The topic today is: How Does Your Dog Cope?
One of the many games that I like to introduce to new owners is the Self Control Game. In this game, I have several things that I am trying to teach the dog and also demonstrate to my clients what to do.
The Word No
One of the things that I’m trying to teach is the word no. I’m directly relating that to the dog coming off the bed that I just trained them to stay on. And the use of the leash. The second thing that I’m teaching the dog is the phrase. It could be practically any phrase. I want to help the dog understand if they lose self-control, the food that is coming in will be taken away. The third thing is that if they can show some self-control that they will get a nice reward.
So what does that have to do with having to cope? Dogs that have learned to not come off the bed, but see food coming in towards them, tend to do a couple of things. One of the things they do is to try to get the food from me. The other thing that they try to do is either look up at my eyes or they try to look away. They’re kind of side-eyeing the food that’s in my hand.
Playing The Game
When I’m playing the Self Control game, the food is visible in the palm of my hand, and I start about 3ft away from the dog’s eyes as I’m bringing it in. It’s interesting to me as I watch the different responses that dogs have. When I do this with Gabby she tilts her head with her eyes looking straight up. When I say “good girl”, she’s allowed to get the food.
I was working with a Red Heeler puppy today. When I would bring the food in, he would have such a difficult time. He would switch from a down to a sit to a stand to a bark. He was trying to cope without moving forward to get the food. If he would’ve moved forward I would have let him know the mistake. So as you’re playing this game, one thing that’s kind of cute to watch is how your dog copes. How do they cope with the fact that you’re presenting them with what they really want, but are having to control themselves?
I want to give you just one quick training tip. When you’re bringing the food towards your dog’s face and they don’t look at it and try to cope, say “good dog”. You can also use a clicker and then bring the food to your dog. I want you to get about five of those repetitions, just like that. They don’t have to be consecutive. Then what I want you to do is subtract the food out of the equation. You’re not going to tease your dog with it. You’re going to ask them the question “Are you ready?”. I want you to ask that question once, about every 3-4 seconds. Don’t get too quick when asking either. If they happen to look at your eyes, tell them what a good dog they are, and then reach into your treat pouch and bring them food.
Do these two exercises. Five repetitions of having the food in your hand, and the dog looks away. You say “good dog” and bring it to him. Then you do five with no food. Ask the dog “Are you ready?” They look at you, you say “good dog”, and then you get the food. The next thing I want you to do is to bring the food in where your dog can see it. And when your dog starts to use its coping mechanism, I want you to ask them the question “Are you ready?”. If they look at your face, say “good dog”, and reward them. This is a little bit of a shortcut to help your dog to learn to look at you. You could also say, “watch me” or “look at me”. “Are you ready?” just works well for me.