Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bait

Those fanny packs lots of trainer wear these days? Some call them "bait bags." I usually call them slot machines: dogs are excited to play games with humans who could give out a treat or two or even a jackpot at any moment!

When they're learning a new behavior, the "bait" delivers exact communication between human and pup--as long as the human has good timing and gives the reward within a second of the desired behavior. When you get a paycheck every week or two from your employer, you know you've been giving the company what is expected--and the promise of a future paycheck keeps you coming back for more.

But a lot of treats are boring or become boring. If Pierrot is responding to the trainer and not you, check your treats. Are you wearing a pouch so the lovely smells of liver and lamb waft over Pierrot? Are you burying your treats in your pants pocket and not only take too long to match behavior with reward but hide the great promises you hold? Are you using dry, boring biscuits that crumble, have little scent, and leave Pierrot vacuuming rather than learning? Smell that bag of treats you just bought--it shouldn't smell like fake, weird chemicals. How about carrying multiple choices to keep Pierrot pumped and excited to train? How about changing your treats this week so he has a new exciting surprise?

And guess what? "Bait" can also be a favorite toy: a tennis ball or squeaky toy Pierrot gets to tug on or chase once or twice before going back to work. Carry with you on walks that stuffed squirrel he adores and watch how his loose leash walking becomes razor focused! A clicker can also motivate dogs if you're accurate and use it correctly.

Think about your dog's top three favorite food rewards: something she doesn't get except during training. Think about your dog's favorite real-life rewards: non-food items or events that make your dog joyful, maybe a belly rub or short game of tug on the leash or just going out the front door.

You know how to motivate Pierrot better than anyone--so keep the paychecks coming and sometimes throw in an unexpected bonus! Don't be stingy with your favorite fur ball!

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