Barley is a dog that demands attention with her curly tail and her intense focus on me. We spent 5 years taking daily walks in our old neighborhood. If we went out of town, our neighbors would comment on how much they'd missed seeing us (despite the fact that our neighborly conversations never extended past "Hi! How are you? How about this weather?").
Walks in our new neighborhood have been no different. Neighbors stop and ask what kind of dog she is or shout "That's a good looking dog" as we walk by. But I was thrown off by one of the neighborhood kids recently.
A group of kids were playing football in the middle of the street and as we walked by, one girl yelled, "Are you training her?"
Those who have been long-term readers know that one of the things I love about walking with Barley is the opportunity to talk to people about training. At first, I wasn't sure how to respond. We weren't actively training specific skills like we do in agility class or when we pick out a new behavior to learn. We'd taken enough walks in our new neighborhood that we were cutting back on the number of treats she was getting when she saw another dog. Were we training?
I'm not particularly good at talking to children, so I fumbled out "yes" and kept walking, but I didn't stop thinking about my response.
I realized that even when I'm not intentionally training Barley, we are training. When we're walking, I'm reinforcing the behavior the we did spend hours formally training (and sometimes we have to go back to that formal training).
|"Yes, I do want to check out that view of the lake, but I know I need to keep my leash loose, so I'll wait for you."|
Our walks are also good places to reinforce the behavior we do need in more formal training settings like sit-stays in new places to help with our start-line stays in agility.
We can use benches to practice sending to tables for agility class.
We are always training. Even when I don't realize it. Our agility instructor always reminds our class, "They perform what they practice." Every walk we take, every interaction we have, is practice for helping Barley understand the appropriate ways to navigate her world and we'll never actually be done training.
We're joining up with Tenacious Little Terrier, Rubicon Days, and Cascadian Nomads for the Positive Reinforcement Pet Training Week that begins on the first Monday of each month and lasts all week. Be sure to visit all of the other great blogs participating in the hop!