Run for treat, stay for hugs

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Smart trainers take advantage of everything that they can use to their advantage. One of these things is the fact that many dogs have great interest in and affection for food treats.

The reason food is so compelling is (a) food means survival and (b) the dog will use his most effective sense, his sense of smell. Cut up some cooked or raw and dry stew meat into bite size pieces and have it in your pocket.

With the dog on a long leash, call out ‘come’ and tug the lead toward you. With a piece of meat in hand as the dog comes, offer the meat in front of the nose and slowly manipulate the meat up and forward to force a sit. Once the dog sits, let him have the meat. Then praise him. You can practice this 10 times a day. Just remember to count the meat treats as part of the daily food allowance! After a day or so, he should sit in front of your feet when he comes to receive the meat. You then may wish to add touching the collar to assist you later when you are training off leash and want to prevent the dog from coming to you and then running away. The meat has the smell of your hand on it; this fact will increase the bond between dog and handler. I know you don’t want the dog coming to you because you are a meat machine, but let’s look at the bigger picture. At first the dog comes for the meat; the important reason to come is his safety. The dog does not get safety; the dog gets meat; use the meat.

Once he reliably comes to the dinner bell treat, you can start phasing out the treat. At first it can be missing every fifth time, then more frequently. He will soon regard the praise as reward enough so that having the meat does not become a firm requirement for a correct response. The meat was a way to get there. Remember too that the meat affords the dog some nutrition during work (which is refreshing), and keeps the work anticipatory and enjoyable for the dog. His mental powers are not stressed as in some other areas of work; the colours of work and fun begin to blend nicely.

If the young pup or dog is in the house and gets into an area of electrical cords or other danger, the meat treat can be used to get him to come out of the danger place by himself. Use all opportunities to motivate the dog to act on his own volition to your requests. This will build a trust over time that will last the life of the dog.

Ravinn O. West is kennelmaster and trainer at Ravendale Kennel and Training Centre at Cochrane, Alberta. Her latest book, The Tao of Dogs is available from www.ravinnwest.com You may send questions or comments to her via info@ravinnwest.com

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