Every once in a while, I’m reminded that we are sometimes smarter than our dogs. Using that slight mental advantage when training might be of value to you. I’ll use sleight of hand to keep my guys on their toes, surprised, ready for anything. Or, to simply break up routines and avoid getting stuck in ruts. Either way, they’re thinking, situationally aware and paying attention. And those are good things. See if these magic acts make sense to you.
Dogs that jump up probably have a good reason. Often I’ve got a bowl of food in my hand. I want Manny to “heel” alongside me enroute to his crate where he eats as I deliver his bowl. But his walking is more like a series of hops, as he’s hoping to get at the bowl before we get to the crate.
Yesterday I switched hands, put my body between bowl and dog, out of sight. I got a sequence of nice, polite walking at heel all the way to the crate. It’s not as flashy as a rabbit out of a hat, but it worked.
Sometimes at the glimpse of a training bird, a fired-up pup can’t contain himself, spinning, jumping, and whining out of control. So I keep the bird well hidden until I can spring it my unsuspecting dog. The shock factor is often enough to freeze him in his tracks – eliciting a point.
I can think of a number of ways to outsmart a dog some of the time. Hiding from a pup in the field encourages him to stay aware of your location. Put two planted birds in the same spot, then flushing one while the dog points the other could help him hold steady through the first bird’s flight.
Surreptitiously dropping a bird while out walking, then asking your dog to “hunt dead” gets the drop on him, too. Even walking to a shot bird to pick it up yourself rather than let your dog retrieve it could be considered a trick.
Hiding food treats so their provision is an unexpected surprise is almost a Magic 101-level trick, but it works. But don’t torment your trainee. If you praise with food treats, be upfront when you’re not using them. I show my empty hands to my dogs before I ask them to do something for which they are accustomed to getting a tidbit.
Manny gets an adrenaline rush when he spots his e-collar. He is wiggling so much, I can barely get the collar on him. So I’ll hide it in my vest, give him 60 seconds of unbounded joy outside the gate, then call him and slip on the collar without all the drama of a minute ago.
The list goes on and on. Think about how you need to dial down, change up or otherwise alter the status quo with your dog. A magic trick up your sleeve might be just what you need.