Progress report!

December 18, 2009 at 9:49 am 2 comments

Boogie has been so great on our walks this week.

No, he isn’t perfect but  we are both learning and I can feel the difference. With each morning, things get a little better, a little easier, a little less drama. And this is with a pouch full of treats, loose leash, and I am proud to say – NO CORRECTIONS.

About a week ago I was still walking Boogie with the Sprenger collar on (no corrections) as I started practicing some clicker-training techniques. These past few days – no Sprenger collar at all and things have been good!

So here is how I have been practicing the HEEL cue, with tips from the Click To Calm book, and  Emily’s awesome video tutorial.

If Boogie pulls forward on the leash I  stop till the leash goes tight, call him to me (like in Emily’s video) and when he turns and approaches me, YES!-and-treat. (easier to say “YES” than to carry a clicker at the same time) When Boogie comes towards me he usually sits because it’s his default ready-for-a-treat position.  Which is not really what this exercise is about. I want him to HEEL, not sit.

So here’s something I figured out by accident and it has been working really well.  It’s easier to keep Boogie in heel position if when he comes to me , I turn my body to the right and walk him in a circle.


Before he has a chance to sit, I take the leash, say HEEL and walk him on my left, turning clockwise so that we are headed back in the original direction and he is by my side again. Walking in a circle  slows us both down, and it means that Boogie can’t charge forward after he receives his treat. Yes, he does this. He is  rascal 🙂

And voila – Boogie heels. He gets a treat, and he continues to heel for a longer stretch of time. Wide-eyed and perky, looking up at me. He is SO CUTE.

Compared to a week ago, Boogie now rarely pulls forward (he keeps looking up at me every few minutes.. and when he does charge ahead he turns back to check ..)

BUT – one problem is that now more so than ever, he pulls behind me, and he doesn’t come when called.  It’s like he has figured out that he can still have control of the walk if he pulls backwards and to the side, instead of forwards. I haven’t yet figured out how to deal with this problem. Even when I hold out a treat he ignores me, takes his sweet time  sniffing and peeing on bushes. This is infinitely more exciting to him than cheese or sausage.

Yes, Boogie still reacts to specific people and dogs. He still stiffens and turns his head and pulls away from me when he sees them walk by, but when I call his name, he turns back towards me and heels. Which is such a big improvement!!! 🙂 I cannot tell you how many “scary people” we encounter every day and how many times this sort of thing happens and it’s so great to see Boogie coming to me for a treat instead of lunging at someone.

This morning an eccentric old Asian lady in our ‘hood stopped to say hello to him.  Everytime she sees Boogie she talks to him “Oh you are such an adorable baby, blah blah blah” and Boogie growls.

I have no idea what it is about this lady that sets him off… Even if she is way across the other side of the street his hackles go up when he sees her. (He has a thing about old Asian people) So this morning I thought to myself Oh no, not again when she stopped to chat. I told her: “He gets scared of people that he doesn’t know so please don’t come close”. The lady stood there several feet away but wouldn’t stop chatting to him. “Oh you are so adorable, you are such a beautiful dog, you are so lucky to have each other, blah blah blah”.

There I was shoving cheese into his mouth while his whole body was tense. He almost wouldn’t eat the cheese.

When the old lady walked off, Boogie pulled after her, I called him, and he came towards me again. YES!-and-treat. Good boy, Boogie! Two weeks ago he would have been uncontrollable with this lady around.

Of course, it’s not easy. I am feeding Boogie a ton of treats every morning and it’s a lot of hard work to remain attentive to our surroundings (on the lookout for scary people and other dogs approaching) My fingers also stink of cheese or meat. I hope that I can phase out all these treats over the next few weeks. I want to make sure that Boogie heels for a longer stretch of time before he gets a treat. I also want him to heel CASUALLY, without staring up at me every 2 seconds  (where’s my treat, mom? where’s my treat?)

At the vet today, they said that Boogie has gained TWO POUNDS! He is now a whopping 26.5 pounds! YIKES.

Must feed less during mealtimes or take up hiking again!

Entry filed under: Social stuff, Training.

On Thyroid-related behavior issues The little things that make me smile

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jenfer  |  December 22, 2009 at 5:26 am

    That’s great. 😀 My friend click with her tongue. I have seen a “clicker leash”, not sure what it’s call… but the clicker is built in the leash handle… that maybe something you want to look at. I can look it up for you if you are interested.
    I am lazy to carry my clicker… I usually say “yes” and follow by praise and treats.
    Good luck with your training!

    • 2. lili  |  December 23, 2009 at 8:22 pm

      I looked up the clicker leash but it looks big and cumbersome and too *obvious*….I have been saying “yes” too. It’s too hard to use a clicker when I am walking and carrying other stuff.

      The main thing is getting Boogie to focus on ME when there are other dogs around or people he might lunge at. So far, so good!


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