Monday, September 12, 2016

What I'm Treating This Week

"Do you carry treats with you wherever you go? For the rest of the dog's life?" Some people have an idea that positive training is just a way to build a fatter dog, that dogs only perform when you bribe them with treats. They're quite mistaken because rewards-based training (a favorite squeaky toy is also a reward, not just chicken) means using treats just to help a dog learn a new behavior; once the dog knows the cue, the treats are quickly weaned away. It's a solid way of learning.

But yes indeedy, I myself carry treats wherever I go with a dog and for the rest of the dog's life. Because:

1. You never know when something awesome will happen that you want to celebrate! (Like all three of my dogs calmly watching four skateboards suddenly plow by, though I jumped a foot. Yay, City Dogs!)

2. Scary dogs can appear out of nowhere and want to eat my dogs. (Throwing a few dozen treats straight at a strange dog just might convince him to change his menu preference at least temporarily.)

3. We are always training something.

Yes, there are always new things to learn, tweaks in behavior that can make things even better, and more training fun to be had. What am I treating this week? Tanner is working on "sidewalk." Like most dogs, he instinctively kicks the grass after he pees--but his kicks are fierce: dry LA dirt and grass and gravel fly everywhere. Mostly it lands on Dori--or me. Enough. I started by luring him to the sidewalk after every pee and giving a treat for that. Then we progressed to my giving the cue "sidewalk" and treating him for moving there on his own. We are finally at the point where he looks at me and moves to the sidewalk on his own. But the treats are still coming. It's not a solid behavior yet--and it's taken some time since I'm battling a natural instinct. He's happy making the same motion on the concrete, so we'll do another week of treats, I think, and then he will stop covering my white dog with grass. (The other two pups have light polite grass kicks.)

They're such sponges. Let's keep the learning going!