The bracing tasks I started as simple positions when the pup was 8-16 weeks should by now be becoming default through repetition. Everytime I get up or down, the pup should be putting themselves in a brace front position.
The brace front is for standing, sitting, leaning forward, and stumbling forward. The brace side is for leaning over their body or wobbling towards them (I often teach brace side and counterbalance side together since I wobble so well both towards and away!).
Now at 16 weeks plus, I’m going to ask the pup to brace front when I lean forward to reach something on a shelf, or if I stumble.
I’m simply building on an already known position. But getting in that position has been associated with getting up or sitting down, not for reaching for something. Yet.
I will need to go back to a treat lure or a hand targeting to bring them into that crossways in front of me position when I lean forward.
This pup here is learning to accept the pressure on their shoulders. It’s not a natural action for a dog, so I click and remove the pressure, then very heavily reward. I also mix up how much pressure I use because sometimes I will need a harder brace to stop a fall and sometimes more of a soft brace for just getting my balance back.
If my pup isnt’ making the connection with the other braces we’ve done now that the physical cue is different, I break it all down into steps to practice and reward. First is noticing my body’s movement, click and treat. Then lure to position with a treat, click and give treats. Then pressure on, off, click and lots of treats since that is the oddest step for a dog.
Most pups will make the connection though, thankfully, but I still often just start by breaking it into steps at least a few times. Breaking any task into parts makes it easier to teach, and also easier to figure out what isn’t working if the puppy is having difficulty learning it.
If I lean away from them, they will need to counterbalance, and if my lean is towards their body, they will need to brace.
This brace is taught the same way as a brace front. I begin with a slight lean over their shoulders, and click/treat if they notice.
Then I apply pressure on their shoulders, remove the pressure, then click and treat. When they are just learning my body’s cue and what to do, I’m not usually walking. I will start to walk slowly and add the brace side while we move together once they have accepted and figured out what we’re doing.
If a pup really isn’t liking having pressure on their shoulders, I need to dramatically increase the reward’s value (how much they like it), and give them lots off it. Some treats are better than others, and affection is always a good reward, or a favorite toy. I want them to associate that pressure with positive and enjoyable feelings.
As they learn and become proficient with the bracing, I start weaning off the treats when we brace while walking normally. I’ll want them to brace, walk on, brace once more before stopping for the love and hugs. Then maybe a brace, walking, counterbalance, walking and a brace again.
The idea is to decrease the amount of stopping to reward and time between stops. These harness tasks will be part of a fluid motion, just one of many actions involved in walking down the sidewalk, so it needs to become a smooth action that doesn’t really interrupt our walk. Little bit at a time!
That helps a pup learn to recognize my body’s cues very fast, and makes bracing a fun and exciting activity.
This is what I’m looking for: a happy face! We played hard at “working” and had a good time together…
Kenai after some fun…RIP my love