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?