the Ground for Treats
for all those who have far more experience than I, any ideas on how
to get and keep Penny's attention when we first enter a new training
or show ring area. Unfortunately, agility practice areas were full
of treats on the ground and Penny quickly became a ground scourer.
And same goes for tracking. We used treats to train her to track.
So her ground scouring behavior has been reinforced and seems well
I'm sure you'll
get lots of suggestions about how to handle this. Being a lazy dog trainer,
I did it the easiest way I could think of: I've taught my dogs that
their noses are only allowed on the floor when I give a cue for that
behavior. Now I can toss treats in training and the dogs will collect
them on cue; if the cue is not forthcoming (or I cue a different behavior),
they focus on me in the hope that an even better treat will appear.
Most of our trials are at all-breed shows where liver is quite likely
to come flying into the obedience ring from adjacent conformation rings
and my girls have become quite adept at ignoring these distractions.
Here's how I
- Have some
super-spectacular treats (preferably people food of some flavor) hidden
on your person and a small handful of less interesting treats (I use
kibble or broken dog biscuits) visible to the dog.
- Drop or place
one piece of kibble on the floor near your foot. Say nothing to the
dog (you want the default behavior in the absence of a cue to be "leave
the food alone").
- When the
dog lunges for the food on the floor, calmly cover it with your foot.
Say nothing, do nothing, just stand there and wait. Let the dog do
whatever she thinks she needs to do to scour the floor (just make
sure it doesn't work!).
- When the
dog eventually gives up and looks at you, click immediately for eye
contact and give her a BETTER treat than the one she gave up. Then
uncover the treat on the floor and repeat. Repeat until the dog ignores
the dropped treat and looks at you *immediately* when she sees food
hit the floor.
- Repeat in
various locations, using "can't have it" treats of gradually
increasing interest, until eventually you drop the same kind of yummy
food that you're using to reward the dog. Now you can introduce a
cue that means "you may Hoover that up" by giving the cue,
moving your foot, and encouraging the dog to eat the treat you've
dropped on the floor (you can use your tracking cue for this if you
don't think it will confuse her).
very gradually to removing your foot from the food on the floor and
alternately giving the "you can eat it" cue and a cue for
a different behavior. Be ready to cover the food if the dog lunges
for it without permission. When the dog understands this game, try
heeling past food lying on the floor (just be ready to restrain the
dog or cover the food if she falls for the trick the first few times).
Jackpot and make a huge fuss over her when she Does The Right Thing.
- Repeat, repeat,
repeat until you're sure the dog understands that food on the floor
is only available to her with your permission. When she figures out
that the only way to get treats is NOT to scour them off the floor,
your problem is solved. Seeing food on the floor will become a cue
to look at you for further instructions.
working on this, it's very important not to allow your dog to pick up
random treats from the floor without permission. If you have to confine
her while you walk the agility practice area and pick up dropped food
before you let her work, do that. If you have to work her on-lead to
keep her nose off the floor for a while, so be it. You need to convince
her that food on the floor is not accessible to her unless you say it
is. Most dogs figure out the new rule pretty quickly; since Penny's
floor-scouring behavior has been heavily reinforced, you may need to
be a little patient with her. As with everything else in dog training,
consistency is the key; you need to control the environment so that
she can only pick up treats from the floor with your permission.
Hope this helps,
Ellen Van Landingham
copyright 2002 Ellen Van Landingham
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