I spend most of my time here talking about Silas’s “bad” side–his anxieties and what we do about them, or his various food problems. This is, partly, because I like to imagine that my travails are helpful to other people. Also, it’s more exciting reading than “Day 132: Silas did not chew on anything.”

So I’d like to take a minute and brag.

I’ve been teaching Silas to lie down on his expensive dog bed that he never liked. (The cue is going to be “Rest,” because he already knows that “Bed” is the thing the people sleep in.) His bed, because he insisted that it be in the middle of the living room, is about five feet from his crate. One of the easiest ways to get him off the bed, so that I can cue him to get back on the bed is to send him to his crate.

Because I’ve been inhaling all things Susan Garrett for the past few weeks, we’ve been using a combination of treats and tug as our training reward. That means that while we’ve been training, we’ve also been working on giving the tug toy back when I ask and waiting to take the toy until he’s been cued.

After, literally, no more than half a dozen sessions Silas will wait in his crate while I enticingly dangle his favorite, special tug toy outside the door, until I tell him he can take the toy.

This is a dog who had no concept of “take it,” (he did know the principle, but there was no specific cue and we had only used it with food) and had never been trained to stay in his crate with the door open until released.

I like to think that this is brilliance at work. And that is some of it. He’s very good at making intuitive leaps in his training. I was still teaching “take it” separately, not as a release cue at all, when he voluntarily started to offer the combination behavior. I was dangling his toy, preparing to say “Take it” just before his teeth closed, when I realized that he was still lying down in his crate watching me.

More importantly, this is the power of finding something that your dog really loves and coupling it with his training. Silas is not only learning things incredibly fast, he’s practically vibrating with joy during these training sessions. The play reward is both more Silas’s style, and it makes it easier for both parties to have fun with training.

Does your training look like this?


5 thoughts on “Smart

  1. It’s important to find which reward works best for your dog as not all dogs respond to the same thing. In our drop in agility class we use treats to teach the dogs, except Brisco, a pittie mix was more excited for his squeaker toy. When it was suggested to his parents to use the toy instead of the food, they got a more focused dog and a better agility run.

    I’m glad you found something that works for Silas. You may find taking that toy with you to the park and other places he may be worried in, really helps him a lot. AND you’ll cut down on your food bill. Perhaps keeping his favorite toy out and using it only for training. 🙂


  2. It’s always fascinating to me to see what motivates different dogs to learn. I guess like humans all dogs have different backgrounds and their own preferences. Too often it’s easy to forget their individuality.


  3. That is a gorgeous photo of Silas…what a bright and happy face! My Murphy was never all that food oriented but tennis balls were gifts from above so our training reward was always a high bounce of the tennis ball


  4. That’s awesome! I need to incorporate more tug into my training. I have yet to figure out how to teach them “hold it”. I like to teach a go to your bed command also. They know “go lie down” but that just means lie down anywhere, even if it’s on my lap:) Silas might have his struggles, but he does have the best face, I can’t get over it:D


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