Curb The Urge:
On food management and setting traps: When I was first attending classes with my very first puppy (my little Kimma!), we were told that in order to get dogs to leave things alone, you had to set traps to make them fail so that you could correct them. Well, when that kind of thing didn’t work at all (among some other bad advice I received!), I set out for a better way.
If the dog does not know what I want them to do, then how can I expect them to do it? I have no problem with setting traps - I sometimes need to see how my dog is progressing with things. But what I want you to remember is that in order for it to be fair, then we really need to have practiced it successfully before then. Also, we need to be able to deal with the fact that it might not work (i.e. the dog might get the food!). I much prefer other ways, like keeping them on a leash so that you can easily get them and redirect, or having someone there to help you out.
Now, if we are talking about something dangerous, then by all means you have to do what you have to do! But for normal, everyday life, there is NOTHING wrong with management while you are working on training to set boundaries, such as putting the dog in a crate or another room with a chewy or meal of their own while you are eating. And honestly, it is your life and your relationship with your dog! If you don’t NEED them to be out and about while you are cooking/eating and you can provide them with other things to do in a separate area, go for it! It is totally your call to make.
OLMEC Step 2 with Food - Upping the Ante
You might want the leash for this next step, and to go back to a lower value food. Now we are going to do walk-bys of the bowl on the ground! You can begin with a short review of the work from last week. You should be at the point where you can stand up and your dog will do some cued behaviors near food in the open bowl. One of those behaviors for this part is just walking BY the bowl. It doesn’t have to be a long distance at all.
To help, you can put your dog in a sit/down stay a few feet from the bowl, put the food in it, walk back to your dog to release them/pick up your leash, and then walk with them past the bowl.
For now, I would reward with something on your person, but try not to lure them through this exercise - make sure you are keeping enough distance from the bowl so that it isn’t TOO enticing! Ways you can make this more challenging? Add higher value foods, start your dog closer to the bowl, stop near the bowl after passing by it to use the food from it to reward, etc... Be creative!
OLMEC Step 1 with Toy - Stationary
For this step, begin with a lower value toy. I know that my dogs prefer the flirt pole over almost anything, so I might start out with a regular fleece tug before going all out. If you have a dog that isn’t really in to toys, take this as a chance to just play with them and test things out.
Start with a few things your dog knows and likes doing, like sit, down, spin, etc... If your dog values toys over food, then reward with the food for those cues. For those who are pretty good with toys, but need a little more motivation to play, try to reward with the toy for the following exercises. If they do not value toys at all, then you are going to just skip everything below and just PLAY!
For those who do have “toy dogs,” you’re going to present the toy while standing (basically show the dog that you have it). What do they do? Do they go nuts? Try to jump for it? Keep the toy totally dead (so very still) until they back off. Once you can tell that they have “gathered themselves” a bit, you can present the toy in such a way that lets them know that they can play. We are going to go a bit more in to presentation for the next step, so don’t worry!
Next we are going to try for that “calm” presence with the toy along with a behavior. Sit is the easiest, but you are welcome to use down or another behavior - it has to be something that is pretty easy for the dog. Cue your dog to complete whatever behavior you want. Wait a second, then reward with the toy.
Repeat until your dog has no trouble responding to your cues in the face of a toy. Up the ante with a higher value toy, then you can also start to move a little bit before rewarding with the toy. Alternate between coming back to your dog to reward and having them come to you, just like you would while training a stay in general.
Now, try to place the toy on the ground while your dog stays in position. For this part, you might sit on the ground or in a chair at first, so that the toy doesn’t have as far to go! Cue your dog to sit then slowly lower the toy on the ground. If your dog goes for it, stop your motion, and make sure the toy is “dead.” You might have to move your arm over it just as a deterrent.
Once your dog is confident with these steps, add more positions with duration with the toy in view (such as down or stand), and add in potentially more cued behaviors before you reward. You should then up the difficulty with a higher value toy.
Quick note! If you have a dog that likes to play keep away, maybe add a leash to your toy (a flirt pole kind of comes with that idea built in!), or don’t complete this part until you have a dog that is able to trade easily.
To get that trade happening, I recommend the 2 ball game. Don’t be deceived by the name - this is fine for tugs, as well! I just use “ball” to mean any type of toy. Get your dog interested in one ball, then toss it a little. Once they’ve got it, entice them with the second and toss that in the other direction. Think of your body as a midpoint, and what you are tossing goes out to the left, and then to the right.
If your dog is STILL having trouble with keep away, try something you can hold on to the whole time - play, play, play, then make one toy go “dead,” and start making the other one move so they will trade. Keep going with that idea until they will go after one ball, then drop it for another.
This is one of my favorite things to teach! If your dog is clicker-savvy, this is a great time to use it. Put your mat on the ground and see what your dog does. If they interact with it at all (interacting could mean looking at it, putting a paw on it, anything!), click/mark and reward, then use another treat as a lure (a treat magnet) to bring them back towards you. After they are finished that treat, see if they interact again.
The goal is to slowly up your criteria until your dog is putting all 4 paws on the mat. As soon as this happens, start rewarding on the mat itself. I still want you to release off the mat using your treat magnet to reset. To get your dog to lay down eventually, I want you to really try to not give them your down command. Wait them out and reward small approximations until they get it! All 4 paws, to sit, to eventually down. Soon enough they will start to down automatically!
Continue upping the ante in OLMEC Step 2 with food! 3-4 sessions.
Work on OLMEC Step 1 with a toy at least 1-2 times this week.
Begin mat work! Try to practice daily.