By Brenna Fender
“Peek” is a cute behavior that’s easy to teach and handy to use as a fun trick or helpful move in various dog sports. It works like this: a handler stands with his or her legs wide enough apart for the dog to move through. The dog can be left in a sit for the handler to walk in front of him or the handler can send the dog into the “peek” position from any location. On cue, the dog comes through the handler’s legs and sits with his head just in front of the handler, with his body basically between the handler’s legs.
Why would you teach your dog to peek? Besides being a fun trick to show your friends, a dog that moves into the peek position can be very easily managed at the start of an agility run. You simply line yourself up perfectly and then ask your dog to peek. Then you can leave your dog in a stay and lead out to your desired spot on course. Peek also works well in freestyle heeling routines and freestyle disc dog competitions as well.
Peek is particularly easy to teach with a dog that already knows how to sit and stay. Have your dog sit and stay when you walk just a foot away; then center yourself in front of your dog with your legs spread about shoulder width apart. With a treat in your hand, reach through your legs and show your dog the treat. Pull your dog through your legs, feeding him the treat when he reaches the right position. At first, don’t ask your dog to sit after he pokes his head through. Just get him comfortable moving into position.
If your dog already knows how to sit, after a few repetitions, ask your dog to sit in position before awarding the treat. Make sure that your dog is seated when you put the treat into your dog’s mouth. Then release him with an “OK” or another release word. If your dog doesn’t know how to sit, or doesn’t understand how to sit in this position, help him by luring his nose up with the treat, which will very likely cause his rear to drop into a sitting position.
If your dog doesn’t know how to sit and stay, you might ask a friend to hold your dog as you move ahead of him. Or you can try to move ahead of your dog and quickly lure her into the right spot.
After your dog is moving into the peek position comfortably, it’s time to fade the lure. That means that you will slowly remove the food from the picture so that your dog will “peek” without the food in front of his nose. I find that hiding the food in a closed hand is a good first step. Then, use the same hand that you have been using (the one that smells like food!) but don’t put the treat in it. Instead, have the treat ready to go in your other hand. As your dog follows your hand into place, reward from the other hand. Start giving your dog the “peek” cue (you can say “peek” or some other word and/or use a hand signal) before you lure. It won’t take long before you can move your hand more quickly and hold it farther away from your dog’s nose. Eventually, your dog will peek on a verbal cue or a hand signal.
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