Today’s topic is: Bait, lure, and reward like it’s going out of style. So you’ve probably heard me say, say that baiting and luring is a bad, long-term strategy for training your dog. And I’m here to tell you that, yes, 100%. I still believe that to be true. But do I bait and lure dogs? 100% and absolutely, I do. It’s interesting to me as sometimes when I get the opportunity to watch people before they become clients, train their dogs before they’ve seen how I train.
The Amount of Reinforcement
And the thing that amazes me when I watch them is how little baiting luring and even more rewarding they’re doing. It also surprises them equally, if not more so. The amount of reinforcement that I use anytime I start a brand new behavior. So that’s really what I want to talk about today. Why baiting, luring, and rewarding your dog at the very beginning of a skill and doing it like it’s going out of style, like, there’s going to be no more food in the world, is such an important thing to do. And it gives you so much leverage with that young dog.
Alongside this, I want to note that if you have a young puppy between the ages of eight weeks and six months. Did you know that 90% of their brain will grow in this time? You see, when you bait and lure and then reinforce the dog for actually doing the thing that you want in a way that is inconceivable to the dog, you create a solid connection to the behavior.
So if you have a young dog, what I’d encourage you to do is grab some lunch meat, a hot dog, some string cheese, or their favorite treat. Whatever it is that they absolutely love. Then put your dog in the heel position and dispense more food in the next 25 to 30 seconds than you ever have dispensed to any dog in the history of your life. And it’s okay to do that. Obviously, baiting and luring cannot continue to happen.
What Are You Looking For?
So what are you looking for? So you can begin to get rid of the baiting and luring. Okay, so you’ve successfully baited and lured your dog into the position you want. You’re making a reward. The reward is overwhelming. The animals like this are incredible. Get several repetitions of that because what you’re going to build in the dog is anticipation. The dog is going to know precisely what they’re going to do. They realize that when they do that, then they get all this reward.
And so there that is the beginning of getting the food out of your hand because your dog is anticipating what you’re going to do next. So as the dog expects what you’re going to ask it to do, say the word that’s going to become your voice command. And then, as the dog gets into that position that you wanted to do, bring down the reinforcement, don’t make it as incredible as you did the first few times as you were building anticipation.
But get the dog into it. And then here’s a little bit of psychology. Once the dog is in there and it’s enjoying that reward, immediately stop the reward and move the dog with your hands out of that position and wait for them to come back into heel position again or whatever the position would be, and then reward them again. So right there, as you do that, you’re not using the food that’s in your hand to get them to create the position. You’re using the previous experiences, and they’re remembering, and then they get there, and then the same thing happens.
Now yes, there are some things that you want to get right about fading your baits and lures. That primarily has to do with the effective use of hiding it in your hand, keeping the food in the pouch, and creating at least one verbal moment marker. I would use “good dog” as my one moment marker if it were me. But then, if I had to choose several, “good dog” would be one. “Okay” would be my other one, and then the click would be my third one.
They could all practically be the same thing. But the clicker is going to be the gold standard for that. So as you bait, lure, and reward your dog into the position, that creates anticipation. Then let your dog get in the position, reward it, and then use a clicker to capture those moments when the dog is doing that right. Follow up with reinforcing in a very meaningful way. You’re on your way to a lot of success with the dog.