If your dog has ever given you a hint that it's 'time for walkies' by glancing longingly at their dog lead before looking back at you and then repeating the action just in case you hadn't noticed, then you might have already wondered if it is possible to train a dog to bring you their own lead.
In the second of our extracts from the new book 'Teach My Dog To Do That' we are sharing a trick today to help you do just that.
Written by Nando Brown and Jo-Rosie Haffenden, this practical and fun trick could be a real bonding experience for you and your dog.
So let's get started.
Time to train: 3 weeks at 1 x session per day
Type of trick: Calming
Application: Calm dog can equal a calm walk
What you will need: Your hand and some tasty treats!
When dogs leave the house in a state of excitement for their walk it can cause a whole list of problems, from pulling on the lead to lunging and barking at other dogs.
We recommend that people increase mental stimulation for their dogs and, if it’s a trick that can also be helpful, well, that’s good news for everyone. This trick can also build a routine that will reduce excitement around the walks by keeping that mutt’s mind busy! This involves your dog running away from you to fetch their lead and bringing it back to you so you can take them out for a walk.
Set yourself up with a pile of tasty treats, your dog’s lead, a clicker and somewhere comfortable to sit. Once you’re ready then present the lead out in front of your dog. If they investigate it at all, click and treat. If they don’t, try rubbing a little bit of the food on the lead so they are more likely to give it a sniff next time.
Mark each investigation. Five successful reps of this is enough to get to the next step.
Hold the lead out again but, this time, for the dog to earn a click, the lead must touch their lips – even if it’s by accident you still mark and reward. That doesn’t mean that you move the lead and touch it on the dog’s lips,
though. It’s really important that you wait it out until the dog comes and gives the lead a little kiss themselves.
You’re going to need to be patient here, but stop clicking the dog for touching the lead with their lips and wait them out to get their teeth on it. Holding the lead out tightly for the dog can help prompt this. As soon as those teeth touch the lead you’re going to pay your dog in treats.
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Repeat Step 3 but without holding the lead. Put it on the floor instead or, if your dog finds it easier, put it on a
chair. Remember: any tooth contact with the lead gets a reward. Ideally the dog will approach the lead and mouth it, then return to you for a treat.
Now the dog is happily biting at the lead we are going to expect some of the lead to come off the floor. The best
way to do this is to tie it into a bundle, just like they do with mountain-climbing ropes. This will make it slightly easier for the dog to pick up without tripping over it.
Once your dog is comfortably lifting the lead each and every time, we are going to try to time the click for
when the lead actually completely leaves the ground. If the dog can pick up the entire lead and you can see any
daylight between the lead and the floor, then mark and reward.
Step 6 will need to be repeated a dozen or so times, so it’s really slick and your canine companion knows exactly what to do. With the dog happily putting the lead in their mouth, we need to teach them to give it to us. As we’ve already taught the hand target at the start, when we learnt the foundations, this should be easy.
The moment they have the lead in their mouth, cue them to ‘touch’ your hand and, hopefully, you’ll be well on your way to the end goal.
When you start this part, make sure you are right next to your dog but, as time goes on and he becomes more and more confident, start moving further and further away.
Now you’re going to start practising in the location where the lead is normally kept and, if your dog gets it right, you’re going to use the functional reward of taking them out for a walk as well as treating them.
So, simply point towards the lead and start adding your cue. Say, ‘Fetch the lead’ and wait for your perfect pooch to go and retrieve his lead. Because you’ve changed the association with the lead from crazy outside madness to a more calm and thoughtful association, you should find your walk just a little more manageable from the get-go too. As soon as your dog retrieves his lead on cue, clip him on, give him a treat and go on a little trek.
Check back in next month for the final extract and it's a trick we think all dog owners will want to try - if you have kids and regularly experience toy avalanches in the living room, then you might want to try it with them too! :) In the meantime, let us know how you’re getting on on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram!