Back when Suki could not even be let off lead within our fenced yard, I saw this video of Leslie McDevitt demonstrating her dogs’ automatic “check in”.
I was amazed at how her dogs seemed to be magnetized to her. Whenever she stopped walking, they’d automatically return to her. I couldn’t even dream of Suki being like that. Last week, I thought we’d get a bit of video of Suki (who, 3 years ago, would have just disappeared into the distance,) demonstrating her good citizenship by staying “connected” with me. I just realized that she has developed these same skills. In the short video below, you’ll see her automatic check-in and her response to seeing a strange dog at a distance. When she sees the strange dog, look at her posture; everything gives the impression of leaning forward, a sign that she might be preparing to confront the other dog, which is something she would have undoubtedly done before a lot of training. In this case, though, she thinks it over, then makes a very civilized decision to look to me for guidance instead.
With the “automatic check-in”, she gets a double reward:
- A tasty treat
- Immediate freedom to go play again
Her response to the strange dog was trained in a number of ways, but the most significant was Grisha Stewart‘s “BAT training”. “BAT” stands for Behavior Adjustment Training, and depends on putting the dog in a situation where he is offered a choice between safe and unsafe behavior, then coaxing the dog into realizing that the safe behavior works better. Read about it here. The distance must be carefully controlled so the dog doesn’t “lose it”. Seeing the strange dog while we were recording was just a lucky chance, and Suki was great, but even after all this time, she can’t get too close to another dog while off lead or she will lose it. Anyhow, in the video below, she’s practicing her “emergency sit”. This is the command we train so that, if she’s not right next to me, and one of her “triggers” comes into view (bikes, skateboards, other dogs, scary men), I can put her in a sit, then get to her and put her on lead for safety’s sake.
Being the feisty little Cattle Dog girl that she is, Suki starts sassing me on the 3rd rep, but she still does the behavior.
The emergency sit is a great example of how you use positive methods to train your dog to not do an undesirable behavior. In this case, the undesirable behavior would be chasing a bike; she can’t chase the bike while she’s performing her “sit”, so the sit, which gets rewarded, serves to prevent the bike chase. Another reason why “say please by sitting” is such a great behavior to train from day one!