Oh, old towels, how I love thee. Seriously, I am thinking about creating an entire resource about how to use towels for canine enrichment. They're just the best. In the meantime, here's one of my favorites: the towel twist!
The check-in game is one of my favorites, and it's pretty much the first thing I introduce to all my students. It's super simple to play, and can be adapted to all sorts of situations and challenge-levels.
Most importantly, the game teaches your dog the value of auto-check-ins, which is when they look at you without you prompting them to do so. Auto-check-ins are one of the most important skills for successful leash walks, decompression walks, off-leash adventures, reactivity training, and more.
Check out the video demo, and take a look at the written guide if you'd like even more details on how to introduce and develop the game.
PS: Outside of the context of playing the check-in game, be on the look-out for those everyday life auto-check-ins. Maybe your dog looks up at you on a walk, or they check in when they see something they're unsure about. If you're in a situation where you'd like your dog to be seeking contact with you more frequently, REWARD it when it happens!
Got a dog lover on your gift list but you're short on ideas and time? Don't worry, I got you covered!
(Click on the images for product links).
Alert barking, and what to do about it.
We put a LOT of pressure on our dogs, even in the positive training world. It’s easy to expect them to be “on” all the time — to respond when we want them to, to perform behaviors when we ask them to, to not perform behaviors when we don’t ask them to.
And while taking the time to teach our dogs is important, it’s also imperative that we are allowing them enough opportunities to just do their thing. To walk or run at their own pace, to lay down in the grass, to track a scent, to dig in the sand. We owe it to our dogs to give them this time to decompress without any of our human expectations getting in the way.
Decompression walks are a fantastic way to meet your dog’s physical and psychological needs. During a decompression walk, your dog is simply allowed to “be a dog.” They can move at their own pace, and be free to sniff, dig, and play. The opportunity to do this regularly has an incredibly positive effect on your dog’s physical and mental health. Your role is simply to monitor the environment for safety, check in with your dog or hold the leash close when necessary, and keep the leash from getting caught on anything.
In my recent post about how to train your dog not to jump up on people, I shared that one of the keys to success is to "proactively teach a default behavior of 4 paws on the ground." This basically means that instead of teaching your dog a cue ("sit," for example), you teach them that any behavior that involves 4 paws on the ground will be rewarded. With enough practice, this training means that your dog's default behavior (even around exciting stuff) will be to stand, sit, or walk -- but not to jump.
"4 paws on the ground" is probably one of my favorite things to train, because it usually involves us humans letting our guard down and being a little ridiculous. It's a welcome reminder that dog training doesn't have to be so serious all the time -- and that it is arguably more effective when everybody involved is having a good time.
One way to make a "4 paws on the ground" training session even more fun is to turn on some music and have a dance party! Check out the video below to see a dance party in action.
Teaching your dog how to not jump while you're bustin' a move might seem silly (and it is definitely a little bit silly). But it's also a really effective way to prepare your dog to be more capable of resisting the urge to jump, even when in the presence of exciting people, sounds, and movements.
Of course, be sure to adapt the level of your dance party to your dog's current jumping behavior. If your dog has a really hard time resisting the urge to jump, start out with movements they can handle, then gradually increase the challenge. The goal is to set your dog up to succeed, so that they can be reinforced and so that they can learn. If your dog is repeatedly jumping up, it means you need to adapt the level of challenge so that they can have success.
What song will you choose for your next dance party?
Part memory game, part basic nose work, The Cup Game is a fun and easy way to activate your pup's brain. You can play it during mealtime to provide cognitive enrichment, or just break it out as a quick activity to brighten up a rainy day!
Why do dogs jump up on people?
As with all behavior challenges, the best place to start is to try to understand the reason or motivation behind the behavior. Dogs jump on people for a variety of reasons; including: