LEVEL THREE (B)
Please read the INTRODUCTION before you start working. Be sure your dog has passed the Level One behaviours and Level Two behaviours before starting Level Three. The first behaviours in Level Three are here.
This colour indicates behaviours that are mandatory.
This colour indicates behaviours that must be done without food, clicker or other training aid, in a ring or room.
This colour indicates behaviours that are optional.In Level Three, a dog must pass 4 of the 8 optional behaviours. Pick your optional behaviours with an eye to what sports you’re aiming your dog for, or whatever looks like it would be a fun and interesting behaviour to teach your dog.
The dog Sits from a Stand on one cue only from 10’ away. The dog may drift off the position where she was standing, but there must be a fairly immediate response to the cue. This behaviour must be done with no food or clicker in the ring or area. DISCUSSION: More work on Distance. Having the dog respond to your cues when she’s not right beside you is one of the true joys of training. Sit, Stand, and Down – these position cues are an excellent place to start working on this degree of responsiveness.
EASY BEGINNINGS: With the dog in front of you, click X10 for a Sit. You’ll need the dog enthusiastic about the Sit before you continue, so if you’re not getting an excellent response to the Sit cue, go back to a volunteer Sit and work back up to fast, eager, and correct behaviour when you ask for it.
Gradually start moving away from the dog as you ask for the Sit. Use the 300-Peck method as you did for the other distance behaviours – get a Sit response right in front of the dog, click and toss the treat far enough from her to get her to stand back up while getting it. Move half a step away, and ask for the Sit again, click and toss. Move another half-step away, and ask again. Keep moving away until the dog makes a mistake by not responding correctly to your Sit cue, then go right back up beside her and start again, one step at a time.
You’ll probably need some way to keep her away from you as you step away. You could tie her leash to something, but it will be easier for her to give you the behaviour if she’s blocked by something in front of her rather than being held back by a leash. Try a baby gate across a doorway, or an exercise pen.
PROBLEM SOLVING: SHE WON’T RESPOND TO THE CUE AT A DISTANCE! Get your cue firmly installed with the dog right in front of you. The simple secret to getting the cue at a distance is to have her very good at responding to it when she’s right in front of you, and then moving away a few inches at a time, rewarding each tiny increment. And when she makes her FIRST mistake, start right back at the beginning.
ADDING A CUE: You already have the Sit cue. Continue to use it the same way you did when she was near you – don’t try to get compliance by making it louder or firmer, just use the cue as you taught it to her. If she doesn’t respond to a cue, she’s made a mistake. Go back to her, and start from there again.
CONTINUING EDUCATION: When she’ll respond to your cue in one location, 10′ away from you, move your location. Move it to another room, change direction, teach her to Sit when you give the cue behind her.
Dog Sits and stays while the handler walks 20’ out, stays away for 30 seconds, and comes back. One cue is allowed for the Sit, and two cues for the Stay. There will be one mild distraction. DISCUSSION: Be careful here. You’re laying foundations – either for a lifetime of frustration over broken SitStays, or for a lovely, solid, reliable behaviour. Go slow and get it right!
EASY BEGINNINGS: You have three criteria here – distance, time, and distraction. Of course you’ll need time to get your distance, but as much as possible, work these three things separately. It doesn’t matter what order you train them in, as long as you keep them distinct (although, for the sake of your sanity, I’d work the time first).
So – time. You’ve already got enough time for you to walk 20′ out, now let’s build it up to 60 seconds. No, that’s not required by this Level, but let’s get it solid while we’re here, and Level 4 won’t be such a big jump. Build to 60 seconds right beside the dog, or possibly a foot or two in front of her. 300-Peck this. Since you have the 20′ walk, you can probably start at about 10 seconds, and you can probably build up your time in 5-second increments – but go back IMMEDIATELY when she hits a snag. I’ve seen people with exceptionally well-trained dogs who spent the dog’s entire life arguing with them over the kerflushinner SitStay, all because they didn’t bother getting it solid in the beginning.
Distance. You already have 20′, now let’s start adding the time. Tell her to Stay, go out 5′, count to five, come back, c/t. Stay, go out 5′, count to 10, come back, c/t. Stay, go out 5′, count to 15, come back, c/t. Continue until you’re back up to 60 seconds, being sure to go back to the beginning immediately when she breaks her SitStay in any way. When you’ve got your 5′ Stay up to 60 seconds, drop your time again and increase your distance – go for 10′ and 5 seconds, and build up again. A variation that you need to practise as well is to click when you’re the full distance away from her, then return to give her the treat, rather than waiting until you’re with her to click. What’s the difference? What you click is what you’re rewarding, so when you’re away from her and you click, you’re specifically rewarding the Stay at a distance rather than the whole thing.
Distraction. Again, cut your time and distance down as much as possible. The idea is to teach the dog to handle distractions, not to get her to make a mistake so you can/have to correct her. If you have a helper, get her to walk past at a distance while you click the dog for noticing her but not breaking the Stay. Gradually, the helper gets closer and more attractive – showing food, staring, making sucky noises – NOT saying the dog’s name or giving a Come cue, that’s cheating. If you don’t have a helper, you can start at home by having a toy or treat already nearby when you start working on the Stays, and progress to tossing one nearby. You could also go to a park where you can work your Stays off the path while people and dogs go by (starting WAY off the path, of course).
PROBLEM SOLVING: NO MATTER HOW FAR AWAY I START, SHE CAN’T STAY WHILE ANOTHER PERSON WALKS BY! OK, some dogs find it very difficult to hold still while they’re thinking about something else. Between Zen and your Leash behaviours, though, you have the answer to this problem. She can do a Loose Leash with a distraction, right? That’s a Stay! To make it a SitStay, all you have to do is add a Sit cue. If she breaks, back up some more and try again.
Another way to solve it is to stay with her and Rapid-Fire ten as soon as she sees the distraction, then hold for a second, Rapid-Fire another couple, hold for two seconds, RF another couple, hold for three seconds, etc. Pretty soon you can slow down enough to start clicking her for SEEING the distraction but not responding to it in any way but either continuing to stare at it OR looking at you with a “Hey, dad! I saw a distraction! Where’s my click?”
ADDING A CUE: Use your Sit cue to get the behaviour, then your Stay cue once she’s actually Staying.
CONTINUING EDUCATION: Different directions, different locations, different distractions, different distances, different times. Start each of these things from scratch. Just because she can hold 30′ for 60 seconds in your back yard when the garbage truck goes by doesn’t in any way mean she can hold 10 seconds at 5′ while you hang up your coat in puppy class!
Dog Stands from a Sit on one cue only. Note that this behaviour is performed with the dog beside or in front of the handler. This is an optional behaviour which must be performed with no food for clicker in the ring or area. DISCUSSION: Why do people go through such contortions to get a dog to Stand? It really isn’t any more difficult than getting her to Sit. Two aims here, first to get the performance solidly on cue, and second to get it with no food.
EASY BEGINNINGS: You already have a Stand from Sit with two cues – probably a hand signal and voice cue. If you want to go the easy way, you can probably just drop the voice cue. If you’ve been using both, chances are she wasn’t listening to your voice anyway. If you want to go for the voice cue, you have two options. You can either go back to the beginning – getting her to volunteer the Stand – and then start telling her what it’s called, totally without using the hand signal, until she connects the two. OR you can go from where you are, but separate the two cues. Use the VOICE cue first, wait half a second, then use the signal. Dogs like one thing to follow another, so she’ll soon be saying “Gosh, every time she makes that noise, she signals me to Stand! I might as well Stand when I hear that noise!” Either of these methods will work, the choice is yours.
Now to get rid of the food. Click your Stand X10. Then take all the food out of your pocket and put it on a table beside you. Get the Stand, click, and hand her a treat off the table. Gradually drift away from the table, so you have to go further and further to get the treat following the click. Continue to click the behaviour when it happens – the delay is between the click and the treat, not between the behaviour and the click. Drift toward a door. Pretty soon you’ll be in a different room, having to go back to your table to get the treat each time. Think about 300-Peck while you’re getting away from the treats. If she loses faith and stops giving you the behaviour, go back to the treats and start again.
Now set up a situation where you don’t arrive with the treats and THEN get further from them. Put a few treats on the table while the dog is somewhere else. Go to the doorway between the two rooms with the dog, and ask for a Stand. If she does, click and go to the table to get her treats. If she doesn’t, start from scratch and explain the whole thing again. When she can do that, teach her to Stand in several different locations around the house, and then start hiding treats in small containers here and there, so there’s always one nearby without you having to TELL her there’s one nearby.
PROBLEM SOLVING: I LURED TOO LONG AND NOW SHE WON’T STAND UNLESS I’M HOLDING A TREAT! Change tactics. Go back to the beginning. Spend several days just catching her standing up. Make her think about the Stand as a default behaviour. Then spend several sessions sitting back and shaping the Stand by clicking her for backing up (see Level Two). Then work her until she’s volunteering the Stand at every opportunity. Finally, start putting the voice cue on this volunteer behaviour.
CONTINUING EDUCATION: Give the cue when you’re standing, when you’re sitting, when you’re facing her, when she’s standing beside you. Change rooms, change your distance from a treat. Start saying YES instead of using the clicker to mark the behaviour.
Dog Sit-Stays for examination – a touch of the head and withers by the tester. Yes, that’s a SIT Stay. DISCUSSION: How is this a StandStay when the dog is Sitting? Remember that when we make one part of a behaviour more difficult, we make everything else simpler. Staying while someone touches the head and withers is very difficult for most dogs – either because they’d rather be in the tester’s face, or because they’d rather be under the bed – so we make the Stay much simpler. Also, with the dog’s butt planted on the floor, it’s much easier for the trainer to see a good Stay than it is if we’re trying to get the tester to behave properly, the trainer to notice what’s going on, and the dog to keep all four feet independently on the floor.
EASY BEGINNINGS: You need to make a decision at this point, based on what you know and have observed about your dog. There are three possibilities.
First, your dog may be relatively disinterested in people, and not particularly care whether they touch her or not. (OK, OK, I’ll get to the other 99% of dogs in a minute!) If this is your dog, ask for a Sit and Stay, and have a person start to approach her. If you KNOW she’ll stay when the person is 4′ away from her, but 2′ might be a bit iffy, click for staying when the person is 4′ away. Try to give her the treat right in her mouth so she doesn’t have to bother getting up (if she gets up, that’s OK, the click ended the behaviour, but try to be faster next time). Click again when the person is 3′ away, and again at 2′, and again when they’re standing right beside your dog. Click again when the person reaches toward your dog, and again at the first touch. Anytime your dog breaks the SitStay, the person walks away, you stop clicking, and then you start again. Each time you click as the person approaches, the person can hesitate for a moment so it doesn’t seem as though they’re sneaking up on the dog while she’s busy chewing.
Second, your dog may be absolutely thrilled at the very thought of a human being even THINKING about approaching, let alone TOUCHING, and there’s no way, ever, ever, EVER that your dog is going to sit still while someone approaches and touches her. Great, Aren’t you lucky! You’re going to play Human Zen. You ask for a SitStay, and click it X10. Make sure the dog is really in the game. Now the person comes to a point far enough away that the dog probably won’t break, but close enough that the dog notices them. Dog sees person but doesn’t move, you click and give the treat right in her face so she doesn’t have to move to get it. Person takes ONE step toward dog, dog stays, you click and treat. Note that the dog is now being rewarded TWICE for Staying while the person approaches – once with the treat, and once by having the person move a step closer. The way to get the person to move closer is to hold the SitStay. Person takes one more step toward dog, dog stays, you click and treat. And so on, It’s very important that the person take one step at a time, so the dog has time to think and pay attention to what’s going on, rather than just leaping hysterically into the air. One more step, click, reward. Now, you KNOW the dog’s going to break, right? And you then need to explain that breaking the Stay gets her nothing she wanted. So she moves ONE PAW, and your person turns his back and walks away. You both get to stand there thinking “Aw, he left!” Give her a minute to think about her “crimes”, then start again. Ask for the SitStay, click X5, then the person takes a step toward her, you click. One step, click. One step, click.
Third, your dog may be unhappy about the whole stranger-fondling idea. If I wanted this guy touching me, I’d be living with him, thank you very much. She’s going to play Human Zen too, but in a totally different way. What SHE wants is for this human to go away, so that’s what we’ll give her. Ask for the SitStay and click X10. The person then comes to the point where the dog notices him without breaking the Stay. Click, the person TURNS AROUND AND WALKS AWAY, and you give her a reward. THIS dog is also being rewarded twice for holding the Stay – once with a treat, and once by getting what she wanted – making the person go away. The way to make the person go away is to hold the SitStay. Person returns and comes one step closer, you click and treat, and the person goes away again. You’re showing the dog that SHE controls the scary guy. Being in control of the scary guy calms the dog and gives her confidence. As she sees that holding the SitStay will eventually make him go away, she can afford to hold it longer, let him get closer, and eventually touch her, secure in the understanding that, if she holds it long enough, he WILL go away.
PROBLEM SOLVING: I DON’T KNOW WHICH METHOD TO USE ON MY DOG! Stand still with your dog on leash. Have a person approach you and pretend he’s going to pet your dog. If your dog doesn’t particularly care, use the first method. If she’s out at the end of the leash offering to floss his teeth with her tongue, use the second method. And if she’s hiding behind your legs hoping he doesn’t notice her, use the third method.
ADDING A CUE: You added something (the person) to a behaviour she already knows, so naturally you stop using the cue until you’re sure she’s going to give you the behaviour, the whole behaviour, and nothing but the behaviour again.
CONTINUING EDUCATION: Different people! Men, women, children (assuming it’s safe). Guys in big boots. People in funny hats (dogs go a lot by outline, so people in hats might not even be human), women in long skirts. When your dog is doing really well, you can pick an easy person and start getting more of an examination than just the head and withers, and/or get the SitStay with examination with some distance between you and the dog.
Dog targets a spot on the floor with her nose or her foot from 10’ away, with no more than two cues. A “Look” cue before sending is acceptable. This is an optional behaviour. DISCUSSION: This is the standard “station” cue that brings dolphins to stay in one position while the trainer is talking to the audience. If you’re happy with the dog always using her nose to target things, stick with that. Potential Service Dogs might have to target with their feet – to push those door-opening buttons, for instance. If you want to, take this opportunity to teach the foot touch as well. I use pink plastic targets cut from lids of plastic containers. They’re easy for the dog to see, they feel different than the floor or wall, and I can cut them down to nothing as we go along.
EASY BEGINNINGS: Going for a nose target, first get the dog targeting your hand X10, then present the target in your hand, just as you presented the target stick, and start getting touches. Move the target around to her left, her right, up higher, down lower. When you’ve held it lower and lower, soon you’ll be holding it right on the ground. When she’s eager to touch it at floor level, drop it on the floor and move your hand very slightly away from it. Move your hand gradually away using 300-Peck targeting – click for her touching it in your hand near the floor, click for touching it in your hand on the floor, click for touching it on the floor with your hand very close, click for touching it on the floor with your hand an inch away, 2 inches away, 3 inches away. When she makes a mistake, go back to the beginning and start your explanation again.
Going for the paw target will take a bit more work, as she hasn’t done any of this before. Start with a relatively large plastic target (I’d suggest a Rubbermaid tub lid or something else at least a foot square to start with) and work it exactly the same way you started Go To Mat. Put the target near you on the ground and click when the dog’s foot accidentally touches it. Toss your treat off the target so she has a chance to come back and put her foot on it again. There is a difference between the paw target and Go To Mat though – we only need ONE paw touching it, and we don’t want her to sit or lie down on it, so just click when her paw touches the target.
There are two challenges now. One is to cut the target down to something 2″ in diameter, and the other is to get the targeting behaviour at the distance. The good news is that dogs usually really get a kick out of paw targets. They frequently respond to your attempt to get distance by pouncing on the target, thumping it enthusiastically with BOTH paws, or whacking it solidly with one paw held far out in front of them. These responses make the paw target an adventure at the least! Use 300-Peck to get your distance, and use a pair of scissors to shave a quarter-inch off the target each day that the dog is enthusiastic about touching it.
Move the target a few inches into a slightly different position every ten clicks – to the left, the right, further away from you. When you’ve had a good session one day, leave the target on the floor so you don’t have to handle it at all the next day. Simply return to the training area and see if the dog is aware and enthusiastic enough about the behaviour to offer it to you cold. When she’s good at that, after a good session, take the dog out of the area and return alone to move the target so when the dog returns for the next session, the target isn’t in the same place.
When the target gets far enough away and in a position that the dog may not be expecting it, you’ll have to be able to tell her that you want to find it and THEN target it. First, work the target at a distance of about 2′ X20. The dog should be eager to get back to the target. Next time, turn her so she’s facing the target. Standing is OK, but I like to start with her sitting facing it. Now you need her to look at it. If she WAS eager to get back to the target, she’s probably looking at it anyway. Click, and instead of giving her a treat, release her to go touch the target. That’s the reward for seeing the target. When she touches it, click and give her a treat. NOTE: this is NOT clicking twice for one treat! It’s just using two different KINDS of treat, one for each click. If she doesn’t immediately look at the target, do whatever you have to do to draw her attention to it. Move it a little closer. Tap it. If you’re using a nose target, you could put a treat on the target. Do whatever you have to do, and click when she looks at it. If it takes her a while to figure this out, hand her a treat when you click her for finally seeing it. When she’s seeking it out and staring at it, you can start releasing her to touch it after the click.
ADDING A CUE: If you’re using a nose target, you can use the same cue you’ve used before for targeting your hand and the target stick. If you’re using the paw target, you have two choices (this is a behaviour FULL of choices!). You can use a completely new cue meaning to touch with the paw (like Punch, Hit, or Paw), or you can use the same old cue you used to tell her to touch with her nose. I’ve always MEANT to use two cues for the two different touches, but I’ve never been able to remember two, so I always end up using only one. This doesn’t give me any control over HOW the dog touches any particular object, but I’ve never noticed any of my dogs having trouble understanding that I need the object touched. Fortunately you have some time after you start teaching the behaviour before you need to start calling it something!
CONTINUING EDUCATION: Either as a trick or as an exercise in thinking for yourself, think how you would add duration to this targeting behaviour to produce a “Station”, just like a dolphin!
If you’ve decided on the paw target, you can use double-sided carpet tape to attach your target to a wall, raising it gradually until the dog needs to go Paws Up in order to touch it. A word of warning – don’t put it on a nice painted wall or you’ll quickly have the wall decorated with scratch marks! This can work up to ringing a doorbell, or pushing door-opening buttons, and is a good start on the Level 5, 6, and 7 Target behaviours.
Dog performs a shaped trick of the handler’s choice. DISCUSSION: Yes, we’re starting early with the most difficult way to get behaviour. Why? So you’ve got it under your belt as you move through the rest of the Levels. You CAN shape the dog to take the dumbell! How do I know? Because you shaped her to do this trick! I’ll be talking about backing up as the trick for this Level, but that’s only an example. You can shape any trick you want to.
EASY BEGINNINGS: Back up. Sit on the couch. Clicker trainers have a nickname among themselves – Couch Trainers. This started when someone asked what she could train her dog to do while she was sitting on the couch recovering from foot surgery. The answer was: maybe not heeling. So, sit on the couch with your clicker and treats, dog in front of you on the floor. Do nothing. Stare at the dog’s feet (don’t stare at her eyes, that’s too much like Watch). If you’re an experienced trainer, you might be able to look at all four feet at once. If not, just look at the front ones for now. If the dog is automatically sitting in front of you, toss a treat away and click just as she comes back to you, before she has a chance to Sit again. Toss the treat away, and click before she Sits again. Do this until she forgets about Sit and just stays standing in front of you.
The dog will try Watch, but that doesn’t make the click happen. She might try other behaviours – a play bow perhaps, swinging her head, a growl. Ignore them, stare at her feet. Sooner or later, she’ll get fed up enough to move a foot. CLICK! But she didn’t move it backwards! Nyuh uh, MOVED A FOOT. First we have to get her feet moving, THEN we’ll talk about which direction they move. So she lifts one foot, click. Wait for it again. She moves any foot, click. By the 20th time you click for a foot moving, her front feet should be getting pretty mobile. At this point, you could forget about backing up and go for one paw held up, or a two-foot stomp, but we’re going to stick with the backing up.
When she understands that you’re going to click when she moves a paw, stop clicking forward motion. Pay attention now. Shaping is about paying attention and watching very VERY closely. You WERE paying for lifting a paw in any direction, including straight up. Now you’re not. You’ve achieved the first thing you were looking for, which was any motion of any paw. Now you need more talent. Now the foot must move sideways or backwards (or even straight up and straight down), NOT forward. Getting her paw to understand that it can’t move forward might take five clicks, or it might take 200. Doesn’t matter.
When you’ve got at least 80% of her paw movement NOT forward, you can move on to the next step: JUST backward motion now, no more sideways or up-and-down. Now it gets complicated, because one paw can’t move backwards too many times without taking another paw with it. Somewhere in here, you’re going to have to apply a little of the art of training. If you click JUST her front paws moving, she might move JUST her front paws, and that means sooner or later she’ll be backing her front paws into a Sit. You’re going to have to start watch her back paws too, and clicking them for moving. If you started only watching the front paws, you’ve had some practise watching paws. Aren’t you glad you’re on the couch? Much easier to see all four paws from here than if you were standing up!
From here, it’s just a matter of getting distance. At first you clicked any motion of any paw. Then you clicked any motion that wasn’t forward. Then you clicked only backward motion. Then you click TWO paws moving. Then two paws moving BACKWARD. Then you click a BACK paw moving, then a back paw moving backwards, then three paws moving backward, then four paws, then two steps, then three steps… and you’ve successfully shaped a behaviour.
In reality, backing up is something most dogs learn very quickly. I’ve written it up in tiny splits, so don’t be frustrated if you follow the splits, but many dogs learn to back up across the room in one session.
I use 300-Peck for this behaviour, but I slow it down a bit, so I’m clicking maybe 5 times for one step, then 5 times for two steps, then 5 times for three steps, and when she makes a mistake, back to the beginning, X5 for one step, X5 for two steps, etc.
PROBLEM SOLVING: SHE WALKED OVER AND TARGETED THE TABLE. HOW CAN I GET HER TO MOVE HER FOOT? You’re not watching the right thing. Unless the table was right beside her, she HAD to move her feet to get to it. The problem is that you’re looking for gross movements, large movements. What you need to be looking at is tiny movements. There were lots of tiny movements that you missed before she got to the table!
SHE BACKS UP TWO STEPS AND STOPS! In any motion behaviour, we have a tendency to wait to see how far she’s going to go. We hope she’ll go three steps, so we let her go two steps and stop, then we think “Well, I guess that’s as far as she’s going to go. I better click!” Look at the sequence. You’re clicking her for taking two steps back and STOPPING. For motion behaviours (backing up, Come, Swing, Heel) you have to be sure to click the MOTION rather than the end of the motion.
BIG HAIRY SECRET! Here’s the secret to getting the motion behaviour – if you want to click for three steps backwards, don’t click the third step. Click the motion that FOLLOWS the third step. If you’re clicking the third step, you’re clicking the END of the step, or the non-motion that follows the step. If you click the beginning of the next step, you’re clicking One, Two, Three, LIFT! – clicking motion.
ADDING A CUE: When the dog is moving backwards readily, and moving until you click, you can tell her what the behaviour is called. You can call it something plain, like “Back up”, or you can do something cute with it, like “Back away from the biscuit!” or “What do you do if you see a snake?” (In this case, the word you teach her is “snake”. Once she’s responding to that, you can add the rest of the sentence).
CONTINUING EDUCATION: Backing up is the beginning of a truly solid Stand, the beginning of the Moving Stand in Utility, a great Heeling maneuver for Rally and freestyle, and if it’s fast enough, it works itself into a neat play bow. Work it in different locations, different distances, and different positions around you.
Dog finds the handler’s face and holds eye contact for 30 seconds with as many voice cues as necessary. Glancing away is acceptable but any prolonged look is not. DISCUSSION: Don’t train for that “glancing away” business, that’s just for the test! 30 seconds is a LONG time for a Level 3 dog to hold contact, so don’t get frustrated. I’d suggest starting this behaviour near the beginning of the Level and working it all the way through. Test out the other behaviours. This one will probably take the longest to get. While you’re teaching eye contact duration, though, you’re also explaining duration in so many other areas – how long she can hold a dumbell, for instance, all the Stays, and how to hold a Front without starting to dance.
EASY BEGINNINGS: There’s nothing tricky about this behaviour at all. This one is just about putting in the time and not getting frustrated. You’ve put in a lot of effort so far teaching your dog to offer behaviours to get a click. If she’s learned that lesson, she has a default of offering behaviours, and that default is what makes it so frustrating try to build duration into clicker dogs. Like everything else we do with the dog, this requires balancing (a default Sit needs to be balanced with a Down and a Stand, a default hang-around-dad needs to be balanced with being able to work at a distance, control needs to be balanced with enthusiasm – or enthusiasm needs to be balanced with control). You got to 10 seconds in Level 2 – that’s a good start. You’ll find plateaus of difficulty here. She might go all the way to 18 seconds with no trouble at all, then take two weeks to get to 19 seconds, then sail on up to 26 with no trouble, and take another 4 days to get past that. Not a problem. Just keep using 300-Peck to explain.
Let’s review 300-Peck again. You get contact, and get it strong at 10 seconds. Then Start counting at 5 seconds (take it down to reinforce the idea). Click for 5 seconds of contact. Count to 6 and click. Count to 7 and click. Count to 8 and click. Count to 9 and click. Count to 10 and click. Now you’re back where you left off, but keep going. Count to 11 and click. Count to 12 and click. And so on. As soon as the dog glances away, start again at a count of five and work your way back up (OR go right back to 1 second, if you think that’s a better explanation).
PROBLEM SOLVING: SHE WAS DOING 18 SECONDS, NOW SHE CAN’T DO 8! Occasionally in an explanation of a duration behaviour, the dog will seem to backslide for a while. You were up to, say, 18 seconds when she looked away. You started back counting to 5, then 6, then 7, and she looks away again. What’s with this? She had 10 seconds VERY well, and you were up well past 15 seconds, now suddenly she can’t get up to ten again! The answer is: who knows what lurks in the mind of Dog? It happens. Live with it. Call it a brain fart. Call it a short in the system. Work through it. Having worked through it, the behaviour will be stronger than it was before, and the dog more confident in offering it to you.
ADDING A CUE: You had a cue to Watch at 10 seconds, but when you started going on to 30 seconds, you stopped using it. When you’ve got it at 30, use it again for a while.
CONTINUING EDUCATION: Work up to 30 seconds of hard contact in every room in the house, in your car, in the driveway, your backyard – everywhere you can think of. If your dog has a favourite toy, put the toy on the floor and work toy Zen with eye contact up to 30 seconds, then release her to get the toy. Play a game with it – staring at you for 30 seconds instead of grabbing her toy DESERVES a good game!
Dog stays off a treat in a stranger’s hand for 20 seconds, 1 cue only. The stranger will not entice the dog, but won’t appear to protect the treat. Testers note it is not in anyone’s best interest to actually allow dog to get treat. DISCUSSION: It’s one thing for your dog to control herself with you. It’s another thing entirely for her to know that she also can’t grab food from strangers, toddlers, and other dogs. Don’t hover over the dog, let the “stranger’s” hand do the work for you!
EASY BEGINNINGS: Two parts to this Level – get the duration, and get the treat into a stranger’s hand. Duration is the same as all the other duration behaviours in Level Three. You’ve got a good start, just keep working your 300-Peck Zen count – she stays off your hand 10 seconds, click. 11 seconds, click. 12 seconds, click. At this point, if everything is going well, you can start going up in 2-second increments. When you get to 20 seconds, you can probably go up the next bit 5 seconds at a time. Since you’re going to change something rather drastic about the behaviour – you’re going to put the treat in a stranger’s hand instead of your own – you’ll need to lower your expectations in part of it. Get the duration up to 30 or 40 seconds before you ask someone else to play, so you can easily lower your criteria to a second or two.
If you have a partner or friend, let them be the first “stranger” – in this case “stranger” just means “not you”. Talk to the person first. Tell them exactly what you want them to do, even practise it with your hand pretending to be your dog to be sure they understand what to do. When you introduce the dog to the situation, stop using your cue (if you were using another cue besides your fist), and let the dog figure out the behaviour from scratch again. Zen is a behaviour that dogs seem to understand easily, your friend might be able to take the duration up from 5 seconds to 30 in 5-second jumps, but keep an eye on it and cut them back to smaller bits of the dog starts failing. When your friend (or friends, if possible) has the behaviour up to 30 seconds, it’s time to find a stranger. Bear in mind, that’s a stranger to the DOG, it doesn’t have to be a stranger to YOU.
Read the introduction again. The part called “Monkey In The Middle” describes a game you can play with people that teaches the dog stranger Zen.
PROBLEM SOLVING: I DON’T HAVE ANY “DOGGY” FRIENDS! That’s OK. If you go to the park, and sit on a bench, sooner or later someone will come along and want to pet your dog. “Why, thank you for asking! I have something even better! Would you take a moment and help me teach her something? That would be SO helpful!”
ADDING A CUE: This is such a great behaviour. Your dog can’t pay attention when walking past people? Simply tell her that those people will give her nothing – cue Zen. She sees a dead bird on the sidewalk – cue Zen. Because it’s such a great behaviour, you don’t want to weaken the cue, though, so be sure to only use it when you totally control the situation. No point screeching “OFF! OFF! OFF!” while your dog eats the bird or flosses some guy’s teeth!
CONTINUING EDUCATION: Get as many people as you possibly can to play stranger Zen with you, and vary the kind of person as well: kids, adults, big guys, small women, people of other cultures, people wearing hats or turbans, people in uniform. If your dog is the least bit shy or suspicious, build quickly to the point where you have good control of Zen, so you can get the dog off people when you want to, and then start concentrating on telling the dog that people are really fun and interesting. Notice that, unlike a correction for not paying attention, stranger Zen doesn’t tell your dog that seeing a stranger means the dog is going to get hurt, it merely tells her “that guy isn’t paying off today”.
That’s Level THREE. You’re really communicating now! Click HERE to start Level Four.