We all want to keep our valuable things. That’s why we lock our doors and some people keep guns. Dogs (and other animals) are no different – many dogs are reluctant to give up a valuable item, be it a favorite toy, a raw meatbone, a tasty piece of cat poop from the garden, or your bedroom shoe.
Some dogs guard their valuables so vigorously that they will hurt anyone who tries to take them away. We call this “resource protection”. It’s natural, normal behavior. Owning valuables is an important survivability. If you let someone take your food away from you in the wild, you are likely to die.
Connected: What is resource conservation and what should you do about it?
Even so, we sometimes have to take things away from our dogs. Cat poop is gross and your slipper is precious to you. So it’s nice to be able to remove these from his jaws. More importantly, if your dog has something harmful – a cooked chicken bone or a pack of rat poison, you to have be able to take it away.
While some dogs will allow you to forcibly remove things from their mouths, the more aggressive you try to take things away, the more aggressive you get. As with all dogs, it is far better to convince our dogs to be collaborative partners than to force them to do what we want.
The trading game
When you teach trading, you are promising your dog something of value in exchange for the valuable item (in his eyes) that he has in his mouth. (Cat poo may not be valuable to humans, but it is incredibly valuable to many canines!). How to teach it:
1. Say “Take it!” and give your dog an item of little value – something he will easily give up in exchange for some quality treat. (You can tie it to something solid so it doesn’t run away with the item.)
2. Let him smell your high quality treat, but don’t try to slide it into his mouth. (Anything that looks like coercion will likely increase its resistance.) Don’t use your cue yet! Have a large handful of high quality treats.
3. If he drops the item, click your clicker (or use another marker). While he nibbles on the goodies in your hand, pick up the item with yours other Hand and hide it behind your back. You have to use two hands !!! If you let him eat the high quality goodies and then run him back to the object, you will likely lose the race and Trigger resource protection.
4. Once the goodies are gone, bring the object out from behind your back and say “Take it!” and give it to him. This teaches him that he doesn’t always lose the item – he will trade with you and get it back immediately. This will make him more ready to trade with you again in the future. It is a win for him!
5. If he doesn’t drop the item, make a “Hansel and Gretel” trail of treats under his nose and pull a foot or so to the side. After following the trail, take his mouth with the goodies in your hand and pick up the item with your other hand.
6. If he still does not drop the item, use an item of lower value and / or trades of higher value. (Meat, no dry biscuits.) If after trading high quality goodies, if he shows no interest in the item, use a higher quality item and / or off-the-shelf goodies of lower value.
7. If he drops the item for your treats, say “Bargain!” Take a short break first, then offer treats. Click when he drops the item and pick up the item with your free hand while you keep him busy nibbling on goodies.
8. After several repetitions, sometimes pause a few seconds longer before offering treats. Your goal is to get him to drop the object when you “Trade!” Say. In front They offer goodies. If he does this reliably, you have “on cue” behavior – he drops the object because he understood the cue, not just because you stuck goodies under his nose.
While ideally you always have something in hand (or in your pocket) that you can sell your dog in stores, your dog will still give up the poisonous fungus in his emergency if you train it well enough in an emergency, even without it Treats mouth when he “trades!” hears cue. This works best when you remember to use your cheerful “training game” voice, not your “Omigosh, it’s an emergency” panic voice. Train “trading” well … your careful training could save your dog’s life.
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