Control Unleashed is based on Leslie McDevitt's groundbreaking book of the same title, is a 6 week Intermediate level class designed to teach excitable or anxious dog to relax and focus in stressful or distracting situations. We will concentrate on learning to work as a team with your dog so that eventually you both can work confidently off in stimulating environments - without relying on the physical control of the leash. You will learn how to improve your dog's impulse control skills and increase confidence. This class helps dogs prepare for agility classes and helps dogs calmly enjoy life in an action packed urban setting. You will learn how to use the clicker in this class. Pre req is Behavior Basics class, Small Dog Basics, or a private session.
(See below for sample week one class exercises and homework.)
Sample Week One Class Excercises and Homework
Hone your observational skills by looking for any signs of relaxation in your dog. Mark and reward your dog for taking deep breaths, relaxing on her side, or even staying still for a moment. Practice slowly massaging your dog's ears and the rest of her body. This will help your dog learn and focus during class, promote relaxation around other dogs, and help you work better together as a team. You can bring you dog to her mat and begin massaging her and feeding her from her Kong (or your hand) at the beginning of each class. You can practice relaxation times like this at home too, if you'd like.
Identify your dog's favorite behavior, one she defaults to when she wants something. This can be "sit," or "down," "look," or anything other than jumping up or demand barking. Installing a default behavior is extremely beneficial. A dog can do her default behavior even when she is anxious or excited. In class and at home, mark and reward your dog each time she offers her default behavior.
Classroom Challenge: Mark and reward your dog for offering her default behavior. If she becomes distracted and stops offering it, you can begin to cue it -only if your dog does her behavior on cue with 99% reliability. Otherwise do not use the cue. Wait for her to figure it out. You will need to jackpot her and use a high rate of reinforcement during class, and in distracting environments.
Homework: Once your dog is very good at her default behavior, make her access to all her resources contingent on this behavior. For example, wait for her to look at you, for example, before you open the door, give her a treat, toss her toy, etc. Do not cue the behavior. Wait for her to offer it. We want this behavior to become automatic, and one she does outside of the context of training.
Intro to Release Cue
Pick a neutral phrase, such as "all done," to let your dog know that she can stop training for now. Try not to use an exciting phrase or tone of voice. The release cue will become very important once you are working with your dog off leash. Right now your dog thinks she should pay attention to you and train when she is on leash. She probably thinks that when the leash comes off she can ignore you and go play. The Release Cue is the signal that your dog can ignore you and go play. Do the Default Behavior exercise above, and add the Release Cue. Give your dog a brief break. Then begin training again.
Homework: Try to integrate the release cue into your training sessions at home.
Checking In Before your dog begins to work off leash and focus on you in distracting environments, she must get used to checking in with you as you enter the classroom, for example. Wait for your dog to turn from the door and look to you before you step forward. Do not open the door until she looks at you.
Homework: Jackpot your dog for orienting towards you (eye contact is not required right now) outside or in exciting environments this week.
Intro to Doggie Zen
Hold your dog's leash in one hand, and a high value treat in the other (a few feet away from your dog's face). Wait for your dog to look away from the treat and orient towards you. Mark and reward. Alternate between rewarding with a distraction treat, and another treat from your other hand. After several reps you can wait for your dog to look directly at you before you mark and reward. Do not cue "look" or "leave it." If your dog cannot look away from the treat, put it behind your back. After a few minutes of practice, drop the leash. Practice this at home, in a variety of settings. You can use a favorite toy or chewy as the distraction. This exercise is the foundation for an excellent off leash "look" and "leave it" and well worth practicing.
Up and Down Game
(This is the beginning of conditioning automatic attention with distraction and will improve your dog’s “walking nicely next to you” skills – on and off leash- with distractions). Toss a treat on the floor near your feet. Click or say "yes" the moment your dog looks up at you, then toss another treat on the floor. Repeat. After a few moments drop your leash. Repeat the exercise above with the leash dragging. This is another exercise that will make paying attention to you automatic, and not contingent upon being on leash. Please practice this at home. Please see video for reference.
This exercise is for dogs who go wild when the leash comes off. "Gotcha!" Say, "gotcha," or another phrase, and grab your dog's collar. Give her a treat. Repeat. This exercise conditions your dog to like collar grabs and reduces the chance of your dog avoiding being grabbed when off leash. We will use this each week as we work towards having our dogs go off leash in class.