This for that

IMG_2571Imagine this scenario: You have a steaming cup of tea, a good book, and a couch with your name on it. Just as you settle in, your pup trots into the room proudly carrying one of your favorite Italian loafers. What do you do? The way I see it, you have 3 basic options:
Option 1: Panic! Leap up from the couch shouting,”NO, NO, NO  YOU SILLY DOG!!! DROP IT! DROP IT! DROP IT!” while you run after him and try to tug it from his deadly grip.
Option 2: Anger! Reach down, grab the shoe while yelling at the dog and swat him to make him drop it.
Option 3: Stay calm. Look at the dog, ask him quietly, “What’ja got boogerhead?” and offer him a tasty treat in exchange for your penny loafer.
          With option 1 and 2, you may well get the loafer back, but what are you teaching the dog? In the first option, you are likely teaching him that bringing you an object results in a very exciting game of chase in which you become quite animated and end the affair with a terrific game of tug. Probably not a scenario likely to teach him to drop it on command.
          Option 2 may well result in a dog who is afraid of you and who will not bring objects to you. Most likely, he will run off and hide with them, or perhaps learn to guard them (resulting in growling and possessiveness of objects he finds valuable). What happens if your dog picks up something truly dangerous to it and instead of bringing it to you, slinks off to chew on it, perhaps poisoning himself, or swallowing something that chokes him?
          Option 3, as you probably guessed, is my preferred method of object retrieval. Trading with your dog is important as it will teach your dog to bring you things, rather than run off and hide with them, it will help to prevent your dog from guarding objects it desires or values and, as I hinted at earlier, it can also save your dog’s life. My trainer in Virginia practiced trades with her Lab from day one. When he was about 2 she heard him heading down the hall to her office doing his “I have something for Robin!” prance. She reached for the treat jar on her desk, turned to Denver and asked, “What ya got bubblehead?” He dropped a paring knife at her feet that one of her children had knocked off the counter. Instead of running off with it he brought it to her because he knew she would trade it for something wonderful.
          If you are going to teach your dog to trade with you, here are a few key things to remember:
1) Always trade up! If your dog has a dead bird, he probably won’t give it up for a dry milkbone, but is likely to relinquish it for some hotdog, hamburger or roast chicken.
2) Show your dog what you are offering, but do not let him have it until he gives up the object you want him to drop. As soon as he relinquishes the object, give him the tasty treat you have promised to him. This should be nearly simultaneous.
3) Do not force your dog to give up something, instead, practice trading with him on all sorts of things so it becomes a fun game for him. That way, when you really need to get him to drop something, it will be a lot easier to get him to let go.

My cellophane stealing buddy!

At a recent dog training conference I was working with a young dog, who went behind my chair, into my purse and pulled out some cellophane that had been on a cookie. I saw what he had stolen and fortunately had some treats I could offer him for the wrapper. He would not give up the wrapper for a piece of hot dog, but he loved cheese and happily traded the cellophane for cheese. I had never worked with this dog before, but I knew that if I could offer something he really liked, I would be able to get the wrapper without fighting with him. It worked! How much better will that work for you if you have practiced this regularly with your dog and if you use what you know he truly loves. For example, Bingley is so ball motivated that he once dropped a half a frozen groundhog to chase his beloved tennis ball. Within a second of dropping the frigid rodent, I threw his ball long and hard, picked up the ground hog, and tossed it to my husband who chucked it into the woods while Bingley zoomed after the golden orb. He, Bingley that is, never gave the groundhog a second thought! Whether or not my husband has nightmares about frozen rodents being chucked at him, that I do not know…

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