Chai had a Big Day and so did I: we had a lot of adventures today!
We started out on a brief morning walk around the block together with Game. For the first time, I let Chai partially off leash on the sidewalk during the daytime!
Next, we got back home and had a brief tug session on the roof of our building.
Loose leash walking – manners mode
Having gotten our morning crazies out that way, we went to practice loose leash walking in the manners context: when the leash is attached to Chai’s collar, I want her to walk next to me, staying behind the imaginary line1 at the tip of my toes. We worked up to 9 steps between treats:
We are now walking in the “real world” – the space we have available to us – a comparatively quiet street with a nice, wide side walk. If I had an even quieter street, that’s where I’d go – but I don’t, so I use the environment I do have. To help set Chai up for success, I walk the street on a harness before switching to manners mode in the same street. This way, Chai gets to get most of her sniffing and pulling needs out of the way before we start working on the more difficult behavior (staying behind the invisible line). Walking on a harness is our way of acclimating.
My goals in this session:
- Cue “With me!” before clipping the leash from harness to collar. I want this to eventually become an informal heeling cue that also works off leash. I make sure Chai is already behind me when I use the cue.
- Count up to 9 steps, then click with both hands on the leash (my defined home position), blink once with both hands on my leash (my transition behavior), then reach for the treat bag. It is behind my back to help Chai gravitate back rather than forwards.
- If Chai oversteps the imaginary line running parallel to my toes, I cue “Touch!” – ideally (I don’t always succeed with this mechanics-wise) with both hands still on the leash, blink, and offer my hand. In this video, you’ll see that I’m sometimes too fast and take my right hand off the leash when saying the “touch” cue.
- I turn sideways and lead Chai to my hand stretched back in the direction we just came from.
- I feed slightly behind heel position with my hand targeting my side (again, something I manage to do MOST of the time, but sometimes … I get distracted and feed without my hand touching my side). My treat placement brings Chai back into the position I want her to be in for our informal heeling adventure.
- End of video: when I want to go back to the harness, I cue “All done!” and clip the leash back to the harness. Where the leash is attached would in and of itself function as enough of a contextual cue for the two modes of leash walking to be distinguished by a dog. However, since I am planning on transferring the cue to off-leash informal heeling, I need that end cue just like the “With me!” cue in the beginning.
Stay-home-without-humans-and-relax practice while C goes off on a human solo adventure!
Chai then stayed home alone with Game while I went to climb The Wall – a 30 meters climbing wall on the outside of a building that’s just around the corner from my place. I had set myself the goal of climbing it at least once and enjoying the view from above. Today was the day! And I did it – I climbed all the way up to the top of the yellow wall in the left picture below. Unfortunately, cellphones are not allowed on the wall, so the only pictures are from below.
Chai then got to practice staying home by herself again during Game’s noon walk.
Next, we drove to Parque México to get Chai a fancy adult dog collar, walk around a little and then headed to a meeting. Here’s Parque México – as busy as it gets on Saturdays – with recalls, check-ins and dog encounters off leash, followed by walking in a harness on the median of calle Ámsterdam.
This is Robert Sapolsky’s “dopamine jackpot” theory I reference in the video above:
Chilling with folks at a restaurant
At the table and under the table: the art of doing nothing.
We left when Chai became active and started throwing her rawhide bone all over the place – good conversations caused me to overstay her ability to settle until she let me know by throwing bones!
Heading back to the car, we practiced harness walking for a few blocks. When Chai is on a harness, I will …
- Super easy environment: simply circle when Chai reaches the end of the leash. No food.
- Slightly more difficult: in addition to circling when Chai pulls, click and treat every 4th check-in (offered eye contact). If she checks in twice and then pulls, I will circle and reset my count, starting to count eye contact over with 1 again.
- If the environment is too hard for Chai to succeed on a predominantly loose leash with circle resets, I will keep the same rate of reinforcement but do won’t reset when she pulls: for example, she may check in twice on a loose leash and then pull (this triggers a circle), then check in again. In this case, the check in after pulling (and circling) would count as 3 rather than start over with 1.
- If this is still too hard, I will up the rate of reinforcement to every 3rd, 2nd or even every single check-in.
- If we need to pass something moderately difficult (think dogs barking somewhere up on a balcony on the other side of the street), we will pass and then scatter away from the difficult stimulus.
- If we pass something very difficult (think dogs barking behind a fence right next to us), I will use my “floor” protocol and feed almost non-stop. I will explain that protocol in a different post.
In harness mode, I don’t mind if Chai is on my left or right side and I’ don’t care about a precise spot of food delivery’m less precise in my food delivery: harness mode is meant to be easy for me, the handler, just like it is meant to be easy for the dog.
Walking through Condesa and Roma, some food is required! I’m going with tier #2 described above: click and treat every 4th check-in and reset after circles.
The reason that my go-to is feeding every 4th time is that I want to hit the sweet spot of the dopamine jackpot: supposedly, intermittent reinforcement is most powerful if it happens either 25% or 75% of the time a behavior is being displayed (see video above).
Here’s a clip from walking either from Parque México to the restaurant where I met friends or back to the car after hanging out there for about 2 hours (I don’t remember which direction this was). Apart from our leash walking strategy (feeding every fourth check-in and resetting when Chai pulls), you will also see her disengage voluntarily from an unfamiliar dog, do a successful “leave it” for a tossed piece of kibble and work on her “warten” (wait) cue at a curb.
More leash walking (harness context)
It started getting dark by the time we made it back to the car, and we stopped for vanilla ice cream dinner before heading home!
Waiting at the rubber-duck themed ice cream store.
Chai and I are sure to sleep well tonight – hopefully, so will everyone else!
(1) Here comes my usual spiel: for more leash walking context, check out the leash walking lectures from Out and About in your FDSA library or look here for my December class and a micro e-book on LLW. If I don’t find a few more hours in my days soon, said December 2023 class may even focus entirely on LLW … stay tuned or send some extra time my way!