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One of the simplest ways you can build a great foundation for your dog’s focus and attention on to you from the moment you get your pooch, is by using a technique called ‘capturing’. It stands out for its effectiveness and ease, and a great example of this is with the Auto-Checkin method. Let’s learn more…

What is Capturing?

Capturing is a training technique where you wait for the dog to offer a specific behaviour naturally, then you ‘mark’ it (e.g., use a click of a clicker or word like “yes”) and reward it. This method uses positive reinforcement to encourage the dog to repeat the behaviour – after all, what gets rewarded is more likely to get repeated! When applied to the Auto-Checkin, this involves rewarding the dog whenever they choose to look at you – completely unprompted – so you are not saying anything, you’re literally waiting for them to look at you. This builds a foundation for excellent recall and can also be a useful way to keep your dog’s arousal levels ‘in check’, helping them remain calm and focused.

How to introduce the Auto-Checkin

The Auto-Checkin lies in its simplicity and the dog’s autonomy. It’s essentially about reinforcing the dog’s spontaneous decision to focus on you. This technique not only enhances focus but also strengthens the bond between you and your dog, as eye contact and gazing prompts the release of oxytocin (known as the ‘love hormone’) in both you and your dog. By using high-value rewards, like Stewarts Freeze Dried Dog Treats, you make checking in with you an extremely rewarding experience for your pooch. These treats are particularly effective due to their strong aroma and palatability, making them an excellent choice for capturing a dog’s attention. Check out my article on Preference Testing to learn how you can work out which is your dog’s £5, £20 and £50 note equivalence, so you can bring out the higher value stuff when in more distracting environments, to maximise success.

Implementing Auto-Checkin: your step-by-step guide

  1. Start at home to ‘get’ the behaviour: Begin training in a familiar, controlled environment like your home. This limits distractions and sets both you and your dog up for success. Reward any spontaneous glances or attention your dog gives you.
  2. Progress to the garden: Once your dog consistently checks in and around your home, then move to a slightly more distracting environment, such as your garden if you have one. If not, aim to head to your nearest grassed area at the quietest time of day, or a secure contained space that’s quiet such as a community basketball or tennis court. Continue using rewards and praise to reinforce checking in.
  3. Use a training long line: Introduce a long training line, such as the Hi Kiss dog training line, when you progress to public spaces like a quiet park. This tool allows your dog to explore safely while you maintain control, making it easier to manage the training session and gradually increase the distance between you and your dog.
  4. Gradually increase distances: As your dog becomes more reliable on the long line, regularly checking in with you and are rewarding these voluntary looks, start increasing the distance from which they check in. Continue to reward spontaneous attention generously.
  5. Introduce distractions: Begin to introduce more distractions, such as other people or dogs at a significant distance to start. Reduce the distance between you and your dog when you start off adding in distractions, to help your dog ‘win’. Working in the systematic way, is crucial for ensuring that your dog can remain attentive in various environments.
  6. Off-lead training in safe/secure areas: Once your dog is reliably checking in despite distractions and at greater distances, you can start practicing either on a dropped long line if it is safe to do so, or practice with your dog off-lead in secure areas. Always ensure the area is safe and enclosed to prevent any mishaps.

To see what the Auto-Checkin looks like in practice and a reminder of the process, watch my video ‘How to’ guide. Have fun practicing this simple yet effect training hack. Happy training!

Introducing the Auto-Checkin

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