After viewing my videos of Ren and Ash, Gerstralians Extraordinaire laying down with meat covering their faces while not actually eating said meat, one of my FB friends posted this picture of a dog with biscuits on its head and holding three in its mouth (Which you can find here, should you be so inclined.)and asked me when I was going to get the dogs doing that.
Well, I haven’t quite done that as I have no biscuits currently, nor do I have treats that will reliably stay on their heads. So, I used chicken jerky instead, and only one piece, because damn it, that crap is more expensive than biscuits. Besides, the temptation of actual meat MUST vastly outstrip that of biscuit thus making it equal to three of them, right?
My apologies for the poor quality of the videos and lack of photos, but my good camera has no batteries.
And then, Renjaminge.
No, those are in no way their actual names.
Now, because I typed it all out on Facebook for another friend anyway, I will detail how I taught them.
First off the creature to be taught must know how to gently take a treat from your hand. I assume the creatures in question know this, but on the very offhand chance I’m wrong, it’s a really easy thing to teach them. You just hold the treat in your fist with only a tiny piece sticking out, and move it towards the critter’s gob, if the critter lunges for it, you quickly pull back, continue this until they no longer lunge, and then make them slowly take it from your hand, I say “Nicely” when I do this. Oh, they also need to know the “stay” command at least vaguely.
Moving on to the actual trick! I have no idea how anyone else did this, I played it by ear.
Step 1 – Prepare to be drooled upon. You might want to wear gloves, and possibly a raincoat should you have a dog of the extremely drooly persuasion. You are going to be very much in the splash zone.
Step 2 – Take a long treat and while holding about two thirds of it in your hand, let the dog take the other end in its mouth. If they chew, say no and/or remove the treat entirely until they stop. Praise them when they stop chewing.
Step 3 – Take your free hand and gently hold the snout closed so they don’t drop it. Slowly remove the hand on the treat while giving the “stay” command. At any sign of chewing or snout opening, put your hands back.
I find that giving a visual stay command once you have one hand free, works especially well as it gives the dog something to focus on and think about instead of the food.
Step 4 – Remove hands completely while maintaining the visual stay command and/or repeating it verbally. The first time, unless your creature is smarter than Ash and Ren, they will scarf it down. On the second try, they both slurped the treat into their gobs, but they didn’t chew or swallow, (I said “No” when they did this) and I pulled the treats back out. I was slimed. It was gross. Really… really gross. Eventually you won’t need to keep repeating the stay command, assuming your dog knows that a stay command is only ended by a release command. (I use “OK” or “Go Ahead” for mine. It might seem logical to use “Good” but that presents problems when you want to use good to praise an action that isn’t actually finished yet such as in step 3.)
It took Ash four tries to get it and he was pretty damned close on the third. Ren took five tries.
Wash, rinse, repeat until you can remove your hands and step away.
I would estimate that for reinforcement, I rely about 10% on negative and 90% on positive. And my negative consists of a firm, short, “No” at normal volume and at a low pitch. My praise generally consists of my talking exuberant baby talk and lavishing petting and ass-scratches upon them.