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It’s Still Yer Choice – Karen Phillips

Last month I introduced you to a great game called “ItsYerChoice” developed by Susan Garrett*.  This month we are going to move on to the next stage of the game.  Hopefully by now your dog has gotten the idea that by showing self-control when the treats are in your hand that he earns reinforcement from you.  Now we are going to take the game from your chair to the floor.

Take a handful of treats and put them in a pile on the floor.  Make sure that the pile is of a size that allows you to cover them quickly with your hand if your dog tries to steal them.  Since you have changed the learning environment there is a good chance that your dog will revert to his old ways and try and steal some.  As for last month, resist the temptation to say or do anything until your dog backs away from your hand that is covering the treats.  When he shows you enough self-control that you can praise him without him moving forward you can pick a treat up off the ground and give it to him.

Once your dog gets good at this continue testing him by putting a treat on his front paw or right under his nose.  Just be ready that if he tries to steal one you can grab it before he does!  Once again when you see that great self-control you can pick up a treat and give it to him.  To push your dog’s newly learnt skill even further you can then progress to standing up next to your dog and dropping a treat on the ground next to you.  If your dog tries to steal the treat quickly put your foot over the top of it.  If he leaves it, give him a reward.  Practice walking along with your dog and dropping a treat on the ground.  Once again if he shows great self-control he gets the reward.

For a toy crazy dog you can also transfer the “ItsYerChoice” game to your dog’s toys.  Have you ever had a dog that tries to steal a toy out of your hand because he can’t wait for you to throw it?  Start from basics and put the toy in a bag.  When you go to get the toy out of the bag and your dog tries to steal it, close the bag.  Follow the same steps that you used for the food and work up to allowing access to the toy only when your dog demonstrates self-control.  Slowly increase the temptation for your dog but each time only allowing access to the toy when your dog makes the correct choice of waiting until he has offered you the right response.  Don’t be tempted to block the dog or prevent the dog from having access.  The strength of this game is the dog’s ability to make the right decision and control himself.

Once your dog has a good understanding of this game you can introduce him to different activities.  This can include making a choice to wait at the door instead of charging through, waiting to come out of the car, waiting for dinner to be put on the ground and waiting calmly to have his collar put on before going for a walk.  You should no longer have to tell your dog to do these things but rather he will offer you the correct behaviour in order to earn the things that he wants.

* Susan Garrett is located in Ontario Canada where she runs the Say Yes! Dog Training facility.  

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