Wednesday, April 20, 2016

It's Your Choice!

It’s Your Choice

“It’s Your Choice” is an impulse control game popularized by agility competitor and trainer Susan Garrett. The concept is simple: teach a dog that in order to get what he wants; first he must do what you want!
From a more scientific standpoint, it’s using the Premack Principle (the idea that a dog will perform a less desirable behavior for the chance to do a more desirable behavior) as a fun game.
Teach it in 3 stages using food:
  1. Food in the hand
  2. Food on the floor
  3. Walk past the food
It’s Your Choice: Food in the hand
  1. Start out with food in your hand. Hold several treats/kibble in your palm and close your hand around it. Present your closed hand to the dog; try to keep your hand about level with the dog’s nose when they’re standing up. If you lock your elbow to your knee if you are sitting on a chair, you will be at a good level.  Don’t say anything to your dog!

  2. Let him/her sniff, chew, paw, etc.. Whatever s/he wants. Ignore any interaction with your hand; if s/he backs off, however, start to open your hand. Most dogs will immediately return when your hand starts to open. When this happens, quickly shut your hand again.

  3. If they back off again, open it again. Continue this until the dog is intentionally staying away from your hand while the treat is sitting on your open palm. At this point, use your other hand to reach over and lift a piece of the treat up and give it to your dog.

  4. Continue the game until all the food in your hand is gone.
You can make the game a bit harder by pausing a bit longer between rewards, essentially asking for more self-control for the same reward!
It’s Your Choice: Food on the Floor
Once the dog has mastered the game with the food in your hand, you can move the food to the floor!
  1. Start with food on the floor by covering it with your hand; then, once the dog is doing well with this, stand up and use your foot to cover it. Don’t say anything to your dog, it’s his/her choice!
The concept here is the same — the dog can fuss at the covered food as much as s/he wants; when s/he backs off, you uncover it. If s/he goes back toward it, you cover it back up. If they stay back, you bring food to them.
  1. You can make this harder by slowly putting the treats on the floor closer and closer to the dog.

  2. The game teaches your dog to leave food on the floor alone entirely and is an easy way to teach a dog to ignore food even if you place it on their paws or between their front legs. 
It’s Your Choice:  Food on the floor, walk the dog by it!
Work in different environments and add distractions.  Put your dog on leash and teach him to walk past the food on the floor!. You may need another person to help protect the treats if you are far from them. Try placing something distracting on the floor like a toy or ball that your dog loves!  Your dog comes to you and ignores the treat or toy? Success!  Let’s play!

Problem solving: 
The most common problem: puppies with sharp teeth long nails who insistently chew or scratch at your hand! When this happens and the food is in your hand, just rotate your wrist, removing their mouth in the process or slide your hand out from under their paw. This tends to communicate pretty quickly that that method will not work to get them the food, and they quit.
If you put your hand too high, your dog can’t check it out or get to it – you’re forcing control by controlling the environment instead of teaching the dog to control himself!
Be aware of what your dog is doing when you reinforce him/her  You want your dog to back away from  you, but you don’t want the dog to think the reinforcement is tied to one body position or movement.  Make sure your dog is rewarded in a sit, down or stand randomly and don’t open your hand when s/he is still moving (or you will be building in a “back up” into the game).
The point of this game? — do what I want and you get what you want! Impulse control!

My Best Buddy Dog Training – Robin Sockness, Trainer
T: 678-292-8960

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