We have all seen the dog who pulls and pulls and pulls to get to that treat or that chicken bone that is lying on the sidewalk. We have heard of the dog who is sitting at the start line in a training class and then he eyes that unattended bag of treats sitting on the table and zoom, he is off to go eat those unattended cookies. We have seen the dog in nosework who leaves the source of the odor to go investigate dog smells and food crumbs in training. In obedience, we have heard of the dogs who the second the leash comes off, the dog runs over to the judge’s table and investigates the bowl of candy sitting on the table.
Teaching your dog to cooperate with you for food rewards is a great foundation skill for a multitude of dog training sports. Once our dogs know to cooperate with food rewards, we can use our zen games to build our dog’s confidence with our cues with distractions. If the dogs can do the cued behaviors with a primary reward right in front of their noses, then it’ll be much easier for them to do a cued behavior with a food distraction farther away such as ignoring candy on the judge’s table or ignoring food being eaten by people in the crowd.
When we teach the dogs to cooperate with us in one area such as impulse control with food, the dog learns to cooperate with us in other areas much faster. We can apply the food impulse control games to toys, or sheep or bite sleeves or to build reliability with tunnel entries. We can even use food distractions as an introduction to other types of distractions such as people or other dogs if food distractions are a foundation skill for the dogs.
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Today, I decided to play around with my dogs and see if they can sit, down and do a hand touch with food distractions right under their noses. They both had no problems with sit and with down and the nose touch which included having to look away from the reward was quite challenging for them. Give it a try with your dogs!
I’m teaching a class called Food for Thought that teaches dogs to cooperate for food rewards and to listen to our cues while distracted by food.