The question every handler dreads me asking them
But regardless, I shall keep on asking when I see dubious behaviours being reinforced with food rewards. Because when we do this, we create a great big rod for our own backs.
For example, perhaps you’re trying to keep your dog quiet whilst in a training class because in all the excitement they’re screeching and cheerleading the dog who’s lucky enough to be taking their turn.
It’s easy to become a food dispenser and just keep giving treat after treat in an effort to fill up their mouth so they can’t make so much noise.
Problem is, as soon as the food stops, the problem will start again.
So instead, here’s what I’d like you to try instead:
- Stop gathering up your lead tightly and hanging on to your dog’s collar for dear life 😉
- Ask your dog to do something they know well such as ‘Lie Down’
- Reward frequently, particularly if your dog looks up at something that they find distracting but turns their attention back to you and remains in position
- If they don’t and instead wish to loudly voice their disapproval at the dog currently working, tap them on the shoulder or bottom with a ‘Um excuse me, I think you were doing something’
- Usually when Auntie Gemma asks this question I get a ‘Oh yeah, I’m so sorry, I forgot myself for a moment there, don’t know what came over me!’ expression from the dog
- If you don’t, then gently take them by the collar and turn them around and ask them to do their ‘job’ again of lying down
- They’d still prefer to involve themselves in things that don’t concern them? Round you go again – I’d repeat this up to 4-5 times if I believed the dog did understand but was just too aroused to listen to me
- Be persistent and give this consequence – you have asked them to complete a very simple action, take the attitude that it WILL happen
- You don’t need to be mean with it, you just need to be clear – you are your dog’s guardian and when you say something you need to mean it in order to keep them safe
- Bear in mind that this will work miles better if you’re always clear about this in interactions with your dog, see this blog post about how important it is that you’re always consistent.
- You’re looking to build up to rewarding intermittently, ideally when your dog isn’t expecting it
- Don’t let your dog coach you into rewarding them by reminding with you with a cheeky bark