How many times have you heard someone say NOT to train a poop faced dog? We all know the look from our dog…the look which says he really doesn’t want to train today. Maybe he’s tired, maybe he’s grumpy, maybe he’s just having an off day (they are allowed those once and awhile), but he’s in a less than stellar mood and showing you very clearly he would prefer to be anywhere else but in the ring with you.
Well, I had a poop face Springer today (Gunner, 7yo) and, you know what, I trained him anyway. Did he get a little better, yes, but he was still pretty poop faced about the entire ordeal. But, as long as my dog is not ill or hurting, I am going to ask him to do something for me. It may not be stellar work and I may have to make some things super easy, but he has to give me something each time I take him out of his crate. Why did I work him? Because he has been giving me less than good effort in the show ring. And what better day to train him than when he does not want to give me good effort in practice? And, honestly, when I am at a trial and paying $25+ for a class, he does not get to decide when he does not want to work. Sorry.
I did not cheerlead, but I did ask him to work. He started with bouncing hand touches and a few spins and twists. I pinched his rear when he showed it to me and brought him back to me with a hand touch. But, the main thing I did not do? I did NOT pull out cookies!! If you have followed my blog for awhile, you know Gunner happens to be a dog with a food issue (I’m sure a problem created by me) and he will jump through hoops for a piece of cheese. Unfortunately, it has caused problems in the ring over time. So, last summer, I eliminated almost all food from training. He is required to tug, he is required to interact, he is required to get vocal.
But now, he watches the puppy get tons of cookies during training, while he only gets one or two for being quiet in his crate. He sees the bait pouch put away when I switch dogs and, while I know I’m humanizing him, he doesn’t think the entire situation is very fair. So, as much as I wanted to pull out a cookie and get my regular, upbeat dog back, I stopped myself. I forced him to interact, I told him I was going to “get him” while I talked to him silly and went at him with my hands. I praised him heavily for jumping up on me and interacting. He got scratches and rubs and told how wonderful he was. There was not much tugging happening, but I didn’t force the issue, as I am not going to force fetch him to a toy. As long as he retrieved it and jumped up to deliver it to me, I accepted it. Towards the end of our last session, he did start to tug with one of his yarn balls and we played for several minutes before calling it a day.
I was sweating and I was tired, but I actually got some good work in. Was it “fun”? No, not really. I like my upbeat, bouncing off the wall Springer. I would much rather work to keep him reeled in, rather than continually work to pump him up. And, while he wasn’t heeling as well as he could, I guarantee you, if I had offered him a cookie, he would have been doing circles around me trying to earn it. That, my friends, is called bribery. And it does not hold up in the ring. I don’t care if the cookie is in your pocket or if you are holding it in front of your dog’s nose, if the dog is working ONLY for the cookie, that’s bribery. I am not saying to never pay your dog with cookies for working, but you need to keep your dog’s temperament in mind when doing it. Also, learn to recognize when your dog is working for the food (or toy) versus when he is working for you. However you decide to pay him for working is your decision…it could be a rousing game of tug, a few cookies, a game of chase, whatever your dog enjoys, but, he needs to earn it by working with YOU.
Train hard. Play harder.