Obj 5: Figure Eight *Free*

Doing a Figure Eight Around Your Legs

This is a great activity to increase your training skill and start to read and respond appropriately to your dog’s body language during training. This is actually a difficult skill for many dogs and handlers alike!  It is because the dog is learning a behavior that is done in relation to the handler’s body, and the dog must stay within their personal space to successfully do the behavior. In general, breeds that use social pressure (herding breeds) and human fearful dogs may find this challenging.

To build confidence, we need to break the behavior into smaller parts than just doing one leg at a time. We start with just standing between our legs either facing us or facing forward. Then we start building the pieces of going around the leg in quarter turns.

Once the dog can do one full leg, then reteach the other leg in the same incremental way. Start alternating one leg, then the other, rewarding between each then put the two together. We are using variable ratio again but this time the behavior is following the nose target around our legs. 

Objective 5: First teach your dog to follow your hand all the way around one leg. 

This dog, like many dogs at first, is cautious about moving between a person’s legs. This is a trust issue as well as the dog telling you he is conscious about your personal space. The handler told me that she has taught the dog to approach from behind to stand facing forward. 

Since the dog is familiar with that, I do a few of those so show the dog I am trustworthy for her to do that with me. Then she is more likely to take the risk of putting her head between my legs facing backwards.

Take it slow and make sure she is comfortable at each stage. 

We can use the food reward to lure her part way around our leg. This helps her to get the idea of what we want. But we want to wait until she is comfortable in the space first. Otherwise we are asking her to decide what is more important: her fear or getting the food reward. We don’t want to put her that situation as at some point, the treat will not be high enough value to overcome the fear. More on this in the lecture about “poisoned cues”. We often see this with dogs that are lured to do something they aren’t ready for such as going in a crate or greeting a person they are fearful of. As soon as the dog sees the food, they run for the hills as they know they will be forced to do something they are not confident to do. 

Rewatch this clip. At 0:46 while she does do the nose target, she backs up out of the space after each nose target. This tells me she is not totally comfortable there. if she were comfortable, she would either stay there or complete the circle. I will probably need to do several more training sessions to gain her confidence.