Posts Tagged ‘Rewarding your dog’

I’ve blogged before about how sometimes it’s easy to miss what’s right under our noses. Changes happen so slowly that we sometimes fail to see the process. Trees are a good one – you drive down the same stretch of road each day and then WHAM! One day you notice that the bare branches are now chock-full of bright spring leaves.

Dog training can be a lot like that. Walking the dogs the other day Annie kicked off at the sight of another dog on the other side of the road. Little Bear woofed a few times, but with a seriously lack of commitment which in no way matched her level of arousal. I walked him away calmly and despite her lunging and barking, he remained quiet and kept glancing up at me – which of course got him a lot of praise, clicks and treats.

Just like the tree, I’d missed the bud stage, but was pleased I’d at least spotted the unfurling leaf so that I could reward and encourage it. I took a lesson from that.  Even when you think nothing’s happening, the time we all, if we’re honest feel like giving up, it’s good to remember that there’s progress being made that we just can’t see.  Little buds of progress waiting to burst forth and surprise us.

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Little Bear had an army of ants in his pants this evening despite a long walk this morning.  From my study I could hear him marauding around the living room, squeaking a toy loudly and stomping his feet on the wood floor as he played football with his tennis ball. 

It’s funny isn’t it? The way sounds become so familiar to us that we don’t have to see the scene to be able to picture exactly what’s going on.  I also knew what was likely to come next.

“Awwweeee!” A frustrated, somewhat muffled grumble which means he still has a soft toy in his mouth.

CLANK. His ID disk clatters on the wooden floor – I picture him, bum in the air, tail wagging slowly. 

“Awwweeeeee!” Louder this time.

Oh no, here it comes….

“Woof!” A sharp snap of a bark and I know instantly what’s happened.  His ‘look at me I’m Ronaldo’ game of football has ground to a halt as his tennis ball has rolled under the sofa.  Next will come more barking and more grumbling and he’ll not rest until said ball is retrieved – mores’ the point, neither will we. 

Deciding to spare Other Half the ordeal of having to lie on the floor and wedge his arm under the sofa, (LB always tries to ‘help’ which usually means standing on your head at some point) I head downstairs, grabbing my coat en route.

Ball retrieved (yes, he stood on my head, but looked like all his birthday’s had come at once when he got his ball back)  we headed off to the playing field for a run about.  His recall is really coming along now and even though he frequently gets so excited about coming back he spits out the ball, he’s coming back which is the main thing. 

I’ve also discovered a new tactic which is working really well as a trump card.  Now Mini-Schnauzers I’m learning have something of a wilful streak – well LB does anyway.  So nine out of ten times I’ll shout ‘Come’ and he’ll come running back to me for a treat or a cuddle without a moment’s hesitation, tail wagging, looking all pleased with himself.  But every now and then he’ll look at me and I can practically see him thinking ‘Naw, you’re alright, I’m sniffing over here thanks.’ 

I’ve tried higher value treats – cheese, fresh chicken, toast (for which he’d do a handstand on most days!) to no avail. So I hit on the idea of ‘Bye Bye’.  The idea is simple – if he decides the treat isn’t worth coming back to me for, I wave, say ‘Bye Bye’ and walk calmly in the opposite direction.  The result is a rapid change of heart and LB comes running up behind me – cue big cuddle, treat, lots of praise and a new game.

I’m suppressing the idea that this is playing on his insecurity (which of course it is), but it’s a trade off I’m willing to make to ensure that I can let him off the lead in the knowledge that I have a reliable recall. 

My rules are that I never go too far as to panic him (I’m also always within sprinting distant in case he took off in another direction), I never go out of sight and he always, always gets rewarded for coming back to me – even if I have to grit my teeth and count to 100!

On the way home, we managed to put on a show for the neighbours which I’m sure has now earned me the title of ‘The mad dog woman from around the corner’.  More on that next time.

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