Since reading about consent testing, I seem to be noticing more people talking about it.

There’s a great article here, where the author explains how you can ‘preference test’ with your own dog. Choice supports training with our dogs (and other animals), making sure we really are offering positive reinforcement, not the ‘least worst’ option to your dog.

By observing Zeke in the last five months, I know he doesn’t like to be lifted into the car, he doesn’t like the top of his head being touched either. He doesn’t mind a stroke on the shoulder, but I wait for him to approach me. He will lean into my legs for affection when I’m sat working. Offering his back, or rubbing his head along my arm. When I’m sat on the floor watching TV, he often lays along the side on my leg with his head on me. I think it’s the closest to a free choice hug you can get!

Free choice walking

This is something I did first with Jake, then Leo and Truly. A simple exercise is to put your dog on a longer lead (or a line if you don’t have to worry about small pavements and busy roads). From the moment you step out of the house, your dog takes the lead. Obviously, safety is paramount so don’t literally give your dog their lead and do still watch out for traffic when crossing the road!

When I first experimented with this, I thought I’d be out for hours. Trudging over the fields, through hedges and trees, but it wasn’t like that at all. It was a slow meandering walk, with lots of sniffing, on and off our usual routes.

Now Zeke is walking further, this week we trialled a free walk. Zeke took me on a completely different route than we’d been on together before. I don’t think he would have found his way home again, so I did nudge him onto a route that took us home. We hadn’t gone far, but we had gone slow, and he was very relaxed when we got home. No zoomies in the garden when I took his harness off either.

I know I say this all the time, but there are so many benefits in spending time watching and listening to your dog. It helps you understand each other, strengthens your relationship, and it builds trust. Trust boosts your training, and is vital when you need to ask them to do something on safety grounds. Plus, your dog is just so much happier.

Have a go and see what you find out.

Until next time




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