Using “The Check-In Method” To Make Walking Your Dog A Walk In The Park
Everyone wants the perfect dog who heels at your side, walks with a loose leash, doesn’t pull, stays calm when another dog is barking like crazy at him, and knows who is walking who.
However, the reality is that most dogs are very distracted while out on walks!
Whether it be that the dog is pulling on the leash trying to get to something, on high alert or barking when other dogs or people walk by, or just simply distracted by all of the smells and new things in the outside world—this is a very common issue among many dog owners.
While there is a lot of training that goes into getting your dog to focus at all times while on a walk, there is one basic step that your dog must reach before progressing any further.
Whatever your situation with your dog on walks may be, the following strategy will help your dog reach that first step, meanwhile developing your dog’s focus and obedience, and making walks enjoyable for the both of you!
This piece of advice seems so simple and obvious, but it is surprising how many people do not practice this with their pup on walks.
What is this strategy?
The Check-In Method
Like other techniques that I practice and teach, “The Check-In Method” is instrumental in setting the foundation for your dog’s basic obedience.
Getting in the habit of simply making your dog “check-in” while on walks is one of the simplest yet most powerful tactics for gaining control of your dog, and reinforcing that YOU are the pack leader while out in public!
When training your pup to check-in, you want to be sure to give him the motivation to do so. To do this, you and your voice has to be more appealing than everything around that is distracting your dog.
Some dogs are simply motivated by your praise, which is awesome.
Other dogs, when out on walks, are fairly disinterested in you unless you have something that they want. So, here is how you can motivate your dog to WANT to check-in with you:
When out on walks, simply say your pup’s name in a positive tone. The second he looks up at you, tell him “Yes” and give him a treat and/or praise. Repeat many, many times.
Just simply saying your pup’s name so that he has to look up at you to check in will go SO far when it comes to developing basic obedience.
Making your dog check in with you forces him to remember who is walking who.
Some dogs get so carried away on walks and completely forget that you are even still there, let alone in control! Therefore, checking in forces your dog to re-focus on you and reminds him that you are in charge, despite all of the distractions.
When dogs are distracted, their minds are running at what seems like a million miles per minute on nothing but the object of their distraction.
So many people tell me that there is no way to get their dog’s attention when he is so distracted, but this is not true!
Consistently using the “check-in method” essentially trains your dog to re-focus his attention on you.
What if my dog still won’t focus on me?
Every dog is capable of re-focusing back onto you when he is distracted. You, as the owner, just need to be persistent in training him to “check-in” and show him that he is capable of this!
The issue in this case is usually that the owner believes that there is no way that their dog would ever be able to or want to re-focus his attention onto them, and the owner just gives up.
Believe in your dog and reinforce the checking in, and I promise you your dog will really surprise you with those re-focusing skills that he really is capable of :)
Depending on how distracted your dog gets on walks, the amount of time in between making your dog check in with you will vary. The more you can get your dog to check in with you, the better.
Using The Check-In Method As A Preventative Tool
A lot of dogs become distracted by the new environment the second they step out the door for a walk. Then, when the already-distracted dog sees another dog on the walk, he has his sight set on that dog and wants to play.
Many owners tell me, “When my dog sees another dog on a walk, he gets SO excited, starts pulling, barking, and going so crazy that it is not possible for me to get his attention at all.”
Honestly, this may be true in some cases. If your dog does not have to ever have to take his mind off of the distractions outside, his mind will continue to go at a million miles per minute and completely forget his appropriate leash-walking manners.
Then, when another dog comes along, your dog is already so distracted and zoned out that there really isn’t any turning back and gaining his focus.
With that being said, this issue can be solved by making your dog check-in with you consistently BEFORE this tantalizing dog comes along.
Train your pup to check-in with you constantly. If he never has to do this, why the heck would he start when there is another dog across the street that he desperately wants to get to?
The “Check-In” Progression — Stand Your Ground
In the beginning, it may take your dog a while to look up at you because he has never had to check-in with you; and probably just doesn’t want to.
If he doesn’t look up at you when you call his name, stop walking. Use the kissy noise or other sounds to get his attention to make him look up at you.
Be patient—he WILL look up at you eventually!
Be sure to give him lots of praise when he finally does. Make checking in a FUN part of the walk!
For example, I was in a training session a couple weeks ago where I was training this 5 year old dog to do exactly this. For 5 years, he never had to check-in, allowing him to basically have the reigns of the walk.
He knew exactly what I wanted him to do when I said his name, but was so stubborn and did not want to have to check-in.
He didn’t want to be reminded that he is not in control of the walk and kept purposely looking away from me when I would say his name, despite the treats I was holding.
After he did not look up at me when I first said his name, I stopped walking.
He desperately wanted to just keep walking and not have to check-in with me. The first time it took him about FOUR MINUTES until he finally would look at me.
However, I would NOT give in. I sat there and waited patiently. His owner at this point told me that he would not have had to patience to wait that long. Nonetheless, I did not move until he checked in.
Why? This is a lesson in proving yourself as your dog’s 'pack leader', per say.
If I was to walk without waiting for him to check-in, then he would still think that he is the leader. Therefore, by repeatedly reversing the roles, and consistently making him check-in, I took the reigns on the walk and made it very clear that I am the pack leader.
Keep in mind also that I did all of this WITHOUT ever touching or scolding this dog. You indeed can effectively and efficiently gain the trust and respect of your dog WITHOUT ever using negative reinforcement!
To do this, you have to follow through with every command or act that you instruct your dog to do, or he absolutely will test your patience with his stubbornness to see what he can get away with!
Each time I made the dog check-in with me, the amount of time it took him to do so decreased.
He started to realize that the faster he looked up at me, the faster he could get back to his walk and that until he did so, neither him or I were going anywhere. So, sometimes you have to use the act of walking as the reward.
Whether your dog goes crazy when he sees another dog on a walk, or just loves to sniff every single thing you walk by, training your dog to check-in with you is incredibly beneficial.
This tactic can help teach any dog he must always re-focus on you, and will help you to get your dog’s focus and attention much easier in situations that are distracting.
By consistently employing The Check-In Method, soon enough walks with your dog will become a time for relaxation and bliss!