>It's very common these days with more and more trainers turning to
>motivation-based (rather than correction-based) training. You use the toy
>just as you would food in training. You start by showing a dog how to
>do something by luring him with the toy/treat. When the dog seems to
>be catching on, you gradually start hiding the toy, bringing it into sight
>when necessary. Eventually, the dog works because he knows you have the
>toy. And you use the toy to reward the dog for doing what you've asked.

>So, for example - I'm training my dog to heel. I get a tennis ball, and
>hold it at my hip. The dog follows the ball. After we go a few steps,
>I stay "get it!" and throw the ball for him. Gradually, we heel a littler
>farther and a littler farther before I throw the ball. When he can heel
>a decent distance, then I start hiding the ball behind me, "flashing" it
>at him as necessary to get his attention. Pretty soon, I don't have to
>flash it at him anymore - I just need to remember to throw it occasionally,
>to keep him interested.

>You don't have to not allow toys at other times. You can, however, pick
>a toy to be a special obedience toy - something different that your dog
>really likes - and use that if you need the extra motivation.

Excellent post- as usual. However I am not quite sure its sits 100% "right" with me. Play, particularly instructive play, is a great idea. Of course, as an aside, at the beach today I taught my dog the "dig" command. She had great fun alternating work with me on a very "deep" and significant project. We learned how to complement our efforts and succeeded at digging the deepest hole ever. Some owners might want to avoid the dig command, particularly if their dog generalizes it their backyard!. Thankfully, Tasha only enjoys digging at the beach.

That not withstanding, I require that my dog heel correctly off leash at all times. Occasionally, for example, when going to the park, she will be very slightly ahead and the reverse if for example, she's tired or we're going to a place she would prefer avoiding. I am working on "correcting" this. I will also release her from a heel on some occasions. For example, often we will walk past a dog barking at us from behind a fence. Tasha has been taught to maintain her heel under these circumstances. Usually I'll make some off hand remark about the other dog such as "Tasha, not exactly the most intelligent of the species, is she??...", or something to that effect. She relates to this. However, I can tell she would love to "respond". So on occasion I will release her from her heel and let her rip at the offending dog. What fun!!!.

Still my goal with Tasha is that she perceive heeling as a responsibility- no exceptions. If we are crossing a street, for example, just a little lag or the reverse can be fatal. I don't want her to feel that heeling needs to be rewarded or associate heeling with play time. Certainly a play toy is useful to communicate to your dog what you want her to do on initial exposure. After that, whether she is interested or not, whether I am carrying a toy or not, whatever, she must heel properly. If she doesn't her correction is a few pushups (downs) or a very long come that alternates with downs, ie, come/down; come/down, etc. That causes a little attitude adjustment that puts her in the "proper" frame of mind.

Yesterday for example we had a great day at the beach. She brought me numerous seagull feathers that we played games of fetch, jump, etc. with. While walking back to the car, she got distracted by another dog or an another owner's blanket, probably containing food. I called her (not an official "come") but she either ignored me or was not actively listening. In any case I continued to walk about 1/8-1/4 of a mile towards the car. She eventually realized I was absent, put herself in a "stay" and stared into the direction I was going, not letting anything or anyone distract here. I think she was too far to make me out completely (since I barely made her out) but she obviously knew the direction I had walked in. I finally called her and she came, instantly. Do you think she learned her lesson???

With Tasha any harsher corrections than these is almost always counter productive and totally unnecessary. Hence I don't know if your refer to my methods as correction based- since every correction is also a form of training!!!

As you can imagine, since I rarely use treats as rewards, when Tasha does get a nutritional dog treat, she will do almost anything. Unlike a friend's dog who in fact eats better than I do. You could present that dog with a vanilla sundae and she would probably snub her nose at it (I am not kidding). Unlike Tasha and I. We'd have it done in seconds. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me) Tasha can't eat sundaes, even on her birthday.


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