Getting a dog to cooperate

The question asked as part of my coursework for the ISCP’s Diploma in Canine Psychology was:

Give an example of how you taught a dog to cooperate with you.

And here is my answer:

Rufus was a boarder at the Refuge where I used to volunteer. (I now work there full-time). His boarding card said he was excitable and likely to chew his lead. I went into his kennel to slip on a lead, and immediately after the lead was on, true enough, Rufus started chewing and biting at it.

I stopped and waited for Rufus to stop chewing the lead. After a minute, he noticed that he wasn’t going anywhere, so he stopped what he was doing and nudged me to find out what was happening. I opened the kennel door and led him out. Once outside the kennel, Rufus’s excitement got the better of him again. He started pulling at the lead, eager to get to the exercise yards. Again, when he pulled, I simply stopped walking and stood still. When Rufus realised he wasn’t going anywhere fast, he stopped pulling and came over to where I was standing, and nudged me again with his nose. I then started walking, and after a few more mistakes, where Rufus forgot himself and started pulling at the lead again, and I stopped and waited for him to come back to me on his own accord, we eventually got to the yard.

Once in the yard and off-leash, I discovered that Rufus was a ball fiend. He would chase the ball and bring it back to me, but then when I reached for it with the plastic ball flinger, he would dart at the flinger and nip it. This made it difficult for me to pick the ball up and throw it again. This happened a few times, then I decided to teach Rufus better manners.

The next time Rufus went for the ball flinger again, I redirected his attention to a tasty treat in my hand. I called his name, and when he came for the treat, I asked him to Sit. When he sat, I gave him the treat. Then I went to pick up the ball again with the flinger. Again, Rufus went for the flinger. He seemed to think it was all part of the game. Perhaps his owners had inadvertantly taught him that at home. I repeated the Redirect-Sit-Treat process again, and several times more, until finally, after about 10 minutes of this, Rufus got the idea. From then on, he fetched the ball, dropped it at my feet, and was happy to then sit and wait for his treat, giving me the chance to pick the ball up with the flinger without having a dog hanging off the end of it. The first dozen times I taught Rufus this new behaviour, I gave him a treat every time. After that, I only gave him a treat every other time, or sporadically, so he realised that he could not predict when he would get a treat or not, and ended up behaving well every single time.

Upon leaving the exercise yard to go back to his kennel, Rufus tried once again to chew the lead. Again, I used the Redirect-Sit-Treat process, and after a few tries, Rufus learnt his lesson and stopped trying to get at the lead. He was a dream dog to walk back to the kennel.

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(Image source: Google Images)

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