Choice training, and if you do not know we promote this method in all our training sessions, activities and free time, means literally that – dogs have to learn to choose to stay with us, to volunteer to do one thing and not do the other, and contribute to whatever you two are trying to achieve together, be it a walk along the pavement, return to handler or performing a hair-raising stunt of some sort. If it’s anything else – it’s force, and therefore something that we choose not to do. Lets Choice-train our dogs together! We will show you how, so that dog of yours learns to stick by your side not because it has to, but because he wants to…
What you want is for your dog to choose to connect with you by any means possible apart from any of the restraining tools one might think about. All those harnesses, head collars, leads and crates are designed to keep the dog in place, manage them and teach them by habit and repetition. It is a must if everything else is just not there, or does not give you 100% of what you want. But I would like to talk about the attitude, need and primary desire that will enable your dog to choose to do the right thing so it is the only thing they want to do – play along, be with you and always choose to be by the side of the handler, owner, trainer or walker.
So there we go (that is if you are willing to look away from that “Who’s the top dog” dogma and think beyond the dominance-based waste of time theories). You have a dog (I suppose you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading these pages), target behaviour (say, I want to get there…) and a bit of time to use your brain and implement the ideas you come up with and we suggest (go with those to start with as they are well tried and tested!).
Which way is your dog facing at this very moment? Can you see its eyes, mouth, nose? If not, and it’s been a problem ever since you started taking your dog out – asking it to cover the first inch of that directional exercise might well be far too much to ask of it. You will have to do the ground work. That is easy, logical, and it doesn’t cost anything and does not take time. It is if you are already on your way (once your dog sees and watches you) then you will be ready to start the actual work.
And here’s the theory behind it.
When you are about to feed your dog in your kitchen, early in the morning, and your pooch dozing on the couch hears the sound of the bowl being placed on the floor, it doesn’t take it a second to find it and just “Get on with it”. How long does it take for him to finish the meal? If your answer is more than 2-3-5 minutes- you are not going to make it, your dog is not likely to enjoy its off-leash status without taking chances and breeching that “dog under control” stigma. Go “back to kindergarten”, brush up on how to feed your pet, and convince them that FOOD MATTERS! (Your dog might have been trained using toy- and play- reward, but usually those are also great with their food, so I’ll deliberately skip this bit as I honestly do not believe that if you have not mastered “on the spot” feeding habits in your pooch, he’d be any good learning the ropes using toys – it’s way more technical, exhausting and requires a much better grasp of skills from the handler.
For the dogs finishing the meal in one go – there’s the potential to go from strength to strength. Move that feeding bowl from one place to another. I bet your dog will follow it with no hesitation, and complete the meal wherever it comes from, whether it be in one place, spread between two separate bowls, or scattered all over the kitchen floor, or the garden lawn.
Now that we’ve rehearsed that for a couple of days, we might push it into the outside walk. Lead on (bare with me, it’s coming) to be safe, and off you go on a feeding walk, giving your pet a different reason to be out with you. This is your time to bond, communicate and interact, not their time to wee, “kick a**e” stretch legs or chase ball, even though all of the above will certainly be allowed. It’s your 1-2-1 time, so we are going to work on making that connection stronger and better. So why would your dog wish to stick by and follow you (or their own feeding bowl on 2 legs if you want to look at it this way)? Because they can’t afford not to. It’s their meal, and from now on it comes with the job description – you give me what I want, and I pay you back with the essentials. Like it or leave it. Right, you are not going to leave it, I know. And please stop pulling on that lead – it’s the owners who mostly insist on the tight leash, not the dogs. Let them get used to not be pulled!
Our interpretation Of Handfeeding goes through 10 different stages, 10 categories, but your homework should not be limited to these – add as many desensitisation upgrades as you wish, gradually exposing your dog to all the factors you may possibly wish to cover in your training. Stick with it for a period of time – Rome wasn’t built in a day! By then your hound will know what to do, will know how by heart, and will want to do it all the time. What else is needed?
Proof it, vary times, length of the session, locations, surroundings and environment, and you are done. Now your dog is your friend, unconditionally, inside and out, next to you and far away – YOU MATTER!
What now? Oomph… Ah… Nothing – this is it – the job is done, and your dog will want to stay near, come when called, and comply with the tasks given, be it to stop or go where ever needed. It starts inside their head, and it finishes there, so no outside help required – you’ve become their friend, their god and their provider, and what dog would want to leave all this behind and leg it? I haven’t met such a dog yet. I am sure you will tell me the same now. And why haven’t you done it yet? I do not know. And I do not know why so many people are still sceptical and reluctant to try and implement the basics of Handfeeding with their dogs, I guess, someone has to keep dog trainers in business!