Reinforcement Zone

Reinforcement Zone, is the name for the magic position of your dog standing next to us in line. The correct position for RZ is your dog parallel to you with their shoulders in line with your legs. If your dog does not understand the value in being and staying in the reinforcement zone then you are going to have no luck with loose lead walking. The expectation behind this activity is to introduce the value and reward of the Reinforcement Zone and that not only do they need to stay in it but they also need to find it. 

The wall or barrier is a way for you to adjust the environment so that your dog has a high likelihood of making the right decision and achieving success for being in the reinforcement zone. 

By starting against a barrier you are giving your dog very few choices of where they can go. The wall helps your dog to automatically be parallel to you as they can't physically spin their backside out and they learn to stay parallel 

How to teach Reinforcement Zone:

  • Step 1: Standing still against a wall or barrier starting at your dogs shoulder width away. Chuck treat behind and lure into reinforcement zone. Bridge and reward 5 x treats. Repeat. Fade out the lure and see If your dog will naturally come back into the reinforcement zone to look for their reward. Teach your dog to stand next to you and a wall and be showered in treats. 

  • Step 2: Still working at the same width now you are going to chuck a treat behind you, bridge the moment the dog comes into the reinforcement zone, raward and take a step forward. Bridge again when your dog enters the reinforcement zone, reward and take a step forward. And continue to repeat up and down your wall. 1 treat for 1 step forwards.

  • Step 3: Return back to standing still and chucking a treat behind you and rewarding your dog 5 x treats per repetition when your dog comes into the reinforcement zone. This time you are going to be a step further from the wall or barrier. 

  • Step 4: Repeat step 2 of taking 1 x step forwards, 1 x treat when your dog enters the reinforcement zone, step forwards again. This time you are going to be a step further from the wall or barrier. 


  • Step 5: Continue to repeat step step 3 and 4 of moving further away from the barrier wall. Every time you take a step further from your wall, you must go back to standing still and build back up to 1 step forwards for 1 treat. Eventually you should be able to successfully do both steps in the middle of the room with no barrier for reference and your dog should automatically find the reinforcement zone every time. 

  • Step 6: Now introduce the reinforcement zone outside. Start ideally in the from tor backyard with as minimal distractions as possible. Like you have built the behaviour insight you are going to repeat the same steps of starting next to a wall still progressing to still being next to the wall but taking 1 x step for 1 x treat and working your way up and down the wall. Then progressing the distance from the wall repeating the same format. The end goal of this step is to do 1 for 1 walk with no barrier. 

    Troubleshoot: If at any stage your dog move through the reinforcement zone and overtakes you and does not stop in the reinforcement zone. Reset your dog by throwing a treat back and have a hand with a treat in it in place in the reinforcement zone where you want your dog's head to line up. 

  • Step 7: (Need to film) Chuck treat behind and be already walking as your dog comes back to young has to find and position themselves in the reinforcement zone. If you can release the treats whilst still walking. 

  • Step 8: Now is time for less treats and more walking. You want to fade out the treats slowly. Your dog should find your side every repetition. Do that by chucking the treat back so they have to source it out after they eat the treat off the ground. When you first start pushing steps per reward move in a C shape rather than a straight line. There is no rule that you must follow in regards to decreasing the treats such as two steps for treat, three steps for treat, etc. You are to be governed by how quick you can fade out the treats by your dog. You must follow their lead and go at their pace. They dictate how many steps they can do in a row for the reward. It is a slow process and every dog will advance at different speeds. Start by slowly decreasing the amount of treats and increasing the distance before getting the treats.