I’ve tried out MANY dog training techniques, tools, games and cues on my Bears, particularly with Jack. Jack is and continues to be energetic, playful and above all else, willing to work. The motivation he demonstrates each and every day, makes my job so much easier in teaching him something new.
Before my profession took a turn towards dog training, I had no clue in how to or the benefits of harnessing a dog’s energy. In the beginning, I was often overwhelmed, frustrated and ultimately confused in how to get a Jack Russell Terrier whose breed is used for hunting foxes. JRT’s tenacious prey drive gets them revved up for foxes, rabbits or other small animals. Their stockier build and short stature make it possible for them to track down an animal into its den. Even though I felt overwhelmed with figuring out what to do with Jack, I’m sure Jack felt the same way. He totally needed and continue to need a job to do.
My husband and I worked with Jack on strengthening his nose work abilities. Dog’s sense of smell is one of their primary ways of how they recognize people, things and other animals, it also the main mode of how they detect changes in weather, body posture and physical changes like cancer and other diseases. Their scent ability is how dogs are trained in such areas as search and rescue and drug recovery in police units. Check out this article on “dogs detecting traces of gasoline down to one billionth of a teaspoon”, pretty amazing how intelligent they are and this is only the tip of the iceberg.
A fun game I’ve incorporated with Jack is playing “Find It”.
What this boils down to is when Jack shows signs of his ears being forward, on his toes, his tail high and vibrating and he is watching (mostly at this point in time) another dog, I toss a treat over his head and I say “find it”. He immediately, turns around and starts sniffing the ground. Once he gets what he was looking for, the other dog is out of the picture. The dog being out of the picture and Jack removing his attention away and doing something else-sniffing the ground, moves Jack from reacting to the other dog and puts that building energy into something productive. On top of that, he is rewarded for playing and he learns this game happens when other dogs are present.
The best part, the teaching and learning is fun for both him and me.
How to teach “Find It” (This is a great game of not only teaching an incompatible behavior, but it also can be used to teach your dog impulse control
1. Start inside your home and simply toss treats in front of your dog. When your dog goes to get them, say “find it” and praise and reward when he does.
2. As your dog learns the rules, raise the challenge. Instead of tossing the treats in front of him, toss them over his head and say “Find It” praise and reward when he does.
3. Adding more complexity, toss them a bit away from him and say “Find It” when you do. Praise and reward when your dog does in fact, find it!
4. Now, bring in varying size boxes and practice the steps above!
5. Finally, bringing this game outside in your yard. Make sure to use bigger pieces of their favorite food and start Step 1. The reason for this is so your dog is remains motivated to find the special treat instead of getting interested in other scents. Progress as your dog is getting the hang of the game while being outside.
Lastly, encourage him to play the game when you have other dogs around (first at a great distance and then decrease the distance as your dog is able to be involved playing the game).
This game will make you and your dog change your minds and have fun while playing!