Welcome to Day 60 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!
Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.
At a glance:
- last time, Day 52, we did your favourite ‘trick’ behaviour, today you will be working on MY favourite!
- “middle” is often referred to as ‘peek-a-boo’ and involves the dog moving around one of your legs so that they stand or sit between your legs, facing the same direction as you
- trick-training is often approached differently and thought of differently
- there’s no such thing as “just a trick – it’s ALL tricks to the dog
- this simple ‘trick’ can be applied to lots of real life situations, as well as being a cute ‘peek-a-boo’ part piece
- get the family involved in this one – children can be great dog trainers with lots of guidance, and lots of these behaviours are child-friendly, and make maintaining the peace with kids and K9s easier.
Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
- training exercises can be practiced in individual sessions of no more than 30 seconds at a time; have as many sessions as you can!
What do you need?
- food rewards – you can use your dog’s regular food, a training mix, commercial treats, home prepared treats such as cut up meats, cheese, vegetables or homemade treats such as liver or tuna cake
- toys or access to anything that your dog will work for
I am not a massive ‘trick training’ fan. But, I do love the enthusiasm and lightness that people bring to teaching trick behaviours – it’s seen as frivolous and fun…all teaching should be approached in the same way because it’s all tricks to the dogs.
Teaching simple behaviours, without the pressure of OBEDIENCE, brings benefits to both ends of the lead.
For the dog:
- confidence & relationship building
- mental exercise
- appropriate physical outlets, rehab & conditioning
- fun, positive associations with training
- more relaxed approach to training
- break up duration behaviours
- might improve the image of a dog
- the dog learns how to learn – this is just another puzzle to your dog…”how do I train the human to make rewards available?!“…it’s all human training, for dogs!
- to teach the dog that their human will ask for behaviour and will make sure reinforcement is available – this reduces stress by improving predictability and controlability
For the human:
- lots of more practical applications – real life situations
- might facilitate diversions, stress-reduction, focus & engagement, managing behaviour
- fun, positive associations with training
- improved approach to training
- more relaxed approach to training
- involve kids in teaching appropriate tricks
- improves trainer skills – mechanical skills, observation skills, planning
- learn how your dog learns
While training exercises certainly fall into the cognitive enrichment category, they can provide so much more.
Providing dogs with cues allows for a complex level of communication between two species; you are merely requesting that the dog perform behaviour (he already knows how to do the behaviour…they can already drop things) and that request comes with a contract. Respond appropriately to this signal and rewards are coming your way. That’s the deal…that’s what being a good teacher is about – keeping your word and making it easy for your dog to train you.
This forges the most healthy of relationships between our two species. This is a level of social enrichment that’s tricky to replicate.
When we talk about enrichment being enriching, this is never more clear than when we start to teach behaviours intentionally. It’s the human’s job to set the dog up for success by making sure the behaviour is doable and that rewards are fast-flowing.
There’s no test at the end of this and you and your pet are not under any pressure. Learn to enjoy the time together, whether you achieve the goal behaviour or not. That’s what’s enriching here…the social and cognitive outlets such exercises provide (for both species).
What goals can you add to this list for your pets?
How can we achieve these goals?
- although you can use any reward that your dog will work for, using small food rewards that are quick to eat are best for these exercises so we can have lots of fast repetitions
- keep it simple and split behaviour – reward approximations toward the final behaviour, rather than hoping that your dog will offer the goal behaviour quickly
- take your time and work in many short sessions
- try for 30 seconds at a time, 5-10 rewards each session, and then take a break
- portion out your dog’s daily food and allot some for training exercises
- make a training mix by adding in something yummier and leaving it all to ‘cook’ together in the fridge; the smells will mingle, harder foods will soften a little, and everything will become more valuable
- remember to adjust your pet’s diet accordingly to accommodate the extra calories from treats added, where relevant
- split your food rewards into little bowls with just the right number of rewards in each bowl so that you are ready to go; stick bowls of rewards in places where you may need to teach and reward behaviours so that you have rewards ready to go
If you are feeding wet or fresh foods, cut up small or mash to a paste and present on a wooden spoon or spatula. Alternatively you can freeze in small ice cube trays or a pyramid baking tray so that you can use small portions and individual treats.
What adjustments will you make for your pets?
Applications of the “middle” trick
I prefer to approach tricks from the applicable point of view.
How can these behaviours offer real-life benefits?
What behaviours can I teach, with a tricks-attitude, that really benefit the dog’s experience?
I want to concentrate on teaching behaviours that benefit the animal, that they might choose as behavioural solutions in their day to day life. “Middle” can be a simple solution for lots of applications.
Middle can be applied as a cute trick, to position or line-up the dog, as part of play, games and enthusiasm-building, to restrain or confine the dog, to divert the dog and in husbandry situations.
Option 1 Teach “middle”
To teach this simple behaviour we will use a technique called luring. This means to guide the dog into position with a food reward held at his nose. The dog is rewarded with the lure when he gets in position.
Start with a food reward in each hand. The reward in your right hand is the lure and the one in your left hand is the lure.
- stand with your legs slightly wider than shoulder width apart
- hold the lure under your thumb and show it to your dog
- move your right hand out and around your right leg
- if needed, reward the dog, by dropping the lure, just behind your knees, to start with
- when they eat that treat, drop the treat from your left hand just in front of you so that the dog moves through your legs
- after a few trials, stop dropping the reward behind you and instead only reward with the treat in front
Soon you will be able to get rid of that lure in your right hand. Just move your empty lure hand as you did and your dog will follow it.
Continue to reward with the treat in your left hand.
The first minute of this clip demonstrates the step-by-step to teach this behaviour:
Option 2 Middle for focus
Once your dog is moving into middle position, without a lure being needed, we can begin to adapt this trick behaviour to lots of different applications.
To build duration in middle position, feed the dog in position, rather than tossing the treat to the floor with left hand.
Feed up high and your dog might find it easier to sit; you could ask them to sit too. Feed five treats in position and then toss one out so that you an repeat.
You will notice that your dog is immediately focusing on you when they move into middle position.
Practice in lots of different places.
Option 3 Line up!
Ask your dog to move into middle position, feed them in position and/or ask them to sit.
If the dog can hold position ask them to wait or stay (or whatever cue or exercise you use).
In this clip, I use a middle position to line Decker up for the next rep:
Option 4 Build enthusiasm
Sending the dog to middle position and then out again, after a tossed treat, is a great way to activate and build enthusiasm for returning to you. On Day 43, we worked on fast and fun recalls and this exercise is a great addition to your practice.
Option 5 Middle as diversion
Every day, I use middle position to keep Decker with me, to restrain him in one place safely, or to turn or divert him away from something such as traffic or passersby.
We can teach the dog to turn in middle position by tossing the treat in the direction you intend to move.
Option 6 Middle for husbandry training
Middle position offers lots of applications for husbandry procedures. My favourite applications here are to use the middle position as a way for small or young dogs to consent to being picked up and to position the dog, along with a chin target, for a jugular blood draw.
The priority when training any husbandry exercise is to make sure that you develop true CERs (Conditioned Emotional Responses) to the goings on so that the dog becomes comfortable and enjoys the procedure, rather than attempting to avoid or merely tolerating.
Layer each stage of difficulty carefully and gradually so as to build that positive attitude at every step.
Build joy in the middle position behaviour first and once you have that, then you can gradually add picking up, a little at a time, across many sessions:
Teach a middle position and a chin target (Day 15) behaviours separately. Once there is joy in each, practice chin targets in middle position.
Handling and manipulation can be added VERY gradually to that for a blood draw.
Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!
Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂
We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – have fun & brain games!