DCSPCA Canine Lead Trainer Jodi teaches us how to build engagement with our dog
One of the very first things we must teach a dog is simply to pay attention to us humans!
A dog who is engaged knows that rewards come from the handler and is motivated to work together with that human. An engaged dog has a stronger bond with you and can better handle distractions. We must show them that listening to us is in their best interest.
Here we see DCSPCA Canine Lead Trainer Jodi working on engagement with Rozzie.
So, what is engagement? It's a dog who checks in with you often. It’s not a dog who is fixated on a reward or object. An engaged dog wants to work with you and follow your direction.
To Build Engagement:
One way to build engagement is through directional changes while on your daily walk. You
can start somewhere with few distractions, like your backyard, and work up to walking on a busy street.
Use a 6ft slip lead high on your dog's neck. As they reach the end of the leash, change directions. Not a U-turn but a 180-degree about-face. Say the dog’s name and then “Let’s go.” Then move in the opposite direction.
When you turn, does your dog engage and come? If they don’t then they will get a natural correction from hitting the end of the leash.
Go back and forth, saying the dog's name and “Let’s go” every time you make a directional
change. You will see them starting to engage and wait for your turn. Use vocal inflection to make this seem like a game!
Reward your dog with praise or a treat when you see them starting to make the turn with you.
Your demeanor should say you are In charge of this walk. Shoulders back and head up. When the dog makes eye contact with you, praise and reward them.
Practice this every day for a few minutes during a walk. You will start to build engagement! Looking to you for guidance will increase over time and become second nature to your dog.
Once your dog is engaged you can begin to teach them other commands and behaviors.