By Dr Sophia Yin
It’s one thing to show class participants how to perform certain exercises and to have them practice in class but providing an opportunity to practice them in the context closer to real life using games and prizes turns a regular class into a spectacular event!
We did just this in our first ever Learn to Earn Scavenger Hunt at my house last week, which was week five of a six-week beginning dog training class. The class was comprised of first-time dog owners, experienced dog owners, as well as humans who foster dogs for shelters and rescue groups.
What the Learn to Earn Program is About
With my version of the Learn to Earn Program, which is detailed in chapter 5 of Perfect Puppy in 7 Days (> 100 photos), dogs are leashed to their owners during interactions throughout the day and the owners require that they sit automatically whenever the owner is stationary and whenever the dog wants something, such as petting, play, to go out the door, to get her leash on. As importantly the dogs learn that saying please by sitting is the only way that they get what they want.
The goal is that owners gain an understanding of how every interaction they have with their dog is a training session, and how by being aware of every interaction, they can change habits in their dogs virtually overnight. In this intensive Learn to Earn Program, dogs quickly learn:
- to ask for what they want politely by automatically sitting rather than taking what they want for free
- to gain impulse control
- to look to their humans for guidance
Humans learn how to be clear and consistent and to give rewards at exactly the right time while removing rewards for unwanted behaviors.
In class we broke exercises into seven missions with a little prize at the end of each. Plus upon completion of a task they also picked up a “Mission Completed” card and those who had the most cards received their pick of prizes at the end. Participants could perform the missions in any order. Here are some of the missions and how the dogs and owners did.
Mission: The Kitchen
|Bunny demonstrates that she can wait patiently while her human does dishes in the sink. She’s learned that she can be patient even when her human isn’t looking because her human rewards Bunny even when Bunny is sitting behind her.||Bunny can also wait patiently while her human gets stuff out of the refrigerator and can even wait when food is accidentally dropped on the floor! She does both without having to be told what to do because the sit is automatic.|
|Cailey shows that she can sit patiently while her human gets stuff out of the refrigerator too.|
Mission: Hanging Out
|After accompanying his owners around the house, sticking close to their side, Riley shows that he can automatically sit and remain seated when the owners relax on the couch.||He can even remain seated when the owners reach into the goodie box for their own treats.|
|Anna shows that she can lie down calmly as her human works on the computer. She’s looking at the MannersMinder remote controlled food dispenser which is perfect for rewarding dogs at timed intervals for remaining in a calm down-stay.|
Mission: Book Delivery
|You often don’t realize how many times during a simple route that dogs should be sitting. In this mission, dogs sat to go out a sliding glass door and in another door in order to get to the den. Here M’Haile demonstrates part two where she sat while her human got a book off the bookshelf.||Then she sat in order to go through the babygate.|
|Bunny shows the final leg of this route. She sits politely as her human goes to place the book onto a different bookshelf and then tidy the books. Her human appropriately rewards her for sitting before she’s about to put the book away and then another reward after. The goal is to give treats frequently enough to keep the dog remaining seated and then over the next few days giving fewer and fewer treats and rewarding more with other motivators too, such as petting or gaining access to what they wanted.|
Mission: The Front Door
|Here Rocky demostrates that he can sit to greet people at the door.||And he can remain seated while his mom checks the mailbox for a cool surprise. It’s important to be able to keep your dog sitting calmly in this type of situation since you wouldn’t want him to sprint off or dive at people or dogs passing by.|
Mission: Folding Laundry
|Rocky also shows that he can lie down calmly while his human is folding laundry. To get to the laundry room, he had to heel throughout the house.||Rocket shows that he can perform this mission too.|
|And being young doesn’t keep Chico, a 5 month old Maltese mix, from completing this mission.|
|Upon completion of each mission, humans earned a fun reward for them or for their dog. And at the end of the 30 minute game, each participant claimed a prize from the prize basket.|
Overall the class was great learning experience for the humans and a benefit for their dogs. What did the humans think? The most common comment, “It was the best class we’ve ever attended.”
What games do you play in your classes?