Archie dog training, bridge crossing on wooden slats - VIDEOMy dog has exceptional socialisation and basic recall, but it is useful for me to remember the value of new tasks for my dog too.
Providing new challenges that are a little difficult but achievable will give a dog sense of pride just as it does the owner. Handled correctly it can strengthen the owner dog trust bond.
I took two takes on this video to see how he would go a second time.
This is not the first time that he has done a small bridge crossing but it is amazing how it is very dependent on how he is feeling on the day.
Being part poodle he is a smart dog, but sometimes that smartness can turn into over caution in new tasks. If I MADE him cross the bridge, gave him no alternative, that would be a negative training method that would not strengthen our bond. What I did here was put him on the other side after having a short play with him. He was in a playful and confident mood and already knew the park well.
If he refused to come back over the bridge for another 10-20 seconds longer than it took on these takes, I would have grabbed him and just played with him and tried again another day. Unless the learning is seen as a game, it will be of little value to him completing a new task. He will have no positive association with it, and it could even turn into a phobia.
Teaching a dog to follow you in all situations can be difficult, but the more you train it in foreign circumstances (by slowing introducing new tasks), the more likely they will trust that a new game or challenge will be rewarding at the end.
While this child's playground bridge may not seem like a major challenge, I know my dog isn't a big jumper. He has many physical skills but jumping is definitely not one of them. So putting him on the other side of a bridge that has gaps in the wood, and sways, even a small bridge, is testing his resolve and trust in me, without putting him in major physical danger. The drop below him is only a metre or so onto soft chip bark. But the task put a great deal of mental challenge on him.
I don't train my dog every day with a new task, but I try and do it often enough so that he has confidence in trying new things. I never know when I will have to recall him in a difficult environment and I will have to trust that he trusts me enough among the chaos to come back.
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