On a full
stomach, it is a lot less likely that your dog would go the "extra
mile" for a treat.
When you work your dog over play drive,
you need to make sure that he is well rested and ready to
play. If he had just spent the past 2 hours running around
with your other dogs, it is a lot less likely that he is interested
in more running to chase after a ball.
When I teach my dogs a new behavior, I usually start out
over their food drive because a food reward keeps training
interruptions to a minimum. A good example is the "Basic Position"
exercise where I want my
dog to sit next to me and look at me with his full attention.
he does that correctly, I reward him with a soft treat that
can be swallowed without a lot of chewing. After the treat
is swallowed, the exercise continues and my dog keeps on looking
at me in anticipation of the next treat. Imagine doing this
with a tennis ball... Once your dog gets the ball, all concentration
is gone, you want the ball back and end up playing tug. So
much for continuing the exercise!
I switch my training to
work over play and prey drive once I know for sure that my dog knows
what I want him to do. One reason for this is convenience:
A tug toy usually lasts a lot longer than a bag of
treats. Another, more important reason for me is speed: When
I teach my dog to get into the heel position, I use a ball
to make him do it *really* fast. To get into the heel position,
Andy needs to approach me from the front, pass me on the right,
turn behind my back and then sit next to me on the left. When
I practice this, I show him the ball, call him into the heel
position and when he jumps towards me I throw the ball forward
just when his head passes my right side. He really wants the
ball and as a result, he races past me and turns behind my
back to follow the ball at lightning speed. You can lean how to do this with your dog here.
A few words about working with food:
As I had mentioned above, make sure your dog is hungry when
you work over his food drive. It also is a good idea to use
treats that are small in size and don't need a lot of chewing.
You want to keep training interruptions to a minimum and that's
not going to happen if your dog needs 30 seconds just to chew
a single treat. I use small pieces of ballpark franks (100%
beef) with my dog Andy. He only gets them as a reward - so
they are something special for him. And since they are "human"
food, I can "hide" them in my mouth without disgust (you can
find out why I would want to do that where I describe the
"Basic Position" exercise).
A few words about working with toys:
When you work your dog over his play or prey drive, make
sure he understands the rules of the game first! You as the
trainer have to be able to control the game and that's not
going to happen if your dog takes off with his toy. If that
is the case, start out with your dog (or the toy!) on a leash.
If your dog does not want to give the toy back to you, teach
him the Give command so he understands what is expected
from him. Eventually, you want your dog to learn how to play
- Your dog focuses on you and the toy
- He chases after it when you throw it
- He immediately brings it back to you when he catches
- He offers it for a game of tug-of-war when he is back
- He releases the toy when you ask him to "Give" it back.
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