Finger Boop

The Finger Boop Game is a loose lead walking technique. ​The goal with the game is to give your dog a visual and physical target in the reinforcement zone so there is no confusion where you need your dog to be. When first establishing the game, your Finger Boops will be close together and one after another to give your dog a really high rate of reinforcement. You will reward just behind you so the moment your dog finishes eating their treat and usually runs ahead you can intercept with a Finger Boop before they move forward out of the reinforcement zone (your teaching your dog to not take the treat and run). As your dog progresses the distance between each Finger Boop with the expectation of your dog holding the reinforcement zone will increase in distance and duration and eventually will just become normal walking. 

*Handy Tip - How to play this game with a little dog to avoid the human constantly needing to bend over: Rather than getting your dog to Finger Boop you finger you can use a wooden spoon and reward them for nose booping the spoon. When they are getting consistent with the behaviour you can slowly fade out the spoon and slowly introduce your finger and reward them for lifting their head up and looking at it instead. 


Step 1: Hold the lead correctly - Thread the loop of the lead onto your wrist opposite to the side your dog will be on. Gather up enough lead into the same hand so the lead still stays loose and forms a 'J' at your dog's collar/harness but is not long enough that you or your dog will trip over it or it drags along the ground. Hold treat for easy access also in the same hand with the lead. 

Step 2: Spacing of cans - Space out as many food cans 1.5 meters apart as your space will allow. Start at one end a meter or so away from the first can with your dog in the reinforcement zone (RZ). 

Step 3: Finger boop - Slowly walk towards the first can. When you reach the can stop and stick out your index finger in front of your dog at their nose level but inline with your leg (RZ). Your index finger is a target in the reinforcement zone that they have to drive to. The moment your dog boops your finger with their nose bridge and reward. Repeat this for the remaining cans. Make sure your dog comes to your finger, not you moving your finger towards your dog's nose.  

Step 4: Release reward behind - After you have bridged your dog, release the treat by stretching your arm behind you. Your dog should take the treat a step behind you. For this step, you stay still and your dog moves backwards. 

Step 5: Spin outs - If your dog finger boops but then spins out their body so they are facing you side on (they usually do this to look at your face easier) they still get the reward  for the boop behind but you want to make sure that they receive it whilst facing the same direction as you. If they are facing you side on, your dog can't step back to get the treat which means you can't continue rewarding correctly which then affects the line up of the next repetition. To get them behind you in the correct position to take the reward, lure them with a treat in front of their nose and do a backwards lunge (though don't do low). This should lead them to face the wrong way before you lure them around to face the right way with their body correctly in line, kind of like a U turn. When their mouth hits the spot that is the step behind that is when you are going to release the treat and continue to the next can. 

Step 6: Step forward - Repeat step 3 but this time release the treat into your dog's mouth which is next to your leg in the reinforcement zone. As you release the treat step forward keeping your hand in place as you step. It will look like you are stepping away from your dog as you give the treat and your dog will stay in place. 

Step 7: Keep walking slowly - When you are inline with a can stick out your index finger for your dog to boop whilst you continue to slowly walk. Bridge the moment they boop but release the treat behind as you continue to slowly move forwards. Your dog now needs to take the treat from your hand whilst on the move. There is no stopping in this step as it is about establishing a rhythm with flow. Don't stress if your dog doesn't boop right on the can. The can is a cue for you to stick out your finger not for your dog to boop. The idea is that the can is where you stick out your finger and the distance between the cans is the space where you follow through with the reward. In the space between the cans, they must complete both the action of booping and taking the treat before you reset on the next can. By doing this you are teaching your dog to continue to focus on your while the wait for the reward to come, holding the reinforcement zone and doing a loose lead. ​

Step 8: Increase distance between cans - Once your dog is correctly, comfortably and confidently booping your finger and there is no awkwardness in the flow of the action between you and your dog, increase the distance between your cans. Every now and then decrease the gap between the cans so it is smaller so the rate of the game and rewards are quicker. When you are at this step you should definitely not need to stop at anytime once you start moving up your line. Work on moving at different speeds past the cans. Because you have more space, which means more time, you can delay your reward after your bridge a little bit to hold your dog's focus on you in the reinforcement zone for longer. You can slowly work on increasing this time. At this step between the cans your dog should not be pulling at anytime as they are anticipating the next finger boop to come and need to be in a position to see it. They should not take the treat and take off as the game continues. They should be working and engaged with you for the entirety of the game.


Step 9: Remove the cans - Now do what you are doing in step 8, all of the principles are the same but now just with no cans involved. You get to control when that finger comes out, how far apart, how often and for how long, etc and the pace that you are moving. When starting with no cans, I generally advise to make the transition smooth that you use your steps to work out when to stick your finger out E.g. in the initial stages you might ask for a boop on every right step forward and use the left step forward as your time frame to reward in. 

Step 10: Proof Finger Boop via 4 D's - Now that your dog really understands that it is worth it for them to stay in the reinforcement zone and to target to your finger, you want to proof this behaviour so it is resistant to motivation competitors in real life. Think duration, distance, distraction and difficulty issued by anyone, anywhere, anyway. Always set your dog up to succeed and have realistic expectations. This is the step where you slowly introduce the game into the outside world and new environments so it becomes normal in everyday life. Slowly add the criteria's together and slowly work on making them harder to increase the challenge and proofing of the Finger Boop game with your dog.