No Trick (if) No Treat!
In the world of human relationships, food “sets the table” for shared fun and positive memories. From first dates to 50th anniversaries, good food plays an integral role. As funny as it may sound, it’s no different in dog training – food makes things happen and keeps dogs “remembering the good times”! Pro animal trainers all over the world know that delicious treats are one of the most powerful tools for teaching new behaviors that stick. But, alas, there’s a catch! Beginner trainers can get stuck on food themselves. You don’t want to end up with a dog that only listens if you show him food before every request. Getting behaviors without showing food first is called fading a lure and it is something you must learn!
Luckily, fading a lure can be achieved in 5 simple steps. Skilled trainers adapt these steps to match the individual dog’s training progress, but once you get these basics down, you’ll get the most out of food – nature’s most powerful motivator since sex!
1. Lure for what you want
Use a smelly, tasty treat to get the dog’s attention, then move the treat to lure the dog into the position you are looking for. For example, to teach a Sit you move the lure from the dog’s nose upwards and backwards so that as he looks up, his butt goes down.
When luring, the treat serves two purposes: the first is to gain the dog’s focus and the second is to guide the dog into position.
2. Use the hand signal, empty-handed
Once your dog is consistently following the lure in your “signaling hand” and moving into the desired position each time, put the food in your other hand. Now, move your signaling hand without the lure in the same exact way that you had been doing with the lure. If the dog is “patterned” from “getting paid,” then he should at least try to follow the hand into position again. If he does, pay it BIG! If he doesn’t, try again or go back a step to re-establish the pattern.
3. Feed from your other hand every time
Continue to give the dog your hand signal now without the lure in the signaling hand. Give the treat from your other hand, which you keep at your side or behind your back until the behavior is performed. Every time your dog moves into position, pay him instantly and pay him well!
Challenge Yourself: Use the steps above to teach your dog 3 behaviors (ex., Sit, Down, Hand Target) fluently – without having a lure in your signaling hand. Then, in our next newsletter, we’ll teach you how to completely fade the food with the last two steps, plus how to make your training stick with the powerful concept of random rewards. Stay tuned!