"The Peeing Post"

Newsletter for dog lovers who respect the dog's nature

Chief Editor: Mogens Eliasen

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Trick or Treat?


Dear $first_name,

Did you make good progress with your recall training? If you are stuck with it, you can always arrange a call with me at http://k9joy.com/dogtraining/askthebehaviorist.php so we can discuss what you can be doing better.

Today, I would like to discuss another example of using the four boxes. This time for training of fetching. I am not talking about any "stylish" competition performance - that's quite a complicated task to embark on - but to simply get your dog to return the ball to you instead of running away with, trying to make you start a chase...

Most people know this annoying problem. It often stops them from engaging deeply in fetch and catch games with their dog. The problem is that the dog does not understand why you don't want to chase it when it has the ball....

The behavior you want is this: that dog must come to you and let go of that ball! Notice, it is not the same as "returning to you" and it is not the same as "letting go of that ball". Neither is it "letting go of the ball and returning to you". The last one is most likely what you would get if you used your recall...

You are in on a game of balance. If you use your incitement from the recall exercise, chances are that the dog will forget about the ball and simply return to you without it. But if you modify that incitement to something that is less encouraging, yet still attractive, you might be able to accomplish what you want. It will take that you experiment with it, until you find out what you can make work. It may involve that you restrict yourself to certain specific situations where the dog is not too excited about the game, or where the distances are short - or whatever! You simply have to find out what those circumstances are!

Remembering now that you pay a 10 point penalty for every time you use your command and you cannot carry through with all four boxes, you realize that you cannot use any command for this experimenting... But you still want to make progress, so every time you have a success, you promptly reward it! The best reward you have is probably throwing the ball - and doing it instantly the dog comes back to you and lets go when you try to grab the ball. Don't worry about any precision in the delivery - all that counts is the dog's intent to let you have the ball.

At this time, you now be very careful about not rewarding the dog by throwing the ball, unless it volunteers giving it up when you grab it. If the dog tries to make a tug-of-war game out of your grabbing for the ball, or a chasing game, then you turn your back and quit interacting with the dog - the game is over! And you have to be serious about that! What you are doing here is this: you make the dog understand that there is no other way of getting the ball game rolling than bringing the ball and giving it to you.

This is a most likely a turning point in your training. This is a time where most people get things screwed up, because they give in and let their emotions control - not their rational part of the brain. It is tempting to simply join the dog's game - but a serious pack leader cannot do that. A serious pack leader, you will only play your game. You might invite the dog to join - but it has to be on your terms. This attitude is paramount to your success with your dog training - and to your ability to develop the relationship with your dog to the ultimate enjoyment for both you and your dog.

I know it sounds contradictory, but the truth is that dogs enjoy being led by a powerful pack leader. They enjoy the fact of having such a leader far, far above any possible short-term enjoyment of any small immediate "benefits" they could have by taking advantage of your weaknesses. They are much more content with your not having any such weaknesses.

If you want to understand this in greater detail, you can

Leadership is tough. But it can be learned. I have taught it to thousands of dog owner and trainers. The worst part is to get you to accept, deeply in your mind, that it is not only OK to be the boss - it is actually what your dog wants the most! We are, unfortunately, brought up in our western society to see democracy as the only way of making society work.

While this might be right for people who have a much more complex ability to abstract thinking than a dog, it is for sure not true in the dog's world. Dogs don't thrive when rules are messy and all dependent on the situation. They cannot comprehend that. They don't deal well with flexibility. They need structure and firm rules. But they feel safe and content when they know their pack is led by the most powerful and competent pack leader they ever met! Be proud of that! Once you see how true this is, it becomes a natural part of your life - you will even become a better person, also in your relationships with other people, simply by having this experience.

When you do this a fairly large number of times, you will increase the odds of the dog doing what you want. At the same time, you get better at predicting what the conditions will be for your success. When you come to the point of feeling confident that you can indeed make the four boxes become reality at least nine out of ten times you use the command, simply by being selective about the times you use the command, you add a good command to the sequence!

And now you are into the serious training - with the four boxes working for you:


(Remember, two syllables only, so you pronounce it "DLIVER")



You encourage the dog to come to you and give you the ball



The dog comes to you and lets you take the ball



You throw the ball for the dog to chase it

Nice and simple. When you continue following these fours boxes, the result will be that, on your command "DLIVER!" (or whatever other choice you made), the dog will want to bring you the ball so you can throw it. If it already has the ball in its mouth, it will bring it to you. If not and provided you have trained well for quite some time), it will go looking for that ball, and, when it finds it, bring it to you to throw. As you see, this can be developed into a very nice search exercise also - great brainwork! And you can lie in your hammock and read a book while the dog is doing all the work and getting all the exercise...

Please give it a good try. I promise, it is worth it!


Cheers and woof,

Mogens Eliasen


If you have any suggestions to contributions or contents of The Peeing Post, or some comments or questions pertaining to this issue or in to dogs in general, I will be happy to know about them. If I can find an answer for you, I will!

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