Uncued Check-In

Step one in improving any relationship is better communication. This is the uncued check-in. It's what teaches your dog to trust you and to look to you when a strange or scary situation comes up or when there are many distractions that they does not know how to deal with.

  • Step 1. Put the dog on a leash and let them nose around without any leash tension for 5 minutes. Try not to move around too much. You want them to not pay any attention to you.

  • Step 2. Take 10 steps in a single direction (any direction).

  • Step 3. Count to 15. Did they look at you? If yes (for at least a slow count of 2), mark and give a big treat.

  • Step 4. Let them get distracted and repeat Steps 2 and 3.

Start inside your home and do this for a few days. If the dog is doing this 100% of the time within 5 seconds on a leash, you're ready to increase distance or try this on the street (when it's very quiet to keep the distractions to a minimum and improve his chances of success).

This exercise helps tremendously with leash walking or when encountering a strange situation, like fast cars, skateboarders, and strange dogs. It shows them that paying attention to you is much more rewarding and much more consistent than what's happening around them.


This behavior does NOT have a name.

  1. Move around in the enclosure with the dog on leash.

  2. Every time dog A makes eye contact, reward.

  3. Make sure to step away each time to make sure the dog is not being geo-trained.

  4. Repeat 15X in a row and reward each time the dog makes eye contact.

  5. Do not name or signal the behavior, as it will not have a cue.

  6. Do not ask for the behavior because you are R+ the decision making process, not the actual behavior.

  7. Test the behavior to see if it is systematic.

  8. Take 10 treats.

  9. Move around in the enclosure.

  10. Stop for a brief moment and count 15 Mississippies.

  11. If the dog looks at you, reward and continue for 9 more times, always counting Mississippi 1, Mississippi 2, Mississippi 3, etc.

  12. If you have one or more treats, the dog fails the trial.

  13. Repeat steps 1 and 2 another 15X. There will be a variation in repetition based on dog breed, age, experience, and intelligence vs. trainability.

  14. Go back to waiting for the behavior. Remember; do NOT ask for the behavior. You are rewarding decision making not the actual action behavior of checking-in.

  15. Repeat step 3 to see if the dog understands the foundation of the behavior.

  16. The behavior is considered learned once the dog can “check-in” within 15 seconds wherever it finds itself in the environment and regardless of what is occurring.

  17. Once the behavior is consistent, add Distance. Practice the behavior off leash within the enclosure. Increase the distance gradually to set the dog up for success. Do not focus on distractions, only distance.

  18. Now test the behavior outside. Make sure your dog is safe. Once the dog passes the test, you can add Distractions one at a time.

  19. Distractions can be anything from a living to non-living stimulus introduced into the environment. A soccer ball rolling around can be a highly distracting stimulus for a dog.

  20. Work your way up to having both Distance and Distractions under stimulus control before you put the behavior in maintenance.

Check-in is a behavior that is continuously acknowledged throughout the dog’s life because it is a request for feedback to problem-solve. Once all steps are accomplished, always reward w/ verbal praise.