. One would think that this wouldn’t be a big deal, based on all the great things Zoe had accomplished to that point. The issue was that the neighborhood was filled with tons of Middle School kids who loved to ride their bikes and play in everyone’s yards. As Middle School kids are, they loved to run to Zoe and make her go crazy. So, what were we going to do?
At first glance, this would seem like an insurmountable problem. Bull Terriers can be energetic and adrenalized dogs and the neighborhood is filled with active, playful kids. When you put both of those things into one space, control can become very elusive. With this observation now behind us, we need to come up with a plan to make a happy and calm walk possible.
The biggest problem that we have in this situation is the ability to successfully teach our lesson. Our lesson is to have Zoe walk with us, give us focus as we require, and simply not go nuts. Now that we understand our lesson, we need to look at the environment to see if we can successfully teach that lesson.
Walking Zoe right out the front door onto the street with the gaggle of crazy kids will probably get us pulled down the street on our face. This is not a successful implementation of the lesson. The reason that this will obviously fail is that we are attempting to teach the lesson at a level too advanced for Zoe’s ability to succeed. It isn’t that the lesson is wrong or that we don’t need to get out with all the crazy kids, we just aren’t ready for that phase of our learning.
There is a very simple concept that many of my clients who are Middle School teachers have taught me over the years. I now reinforce this training concept with every new client and dog I teach. The most important part of teaching is understanding where you, as the teacher, have the ability to teach that moment. It is equally important to understand where your student has the ability to learn that day. Where ever those two points cross at that moment is the place where you can create a successful teaching environment.
We must review all the steps involved in getting Zoe out of the house and on a walk with all the crazy kids. Every step needs to be dissected, defined in simple, bipolar tasks, and clearly evaluated as to failure or success. Each task has to directly build on the prior task. Each task needs to be modular and small enough as to easily allow the teacher to step back to the prior task if the student is succeeding or move to the next task if the student is successful.
Now, let’s break down the tasks we need to accomplish:
- Have Zoe come and respectfully be by our side.
- Calmly put the leash on Zoe.
- Walk to the front door.
- Open the front door.
- Step outside and invite Zoe to join us.
- Command Zoe to walk with us down to the curb.
- Decide what direction we wish to walk and begin in that direction.
- Calmly direct Zoe to give us better attention when she is not.
- Allow Zoe to have free time on the walk for sniffing and potty breaks.
- Allow Zoe to greet neighbors.
- Return home and have Zoe calmly be next to us as we open the front door.
- Step inside the door and then invite Zoe.
- Have Zoe calmly next to us as we close the door and remove her leash.
Each of these steps builds on the prior and each has a clear set of tasks with simple success/failure analysis. If we start to work these steps and are having a problem with any one of them, we can simply step back to the prior one that was successful and reinforce that activity.
I would now like to get down to a real world scenario and explain how we worked through this process the first day we worked on this lesson. We had no problem in having Zoe calm within the house and getting the leash on her. We had her sit at the front door and she still was a great little girl. The moment we opened the door, there were kids right outside and Zoe went nuts.
At that point, we discovered the point of teaching. There was a very clear demarcation between success and failure. Our problem arose because simply opening the front door exposed Zoe to all the kids and “crazy stuff” far faster than she could process the distractions and we could redirect and teach. Here is what we did:
- I had my client have Zoe on the leash and stand about fifteen feet away from the front door, but still having sight of the front yard.
- I was at the door and slowly opened it.
- We allowed Zoe to stay back, but have the ability to see outside. If she began to adrenalize, my client redirected her with the leash to focus back to him and calm down.
- We continued here until Zoe looked outside and stayed calm with the ability to give my client focus by him giving her a very slight snap of the leash.
- We achieved success at this “micro point” and were ready to move on.
- I now had my client calmly walk Zoe up to about five feet from the front door. The noise was louder and Zoe had a wider perspective of the crazy stuff outside.
- We stayed there until Zoe was calm, correcting through redirection.
- From there we moved to the door and repeated the process. As Zoe continually provided respectful focus to my client, I had him step across the threshold and then invite Zoe to join him just outside the front door.
- Zoe acted up slightly and began to lunge towards the kids. I had my client retreat to just inside the front door and repeat that step until she was respectful. Once that was successful, he guided her outside again.
- This time, Zoe gave a little jump towards the kids, but my client could easily snap the leash and regain her focus.
- We continued this process, slowly moving to the driveway.
- Zoe calmly sat at the top of the driveway, watching all the crazy kids.
- We decided to end the lesson for the day on a high note. We could also see that Zoe was becoming tired. It might be hard to believe, but having to pay attention is very tiring and we required a great deal of that from Zoe that day.
My client is now practicing these steps every day, making sure that he and Zoe consistently succeed in each task. As we build the base here, we will continue to extend the lesson into the neighborhood and increase the interaction with the crazy kids.
Understanding that your environment is not always the best for training and modifying your goals will provide the needed education environment you need for your dog.
Please call us at (770) 718-7704 it you are in need of any dog training help. We have a lot of excellent dog training advice at Best Dog Trainers Alpharetta Georgia. Locate all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Alpharetta Georgia.