How do you teach them to do that?

How do you teach them to do that? Maybe the real question is could I learn to teach my dog that. And the answer to that is – yes you could.

Place games, feet on wobbly disc.
Place games, feet on wobbly disc.

Usually there will be one thing or an exclamation after a series of things one or several of my dogs did – how did you teach that!

And there’s the simple answer – I rewarded them for each part. Or the less simple answer – I taught them a lot of basic things and we play a lot of games then built on those. Or the recipe, first they need to know how to do this, then the next … which isn’t a recipe that can be used by every dog or every handler, but often with variations it will work, piece by piece.

Plaaaaay Ball!
Plaaaaay Ball!

Catching things you like is a great way to teach many behaviors. It also gets you a lot more aware and improves your timing, because if you don’t get the timing right to reward when they’re doing it it’s unlikely that they’ll know what you actually liked.

I use targeting as a basic tool to teach quite a few things. A target could be your hand (it’s always with you and it’s easy to move to different locations), or it could be a rug or toy or dog crate or anything they could be sent to.

If you’re using your hand as the target the dog is to touch it with their nose then you drop a treat into it for a reward. But to get the real use out of it this needs to become a significant game (start easy and get more and more tricky). Then your hand becomes a come signal, a greeting offering, it can be used to get a jump or body position like sit pretty or stand on hind legs or stand square on all four or weave thru your legs or under or get up on something. It can be transferred to any object so they go to that spot or thing and touch it, push it, pull it…whatever you want to have happen that they can do.

The more they know and you know the faster each thing is to train. If things are getting harder then your fundamentals aren’t really there – you have a gap, a trainer issue. You may have only gotten by on threats and luck, oops.

Rethink, get help, start from the positive. Choice for the dog is the key motivator … when they value you considerably and understand how to choose the desired response, be persistent about it and get rewarded for it, and when you understand how to let them figure it out (making it easy at first, then making the set up more difficult allowing mistakes, only rewarding average or better) then you’ll fly.


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