I hope you all took it easy yesterday. I cleaned out my garage and discovered an old tent that hadn’t been used in years. I thought it might be fun to erect it and see what the dogs thought of this different “room”. They got really excited and it took a while to calm them all down. We ended up playing some self-control games and did some “downs” and also had a little nap. Anyway… I thought that going over some self-control games would be a good topic for our next challenge so this is what I would like you to try today.
SELF-CONTROL GAMES – THE POWER OF CHOICE
We play self-control games with our dogs to teach them that everything of value in life must be earned. It also teaches them to make the right choices enabling them to get access to the things they love. It teaches us to observe the dog and make it possible for them to make the right choices by controlling access to reinforcement (rewards).
Choose which food you are going to use for the game. For a dog that loves his food your normal dry dog food will work well. With a fussy dog use more interesting treats.
Once your dog has mastered Step 4, then you can up your game by placing the treats on the floor in front of the dog. This is very different from offering the dog treats from your hand so be ready to cover the treats with your hand if he makes a dive for them. As soon as he moves away or even looks at you, you can remove your hand and watch him make the right decision or choice. When he does you can start giving him treats from the pile.
The principle of this game can be applied to anything and everything that requires self-control from your dog. Review this checklist and consider what happens in everyday life when you do these simple tasks. What is your dog’s behaviour? The activities listed below are opportunities to improve your dog’s self-control and make the right choices to gain reinforcement.
- Opening a treat jar.
- Getting dog dishes out to feed.
- Putting food in the bowl.
- Clipping on the leash.
- Putting on your “dog walking shoes”.
- Removing the dog’s leash at the park.
- Meeting other dogs on a walk.
- Putting the dog dish on the floor.
- The dog’s response to the doorbell.
- Picking up a ball to throw.
- Putting your hand in your pocket or treat bag.
- Picking up car keys.
- Picking up a toy.
- Opening the door when someone knocks.
- Opening the fridge door.
- Opening a dog treat packet.
- Opening packaging of a human treat, like cheese that is shared with the dog.
- Putting on a certain pair of shoes or other items of clothing.
- Getting up from a certain chair.
Remember that the point is that you are not controlling the dog, you are controlling access to what he wants, so if he pushes his way out of the door it doesn’t open until he is calm and waits for you to release him. Trainer Donna Hill shows you how to do this.
There are a lot of applications for this game. Have fun teaching your dog self-control at home.