Some of the most useful manners can be built from simple training techniques.
In this video, we’ll show you a few snippets of Hazel and Lido displaying self-control and having fun doing it. Hazel is 10 years old and Lido is just 3 months old. Of course they were trained separately before they were trained together, Lido’s training just got started!
In the first clip, you’ll see that both dogs are very calm and comfortable waiting their turn to get a treat.
The foundation for this was built simply by rewarding any calm behavior of the dog’s choice. It works like this: When I have something you want, if you sit or lie down, or even stand – quietly – I’ll give you a reward. Once that was established, I added duration (I gradually let more time pass before I give the reward). Then I brought the two dogs together and showed them that a treat for one predicts a treat for the other – as long as you are waiting your turn!
In the second clip, you can see we’ve taken the self-control to another level: temptations are being placed out in the open.
This was taught by starting with the most basic Leave It exercise from a closed fist, and gradually advancing to a Leave It from the floor. By this time, both dogs have also learned that “you grab your own treats” when released and don’t get into one another’s space to try and take one another’s food. This was in part taught in the previous clip when the dogs were waiting their turn. However, this concept is reinforced daily in many ways by showing the dogs that “good things come to those who wait”.
Dogs in my care learn that they can always count on me to be structured, consistent, and fair. There is no reason for them to get over-aroused, confused, or get into conflict with each other when you take the stress and guessing out of how to get rewards (anything they care about getting). Attention to handler, watching for cues, and displaying relaxed patience are all things that they’ve learned have great payoffs. Dogs appreciate this predictability and it shows up in their peaceful behavior.
In the final clip, Lido and I are doing one of my favorite types of exercises. This is a further advancement on Leave It where the reward comes from the environment instead of from me.
At this point we have practiced the Leave It cue enough to where he loves to hear it. Even if he has found something interesting, he’s learned to trust that I might provide something even more interesting. Sometimes, I will even give him a reward and then let him have the treat or item that he initially turned away from. This takes away his fear that responding to me means he is passing up an opportunity to get something good he found. It shows him that paying attention to me adds more fun because he could get a reward from me and STILL get the interesting thing he found. (Yes, that means sometimes outdoors I let him carry around a lost glove or a plastic bottle!)
In the setup you’ll see in the video, I don’t give him any reward from my hand at all. But, note that just after he turns to me in response to the cue, I help to reveal the reward that he smelled inside the crumpled box. Now we found it together! So much good comes of this: Fun, bonding, trust; plus practicing attention, self-control, and even defending against future resource guarding (the pup is learning that it’s fun to have my hands near his resources).
Impressive manners and control? Yes. But it comes from simple exercises applied consistently. Hey, even a 3-month-old can learn this stuff.
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