Sunday, September 18, 2011

Teaching Leave It

Once again, from the school of "You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks", I bring you "Leave It".

OK, so it's not exactly a brand new behavior.  It's been done a million times before.  The dog is taught to leave a treat with the command "Leave It", which can then be carried over into other situations.  I got the fundamentals from Rusty's foster dad.

Rusty picked it up after two or three times, which was pretty remarkable, considering how food motivated I thought he was.

I started by holding the cookie in my closed hand and telling him to leave it.  He'd only get the cookie when upon hearing the command he turned away.

Next I upped the stakes by opening my hand while repeating the command.  The first couple of times, I had to close my hand to preventing him from snatching the cookie ala Kung Fu, when Cain tried to snatch the pebble from his master.

Only when we got this far, did I repeat the training with an cookie in my open palm.  When he followed through by ignoring on command again, I gave him the cookie with another treat to reinforce the behavior.

OK, so I'm thinking, this is pretty cool, and maybe I didn't think that it would transfer over to other aspects of our life, but boy, was I wrong.

A Zen Master can use his focus to change his reality
We were out walking one day, when we can to a narrow path with puppies in front of and behind us. Let me just say, that Rusty loves meeting all of the little dogs.  When I got him, he was so anxious that his only reaction was to bark at other dogs, whether he wanted to see them or was trying to warn them off.  We had used "Leave It" before once in a situation like this with a single dog, and with a much wider birth, and Rusty was still pretty antsy.

We were in a tight spot, as the other owners were doing all they could to control their dogs who were just as excited as he was.

I repeated "Leave It" twice and Rusty past between the pups with nary a whimper.  One of the other owners commented about how she wished her dog would do that.  It was easily the proudest I had been of him up to that point.