Learn your ABCs!
ABC has many uses:
- Loose lead walking
- Focus around distractions
- Understanding whether your dog is ready to engage with you
My favourite is when you use it to check if your dog is ready to engage with you.
How often do you find yourself using your dog’s name to try to get their attention and nothing happens? How many times do you think you are expecting your dog to respond instantly and instead they need a bit more time? This is a simple yet powerful activity designed by Chirag Patel. Chirag uses numbers, but in Scentventure we ‘count’ with the letters of the alphabet because we use 123 in a different exercise.
1. Say the word ‘A’ out loud and with a smooth sweeping arm movement (the visual makes it easier for your dog to recognise even in a busy environment) place one treat down on the ground.
2. Give your dog 10-15 seconds to respond. If they don’t look to you, you can say ‘B’ and put another treat down. Again, wait. They have the choice whether they are ready to engage and if needed you can say ‘C’ and put the third treat down.
3. If your dog still hasn’t engaged with you, pick up all three pieces of food, take some time to observe what has caught your dogs attention. Perhaps the environment is too distracting to train in, or maybe the just need more time to sniff and make sense of the environment first. You start again a little closer in distance and in their line of sight, but if they’re still not ready, the environment is too distracting or overwhelming. Consider moving somewhere quieter or where your dog feels safer or more relaxed.
There is no attachment to outcome or expectation. If your dog is ready they will engage and join you to take the food. If they aren’t ready they will not.
It’s like saying ‘are you ready?’ If they are ready, you could start to do some formal training, if that is your objective.
ABC can be used when walking together, in open spaces where there are distractions and in the home. Instead of overusing their name which can very easily become meaningless, counting and having no expectations can really open up the chance to observe your dog and see just what their world is like and how many things are really distracting.
Some people find that just saying ‘A’ is more than sufficient. Saying ‘B’ and ‘C’ if it is needed gives us humans the opportunity to really observe what has caught our dog’s attention rather than putting ourselves under pressure again for our dog to respond. There is no expectation for a response when ‘A’ is said.
Recall and loose lead walking
If something has caught your dog’s attention, or they’re pulling on the lead, try using ABC to see if you are able to reconnect with your dog and regain their focus.
It’s fun to play as a recall game and can lead to a good strong real life recall. That’s where the strong visual image comes in handy too; so they can see exactly what you’re doing from a distance.
ABC is a great rechall recharge if your current recall cue has become ineffective.