Chaiary: foundation behaviors for the invisible-line approach to loose leash walking – hand touch

I need the hand touch as a foundation skill to later use to get Chai back into position (behind the invisible line)1 when she forges!

June 2, 2023 (day 57) – getting started on hand touches!

With a treat in the target hand …

… and then we fade the treat!

June 4, 2023 (day 59): no more luring and a cue!

Presenting an empty hand right away

Adding a verbal cue

Over the next few days, I’ll ask for the hand touch in low distraction outdoors environments … And if things look as good as they do indoors, we’re ready for the next step in our invisible line leash walking journey! (Aka explaining to Chai where the invisible line is located!)

(1) As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, if you’ve taken the class Out and About I used to teach at FDSA, you’ll know what I’m talking about in terms of the “invisible line.” If you’ve taken Out and About but not worked on leash walking, you can look up the broader context of this approach in the leash walking lectures in your FDSA library!

If you have NOT taken Out and About and want to know what the heck an invisible line is, you can find a micro e-book about this and other LLW approaches as well as info about the future home of “Out and About 2.0” here.

Day 48 – May 24, 2023: fun with positions and marker cues!

We didn’t go on any adventures or exciting outings today – except for pee breaks, we all stayed in, and it was …


… time for obediency stuff! We worked on positions in two sessions: one for Chai’s breakfast and the other one for her lunch.

Breakfast session

You’re about to see a 10 minute long uninterrupted positions training session with a 5 months old puppy. Is this what I, C, Professional Dog Trainer, would recommend anyone do with their 5 months old puppy? No. I’d say keep sessions to 2 minutes or, if you have a really avid worker, 3 minutes max at this age to ensure your puppy learns that training is a privilege rather than a chore. So why am I not heeding my own advice? Because I’m me and some days I can’t help it. I am grateful for having dogs who just roll with it! Also note that this is a day where training is pretty much all Chai got to do (except for pee outings which at this point mostly only involve Game peeing).

Session profile:

Cues: sit (sitz), stand (steh) and down (platz)
Announcements: All done (I will not work or play with you anymore even if you pester me)
Marker cues: tongue click (treat from hand), Good (room service), treats (scatter cue; in the very end of this video)
Home position: hands behind my back
Transition behavior (what I do between (marker) cues and (treat or lure) hand movement: blink once

Lunch session

Session profile:

Same as above.

Look how far her understanding has come between the two sessions! Go Chai! This is looking fantastic!

In some of the reps, it looks as if Chai was guessing positions. That is entirely possible … and it doesn’t bother me. She can play a guessing game and get reinforced anytime she gets it right. Over time, this leads to learning. Notice that Chai is learning several new things at the same time in this session: the marker cue “Good” (room service) and all three positions. She does not need to understand every single word I say in order for us to have an enriching training conversation. It’s like learning a new language or reading in a foreign language: you don’t need to know every single word or grammar rule in order to follow the plot.

PS: when I say “Yes,” it’s just a commentary on Chai having done well. It is not a marker cue.

PPS: the reason Game is chilling on her mat behind us is that she has excellent mat skills. If there was no mat, she would very much be participating!


+ Chai got the claws on her left and right back paws clipped and did great.

The art of doing nothing

She was able to hang out in her luxury kennel – the bathrooom – with visitors and Game in the main room. Good puppy keeping the FOMO from raising its head! It is just as important to include your puppy in your general activities as it is to occasionally have them NOT participate. Both are important skills for your future life together!

Back in CDMX: day 35 – May 11, 2023

+ Today, I upped the difficulty level of Chai’s formal recall (“Schnee”) in real life situations at UNAM – so I upped the reinforcer accordingly: hotdogs for the win! Chai loved them and had A LOT. (Up until now, she’s only worked for kibble.)

A check in and a relatively easy whistle recall – kibble for check-ins, hot dogs for our 2-dog whistle recall:

+ An UNAM student offered the back of their hand for Chai to sniff and then touched the back of her head – and she didn’t mind! Wow, puppy! You are being so brave with random strangers!

Below, Chrissi being overconfident in one of their recalls, the stranger reaching for Chai, meeting a dog and lots of exploring! Come join aus at Las Islas:

… after seeing me use “Schnee” in a situation that was clearly too hard (The Popcorn Incident), below is an appropriate recall level for formal recalls rewarded with hotdogs: Chai is running the other way when I call. Not suuuper easy and not too hard either.

Game comes back too because she loves hotdogs – but every dog only gets them on their own recall cue or the multi-dog cue (whistle). Sorry, Game!

+ Chai mastered going up and down the see-through stairs at UNAM!

UNAM fun with Game. I love the color of bougainvilleas!

+ Chai saw lots of umbrellas and rain gear because it started raining as we were there!

+ The wind picked up too, and Chai startled seeing the big flag blow in the wind, and then had a similar reaction to a poster being moved by the wind. She quickly got over the poster, and we walked up to the UNAM flag to see it wasn’t a monster. Chai was able to quickly shake off both startles! I love a puppy with a good bounce-back!

I happened to take a picture right at Chai’s poster startle moment. You can’t see the poster – it’s up and to the right. Imagine a straight line going up from Game’s butt to the edge of the wall. That’s where the poster is.

Going right up to the previously scary flag blowing in the wind! (Actually, the wind must have picked up before the rain started: I can see in the pictures that the ground is still dry.)

+ Game peed outside twice after Game pooped and once completely independently! Go puppy! Spending lots of time outside and in one area (that becomes boring/familiar over time) certainly helps remind Chai that maybe she’d like to pee! So does Game who is still the best role model for outside toiletry.

+ I picked Chai up and rode the scary elevator with her in my arms twice.

+ Husbandry: “Brush!”, and “Claws!” on the right back paw. (I thought I’d spread out her paw husbandry over the week now that we’re settling back into some sort of everyday life.)

Chaiary, day 31: May 7, 2023

Chai, Game and I had a full day in Mexico City before our road trip tomorrow! We did a bunch of stuff but kept it low key:

+ Chai joined me on a trip to the lavandería and a loop through the Walmart corridor in her backpack.

+ Husbandry: “Brush!” and “Claws!” (all four paws and doing well!)

+ We worked some more on her understanding of the different meaning of treats in my open hand versus closed fist.

+ We worked on distinguishing “dish” (take food from bowl) from a tongue click (come to my hand for food).

+ We walked to Calle Cuauhtémoc and back and Chai did REALLY well passing the two Pits both going out and coming back!

My neighbor has a car repair shop – and, true to the stereotype, two (lovely!) Pit Bull Terriers.

I’ll end with another paragraph that, like the footnote in Scarlett’s post, has taken me a while to phrase more or less the way I wanted. Future posts should be smooth sailing again, so you can expect your daily Chai update AND eventually (I promise; I’ve started doing weekly digests) we’ll catch up to the present day!

Thank you …

… for all our inspiring and nerdy dog training conversations, Chris Cernac, over the last few months. I’ve loved them. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and questions, your knowledge and points of view. I’m sure you will (if you look) see traces of you in my future training. I’ll give you credit when I can. In case you read this one day: know that I appreciate this part of our paths crossing.

I realize that leaving Prince and Chris pictures and stories out of Chai’s May diaries is leaving out part of her experience, but I can’t write about Prince and you without also writing about personal things that I don’t want to share online at this point. It’s not about you – I wish you well. This is just me not wanting to share these particular personal stories with a wider audience today.

Chaiary, days 23-24: April 29-30, 2023

Day 23, April 29, 2023

We started the day with another trip to the furniture market where Chai voluntarily approached and got fed by two more strangers.

The furniture market is great for puppy in-store training!

Food hand positions: a common vocabulary

Back home, I worked on the meaning of different food hand positions:

+ I use a particular hand position for luring that means “follow my treat until I release it.”

+ A closed fist means “stay away from the food.”

+ Food in open flat hand means “take the treat.”

Developing a common vocabulary about food hand positions makes a HUGE difference for future training!

… and more exciting things!

+ Both dogs worked on our platform game and Chai worked on positions.

+ Chai also went through the Walmart corridor and into a corner convenience store in the puppy backpack.

+ We practiced the “brush” announcment.

+ … and finally, we practiced passing the two Pitbulls who are tied up to the left and right of the street I have to walk in order to get out of the plaza I live!

Today was a BIG day for a puppy – I just wanted to get a few things in before dropping Chai off for her first overnight stay with Scarlett tomorrow! So today included more action than usual. More on passing dogs and overnight stays in a separate post!

Day 24 – April 30, 2023

Las Islas

Today Chai will go to stay a few days at Scarlett’s. We made sure to get the puppy crazies out by visiting Las Islas before dropping her off.

Left: the calm before the storm. Snuggly morning pups! Right: fun at Las Islas for Game and Chai.


The tired pup got her nails done before being dropped off: “Claws” announcement and clipping nails! The back ones were easier today.

Sliding doors!

On the way to Scarlett, we quickly stopped at Petco to pick up food for the week. It was a different Petco than the last time – but wow, Chai strutted in and out through those sliding doors like a pro! Go puppy!

Being looked after/spending nights with people who are not the dog’s primary caretaker in places that aren’t home: something to practice from puppyhood onwards!

It’s important to me that a foster doesn’t get too attached to me. Ideally, we’d be doing this with all our puppies, not just fosters: having someone we trust look after them for a few days now and then. If you don’t have that option, just dropping them off with a dog friend for a few hours or overnight is also enormously helpful. I am planning on repeating this experience in the future so Chai gets used to staying with other folks every now and then.

To set my puppy up for success, I will visit my friend or dog sitter WITH the puppy before dropping them off. That way, the dog gets to know the space as well as the person. Even if they only spend a little bit of time there, it will help them adapt. When I actually do drop them off, they will be coming back to a familiar place and see a familiar face rather than being abandoned with a stranger in a strange place.

As a rule, I do not leave my dogs with complete strangers (I would in an emergency, but that really is the only reason).

Scarlett’s dog sitting business continues to grow, and because I want to eventually adopt Chai out, I did NOT give Scarlett instructions of how to interact with Chai or how to handle her around other dogs she is looking after. Instead, I asked her to just do things her way. I want Chai to get used to different ways of being handled, and this is a fantastic opportunity for exactly that! After all, I don’t know who will end up being her forever home.

With my own dogs, I do leave precise instructions about how to work with them/walk them/treat them when I leave them with someone (and I only leave them behind if I absolutely have to!)

The Norbert Experiment, part 12: from cat watching right to kibble scatters

Ready to go from cat watching right to kibble scatters?

Video 1

First session – and Game is being a superstar! Go Game!!!


  • Door status: glass door closed.
  • Let’s repeat this with the door open!

Video 2 – door open


  • Door status: glass door open
  • I LOVE that Game looked at the cat and then at me (that’s what I mark)! There is a moment of looking back catwards before the last treat though. We’re going to repeat this again; I want to see her succeed without looking back at the cat before the treat magnet or last scatter treat.

Video 3:


  • Door status: glass door open!
  • Game status: SUCCESS! Wheee! Go Game!

The Norbert Experiment, part 11: from cat watching right to a high value scatter

The hope is that at this point, the cat’s arousal level is only moderately high – ready to be met with a high value scatter!

Video 1

This was hard! Game had to go back to watching (at 00:05) and couldn’t finish the first scatter right away, even though she responded to the treats cue at baseline speed. She went back to eating quickly – but I want that first scatter to be eaten without interruptions before I proceed to kibble scatters. So we got some excellent new information here, and I conclude: we’ll stay at this level until I get a no-latency response, and Game finishes the entire scatter without interruptions before following my treat magnet to the bedroom.


  • Door status: glass door and screen door open.
  • Two scatters because Game didn’t finish the first one without interruption (at 00:05 in this video, she briefly looks at the cat).

Video 2

Several sessions down the line, Game is rocking it!


  • Door status: glass door closed
  • I want to repeat this with the door open and see the same response before moving on – but in any case, REALLY happy with this one! I could have marked looking at me at 00:01/02 right away rather than waiting for Game to look at the cat again, since looking at me was cued by seeing the cat.

Video 3: high value scatter, door open, Game rocks it!


  • Door status: glass door open
  • Upwards and onwards – we’ll try kibble scatters next!

The Norbert Experiment, part 10: from cat watching right to kibble from hand

Same stair case – but kibble rather than high value treats!

In the video below, Game and I are having a long conversation about the cat (it’s the red cat and it starts out on the chair to the left of the umbrella). I aim for 5 treats from hand in a row before going to the kibble scatter, and have to start counting over again multiple times because Game needs to collect more information about the cat and its whereabouts before being able to give me 5 reps of eye contact in a row. That’s totally fine: she can earn the same treat in two ways: by looking at the cat, or by looking at me.


  • Door status: glass door closed
  • I will stay at this step for a few more cats until it is easier for Game to offer 5 reps of eye contact sooner. I will also want to see this on an open-glass-door occasion before removing the kibble-from-hand step from my staircase.

Also, here you go, another (and I promise this will be the last) round of – wheee! – self-promoting, which I dislike – feel free to stop reading here!

Registration is still open for the December term at FDSA, and I’m teaching Finding Five.

It’s a class about …

  • finding five minutes to train your animal (of any species) every day – you are welcome to continue with a previous training project we started together in a different class, or try something new. This class has been taken by dogs, cats, birds, and a Bactrian camel. This time, we’ll be having … wait for it … a horse at Gold for the first time!
  • Time management and self care.
  • Improving your relationship with your animal.
  • Playing ridiculous games (because life does not have to be serious all the time).
  • Retreating to a virtual island in case you need a break from this holiday-infested month or the looming new year. What gets shared on the island stays on the island.

I’m also trying a different kind of “just in case you’re in the mood for it” background fun every time I run this class. This term, we’ll be having a book club.

Come, join! (Finances and time allowing, that is – if they do not, no worries whatsoever. The class will come around again, and you’ll be just as welcome in the future as you’d be today. No need for FOMO. Please put yourself first!)

The Norbert Experiment, part 9: from cat watching right to high value treats from hand

The staircase has only four steps now:

I’m also changing the colors of the stairs to reflect the fact that hopefully,
considering cats is becoming less arousing than it used to be!

I’m counting 5 treats for looking at me (rather than the cat) before going from tongue click treats to the scatter. Go Game!


  • Door level: glass door closed.
  • You typically only see one video, but I am doing each of these exercises several times a day when we’re at the AirBnB – anytime Game sees a cat! What I share with you are glances into the project, but not all sessions (too much uploading/downloading/editing/uploading).

The Norbert Experiment, part 8: From cat watching right to kibble tosses!

Here’s our updated staircase! Still 5 steps – but kibble instead of high-value treats:

Today, I am going for 5 subsequent reps of eye contact (rather than cat looks) before doing the scatter. Yesterday, I only did three – from now on, it’ll be five! I have to start over a few times. However, note that looking at the cat is being just as click-and-reinforceable as looking at me. I just don’t want to do a scatter when Game needs to go back and forth between the two (since for Game and I, scatters are ideally eaten without needing to look up).

Sorry to be out of the camera for most of the eye contact reps. The video is cut short, but the last two seconds of relaxation are right after getting to the bedroom and closing the door.

Notes about this video:

  • Door status: glass and screen door open.
  • Number of eye contacts pre scatter-for-eye-contact: 5