The fun art of keeping yourself together

Let me just give you a great piece of advice for your training: Reversed luring. I don’t know how people train without it, I really don’t J

I use reversed luring in two ways: In order to help the dog learn to control itself (which is a dreadfully important skill when hunting, in everyday life, in obedience training, etc, etc) and as distraction training. The two kind of morph together after a while. I’ll go through how I train, but let’s first take a look at what reversed luring really is. When I use reversed luring, I want the dog to think ”Aha, you’re trying to trick me into quitting doing what I’m doing, but I’m not falling for it! I know my job!”.  I always begin teaching the dog reversed luring using a treat. I continue on to using a toy and also a combination of treats and toys. But one thing at a time! Let’s begin with the treat.

DO THIS: Reversed luring with a treat
Here’s two videos of Quling learning reversed luring. The first video shows the very first training session, and the second video is from the second session. This is also my very first organized training session with my puppy. I chose to begin with reversed luring after noticing that my puppy was a bit ”crazy”, and probably will need a lot of work on self control both now and in the coming years to learn how to resist temptations.

As you can see, the ”rule” is that I close my hand when he makes a mistake, while an open hand means that he’s doing the right thing. With a dog that is this eager, I can’t begin to introduce this rule directly. First, I just want him to begin to understand what the game is about. I think that Quling, who’s a very soft dog, was a bit uneasy when I closed my hand quickly and happened to touch his nose a couple of times (that’s why he backed away during the last repetitions).

In the beginning of the video, I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to reward him. I try using my left hand to take the treat and reward him, but it’s not working. But he did learn where the treat came from in record time! 😉 I quickly changed my strategy and let him take the treat when I cued ”ok”. He didn’t know that cue before this training, so it evolved into teaching that too.

A common mistake that many people make in the beginning, is being stingy and asking for too much from the dog, wanting the dog to figure out the game straight away. Don’t make that mistake! Be quick to reward your dog as soon as he moves his head away from the hand ever so slightly. It might just be for a quarter of a second and in the beginning it might just be by chance.

Make sure to keep your training sessions super short with a puppy. Preferably set a timer. Maybe 1 minute is suitable, before taking a break? A great many puppies need even shorter sessions. You’ll notice if your dog ”loses it” and doesn’t manage to keep focused or doesn’t make any progress. If this happens, you have been training for too long. Try to never put yourselves in that situation and keep your sessions short right off the bat.

My first training session lasted less than 11 minutes in total. But in that time I for example took the time to answer a handyman, put Totte and Tassla back on station, cuddle and play with Quling, get more treats and check if the camera was on. I’m guessing actual training took place for about 5 minutes over 6 short sessions.

Here’s our second training session:

After this session, I began to transfer reversed luring into different situations in our everyday life. When I was having a snack on the couch, when we were going for a walk but he first needed to sit quietly in the hallway, when the dogs came to me on a recall and I wanted to reward them one by one (I call the dog’s name that is getting the treat and no one gets to go for the treat, everyone has to sit quietly).

The goal of the exercise is for the dog to be able to control itself, both in its’ everyday life and in training, according to the principle: ”Leave it –and it will be yours”. Further down the road, my dog needs to be able to sit when he’s flushed game or when seeing a dummy or game being thrown or retrieved by another dog. Self-control is everything!

DO THIS: Reversed luring with a toy
I also teach reversed luring using a toy. The principle is the same as with treats: “Leave it – and it will be yours”. Here’s a video of our first training session using a toy:

The goal of the exercise is the same as in the exercise with treats. I just pick up the pace a bit and for us this becomes a good transition to fun steadiness to wing exercises. Many dogs find this distraction exercise a bit more challenging, since they are playing intensely and then have to exercise self-control. This is handy both for obedience training and hunting, with all the transitions between full on speed and being calm and collected.

DO THIS: Reversed luring with toy and treat, ”play through distraction”
Finally, I play a game that is more plain distraction training and a really great game to play if you have a dog that lets go of toys prematurely or likes to chew them. It’s also a great game for teaching the puppy to let go on a ”thank you” cue. BUT. It’s a game that I refrain from playing until the puppy is really good at playing with toys. Don’t do this until your puppy really hangs on to the toy and really enjoys letting go. I don’t think Quling plays well enough yet (he’s losing his teeth as I’m writing this), so I’ll show you this with Totte.

  1. Get the dog engaged in playing
  2. When the game is on, take a boring treat in your hand and hold it far away from the toy, for example close to your leg (see the beginning of the video). Keep your hand closed in a fist at first.
  3. Let your fist with the treat move closer to the dog and the toy. When the dog is pulling back well on the toy with a good grip, cue ”thank you” and place the treat by the dog’s nose.
  4. Repeat and don’t let the dog let go on its own accord. If you see your dog glancing at the hand but maintaining its hold, cue ”thank you”!
  5. Make the game more challenging by having your treat hand open. Begin with the hand far away again.

The most common mistake that people make, is making the game far too difficult. Some dogs are so crazy about treats that they need to stay at the stage where they are playing while your just holding a treat in your closed fist by your leg for quite some time. Don’t forget to reward the dog with getting the treat at this stage too. The rule is: Do what I want and you’ll get what you want.

The goal of the exercise is to teach the dog to hold on to an object, whatever happens, until I cue to let go. You can also use reversed luring to get the dog to hold on without chewing, or just work on longer duration if you have a dog with a tendency of letting go.

Read more in the book. You’ll find reversed luring and how you can develop that game on page 56.


4 thoughts on “The fun art of keeping yourself together”

  1. Michael Brooks

    A very interesting post Lena. I realise that it is entirely appropriate that you use your own language when teaching your dogs. For the non-Swedish viewers it might be beneficial to indicate what you are saying to your puppy. You might be saying quite a bit or very little. Given my complete lack of knowledge of Swedish I could not tell for example whether it was just yes and good boy or something else. Regards

  2. Hi Michael! I will try to remember to translate it a little better next time. 🙂 I say TACK every time when I want him to let go of the toy. That means thank you. The rest of it is just me encourage him.

  3. Hi! I listened to your podcast with Jo recently (an old one!) and have your book too. Lots of great ideas! Can I ask about reverse luring? When training the dog only to take the treat from our hand only on a word (“ok” for example) how do we avoid confusion in other training exercises where we just give the treat without a word? Would we need to use the release word (“ok”) for every time we give a treat now? For consistency?

    1. Thank you, we’re so happy to hear that! Usually that isn’t a problem, the dogs learn what to expect in different contexts. If I want them to take the treat I move my hand towards them and give them the treat, if it’s reversed luring I start with my hand some distance away from them and gradually move my open hand closer. If they try to take it I close my hand – and then they also learn that the closed hand means not to take the treat in this situation. So no, I wouldn’t start using a release word every time I reward, just in the reversed luring situation

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.