We went to the park today to work on one Level3/CGC stuff.
My plan was to only stay about 15 minutes and work on some relax and lazy leash around the dog park.
We got there and Reyna hopped out of the car and made eye contact. What a great start! Then it sort of fell apart. She wouldn't walk on a loose leash even in the parking lot, I couldn't drag her nose off the smelly ground to save my life and she was completely disconnected. I was angry. We had come out here,I had a plan and she was blowing me off. I almost shoved her back in the car and went home.
Then I stopped to think...
What do I have to have for this to be a successful session? I want her to walk on a loose leash with high distractions...okay so lets look at the chain in reverse. The we will keep stepping back until we hit something solid we can launch off of.
To be able perform under high distractions she first needed to be focused...nope
Okay can she focus under moderate/easy distractions? Nope
So this is not a distraction problem it's a focus/engagement problem
Can she focus when I stand still? No
So lets work on active engagement...
Will she engage with a tug? No
With food? Nope
With food if I run around with it? YES
With her orange ball? YES
Okay now we have a starting point and we can begin working our way back up the list. We worked in our Yes category which is very small at first until we had built enough engagement. Run with food, toss the ball, run with food, pause for a default sit, treat *gasp* she just took food while stationary...we were one rung up...
Play with food, play with ball, stationary food, throw ball, throw tug, she retrieves it but doesn't play with it. Repeat the stuff she will do for a minute, present moving tug...YES another rung up.
Played with food, tug and ball interchanging and then stop and stood still...riveted focus...we're almost to the top...
Now I start asking for some work before I will play. I gradually asked for more work under more distractions, giving her the "go sniff" cue to check her engagement levels. Before you knew it we were heeling in short spurts with other people and dogs nearby, with total focus. How long did it take to get all the way from the bottom to the top? Less than 8 minutes. Plus we had a blast!!!
And to think I was so irritated we almost went home and missed that amazing training session!