He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion. - Unknown
This is a statue to commemorate a brave little dog by the name of Leo, who died while saving a little 10-year-old girl who was being attacked by a much larger dog. Leo witnessed the little girl being pinned to the ground by the dog who began biting her. Leo immediately ran to the rescue and began biting the bigger dog on the leg who turned on Leo and let the girl go free. Sadly, Leo was killed.
The statue is located in a park in Serbia so he can watch over all of the children playing. There is a quote underneath that reads “To all small heroes with big hearts,” which is a true testament to the courageous nature of little Leo.
What does this engagement training look like? Like, what are the games you might play for that?
Most of what I’ve learned about engagement has come from Michael Ellis’ materials. Denise Fenzi also has a lot to offer on this subject, and I like the way she lists out five stages of engagement.
Handler starts the engagement by bribing the dog with offered food/toys/play
Dog starts the engagement with eye contact (cookies/toys are hidden, and appear with the eye contact)
Dog starts the engagement with sustained focus while moving around
Dog starts the engagement with stage 2, stage 3, and offered work/behavior
Handler starts the engagement (without bribing as in stage 1)
Many people get stuck at stage 1, or try to skip from stage 1 to stage 5, but stages 2-4 are the critical ones that make stage 5 possible.
What does the process look like? You can see visuals through the resources below, but here is a basic breakdown.
Allow the dog time to acclimate to the environment, sniff around, potty (if outside), etc
Pick a spot and just stand there. Dog should be on a leash.
Eventually the dog will get bored and check in with you. As soon as they make eye contact, mark it with a “yes!” (or whatever your marker is) and provide the reward. Generally food, and if so you want the dog driving into your hand for the food, rather than you reaching towards the dog to deliver it. I move backwards so the dog has to move towards me to get the food. If you watch the videos linked below, note how much the handlers are moving around. Movement and contrast is motivating and helps the engagement process.
If the dog is maintaining connection, mark and reward again.
When the dog is focused, release them back into the environment. “All done” is my cue.
I also mix in some repetitions of cuing “get it”, toss a piece of food on the ground (make sure you dog can see it on the surface), and as soon as the dog gets the food and stops sniffing for more, mark it with “yes” and reward from my hand. The dog gets faster to stop sniffing and re-engage as they learn there is nothing more on the ground and it’s more rewarding to engage back with me.
Rinse and repeat. As with everything else in training, choose your environments carefully and start in a no/low-distraction environment. Such as inside your house. And gradually move to more busy and distracting environments.
There is technique involved in the marking and rewarding process that increases the dog’s motivation. How you hold the food, how you move your hand, making the dog sometimes miss the food to increase frustration and drive, having them spin around, etc. More details about that in the resources below.
Honestly I don’t really allow my dogs to play with each other, especially not inside. Partly because of the dogs I currently have, and partly because I don’t want that chaos in the house.
I do not allow Ryker and Chandra to play at all, because Ryker is an asshole who can quickly go from “happy happy play” to “fuck off you fucking fucker”.
I did allow Solstice and Chandra to play together, but only outside. And it was structured so that I did training/engagement sessions with them first, then they were allowed to play. Or at the very least, Chandra had to give me eye contact before being released to play with Solstice.
If Asher’s engagement at home is an issue, then I’d start requiring Asher to go through you to play with Gunner. Eye contact, release to play. Sustained connection, release to play. Basically moving through the stages of engagement and building up to Asher doing more and more with you before he gets to play with Gunner. This might require restricting the dog’s access to each other or not allowing free access when you’re not around, until Asher is engaging more easily.
Youtube search “Michael Ellis engagement”. Here are a few, you can find more and other related videos
Yknow when you talk to the Hahren of the Dalish clan in the Brecillian forest and you sit on benches around the fire but one person of your party will end up sitting on the ground? Idk why it happened but my mabari is sitting on the bench and I’m fucking losing it.
A brief explanation of uses of “y’all” [not comprehensive]
“Hey, y’all!” – General greeting as you walk into a room with more than one person. Polite hello.
“Could y’all help me out?” – Polite request for help to a roomful of people. First 1-3 people who respond will help you carry groceries, run you down to the store, or assist in moving a couch. If more people then necessary offer to assist with the task, the y’all speaker will choose with phrases such as, “Oh, Betty, honey, no, you just got home. You put your feet up.” Or, “Thanks, Jack, but I think I’ve got enough people.”
“I really need all y’all to listen.” – Everyone in the room needs to shut the fuck up and do as they are told. This is one step removed from fire being rained down upon you in anger. If you are in school when this happens, you’re about to make the teacher go into a five minute rant about manners and hard work.
“All y’all need to sit down.” – Congratulations. You just got you, your three cousins, and the dog grounded. Nice job.
“Who the hell told y’all you could do that?” – And now the cat is grounded too and your favorite aunt is about to be in a world of hurt.
“Y’all need to shush up and pay attention.” – Quit goofing off in church. The lord is watching.
“Oh, y’all are the sweetest.” – Everyone in the room is a really nice person.
“Oh, y’all are the sweetest!” – The y’all speaker hates everyone in the room [most likely because she specifically requested no bridal/baby/other shower and got forced into it anyway] and just wants to escape.