Sirius Training, Serious Fun!
Sirius Training, Serious Fun!

Why I Love It's Yer Choice

To take or not to take, that is the question. Rio consistently answers that as a “not to take.”  Two weekends ago I took Rio to the Pittsburgh Art’s Festival.  It was opening weekend and the weather was absolutely gorgeous (which is rare) so it was crowded as all could be.  Thousands of people at this event, loud music, and tons of super yummy food.  Since he’s been socialized to events like this, he was cool as a cucumber the entire time.  I got hungry and decided to get some yummy food.  They have a food booth section of about 15 food venues lined up next to one another.  There are no tables or places to sit and eat so people stand around or sit on the ground–either way the ground was littered in bread, lettuce, tomatoes, chicken, french fries, funnel cake, onions peppers, etc. (now I’m hungry for funnel cake!).  As I walked through looking for something to eat, Rio’s nose only went to the ground twice… he must have walked over hundreds of yummy things but he still chose not to touch all but a few (and then a simple “leave it” was enough to get him to not take the food).  I had a handful of people comment on how well behaved he was in the craziness and two of them were when we walked through the food section… they couldn’t believe that he wasn’t just eating from the buffet on the ground.

Honestly, I couldn’t either.  I was so very proud of him.  Passing up an item or two while on a walk is a good result… but the smorgasbord board of food that he passed up, with out me cuing anything,at the arts festival was truly amazing.  I thought about how it would have been with Shayne… my poor starved, formerly food aggressive, food monger…. and although she’s got a rock solid leave it, I know that if she’d been there it would have been a much bigger challenge.

So what makes them so different?  Well, Shayne was taught a “leave it” cue from the beginning.  She would leave things alone if I asked her to leave it but she was never taught to make a choice, to make a decision not to take things on her own.  Rio on the other hand didn’t learn a leave-it cue until well after he had learned how to make a choice and be rewarded for it  through It’s Yer Choice training.  I’ve recently gone back and worked with Shayne with It’s Yer Choice, and she’s done really well, but I can still see a difference.

Some of my students wonder why I dont’ start adding the “leave it” cue until the very end of a 7 week class… I explain that we are teaching their dogs to make their own choice and not just listen to your cue.  If you get a dog who can make their own choices, you won’t have to be on top of the ball as much in management.  If a dog requires a “leave it” cue to not take an item, what happens when your dog finds chicken bones before you see them?  That’s right, they are down the hatch before you can even spit the words out of your mouth.

I took some video the other day of Rio and Shayne practicing It’s Yer Choice work.  It is a set up but is comparable to what would happen if we find possible food while on a walk.  The dogs are being bated with really high-value rewards… raw pig tails and a raw chicken back… aka dinner or snacks!  Both dogs did extremely well–I was actually surprised because I’d never used such high-value bait before… so, here’s the video, I hope you enjoy!

24 Comments
  1. I love its yer choice!! I also agree that the more you don’t have to actually cue leave it, the better. The more you reward the dog for making the correct choices- the more you won’t have to cue the leave it (and you can’t cue leave it in the obedience ring) Not to mention, all the things your dog desperately wants to get can also become great reinforcers 🙂

    • Exactly, it’s so much easier to not have to be vigilant searching for potential food on the ground …. it’s okay if i see the food AFTER the dogs because they aren’t going to be lunging to get it. What i find so interesting is that dogs are often very ring-savvy and the behavior you see in the ring is never transferred to the real world. So in the ring you have a dog who doesn’t take anything off the ground, but in the real world they are Hoovers! (vacuums). I admit that until i made this video, i hadn’t done IYC outside of of the house/training facility with bait above kibble … i have often encountered people who do basic IYC but don’t know how to get a dog to not go after high value food on walks… when i ask if they’ve put high value food out while one a walk and they always look so perplexed … practice makes perfect.

  2. Interesting idea. Since Katy is starting late it will be interesting to see how she does.

    • I didn’t start Shayne with IYC until last May…. i started at the very beginning and worked our way up …. for the most part she is good…but i know if she were at the art’s festival with food all over the ground i would have had to say “leave it” a multitude of times to keep her nose up LOL!

  3. I have done this type of stuff with Risa. At least in the beginning. Though she still will eat stuff she finds when we’re out. *Sigh* And her ‘leave it’ is bad too.

    I’ve started doing something along these lines with the pup I’m training (is the same thing I did with Risa). I set out a pile of food and I wait. When the dog ignores the food and looks to me, I click and give them a reward from my hand. I have also done this with food in my hand (with Ris, not the pup yet). With Risa, the foundation is there. Maybe I just need to take it a step further. Perhaps then she’ll stop eating goose poop on walks!!!!

    • LOL oh Risa! Rio’s the same way… fortunately we don’t have too much goose poop out this way…. not so much to eat but also not so much to practice with…. i forgot about his goose poop enjoyment… maybe i’ll work on that with IYC now LOL!

  4. I’m going to have to try this version of training! because Gwynn sucks at the leave-it command (luckily, he’s not at all food guard-ey, so he only looks unhappy when I shove my hand in his mouth and remove the chicken bones (and there are a ridiculous number of chicken bones scattered throughout my nearest parks. I’m fairly sure someons’ goign in and restocking the ones I pick up and put in the trash as soon as I get out of sight!). He also really likes goosepoop, and the leftover bits of fish we find on the shoreline, from fishermen and from whatever else is eating the fish. blech.

    • I really do love IYC….Shayne is no longer food aggressive for the most part… she will grumble when she’s got a 4lb hunk of meat when I ask her to “out!” but i can take anything from her without any problem… BUT STILL… i don’t want to have to do that because that type of taking from her could easily start her wanting to guard thigns again. So IYC has been so good for that…

      • If you were to write a post about how you train IYC, that would be awesome… i’m not even sure how i’d start without using ‘leave it’ constantly… which isn’t at all what you’re looking for with IYC, i’m guessing.

        • How about a video about it … i can manage that for next week … i’ll even try to get video of foster dog dexter because he doesn’t have much experience with IYC so you’ll see a bit more of what it’s rEALLY like while training LOL!

      • a video woudl be awesome (this is my attempt to reply to your lower comment on this little thread of the comments..)… because it would be great to not have to worry much about what Gwynn was getting up to when I’m not scouting the ground ahead for ‘yummies’ 😛

  5. Love IYC. Emm is pretty good at it, but we also started with “leave it”. Next dog will start with IYC here too. 🙂

    • Leave it is great and handy but i’ll never teach it before a dog has a strong IYC foundation… i find IYC much more valuable

  6. interesting ideas… maybe I will play around with this with luna. Gonna go back and check comments to see if you ever listed any resources for your raw food.
    Anna
    http://www.akginspiration.com

    • I’m pretty sure I replied… if you have other questions re: the raw let me know… (if i didn’t you can bug me about it)

  7. i love that you train each of your dogs separately! I don’t know how many times I’ve run into people with two dogs who try to train both at the same time and make little to no progress.

    Also, IYC is very appealing. I really need to read up on it more cuz it’s very impressive. Elli doesn’t pick up much stuff when we’re on walks, and if she does, I cue a drop it and she usually does, but it would be *SO* nice not to have to react to her misbehavior and only set her up for success!

  8. Ooohh…this looks like a great technique for my foodie Lab. Can’t wait until you post about how to teach it! And great job by the way with your own dogs.

    • Thank you! It is something that i think is so important and so beneficial… ESPECIALLY for the foodie dogs LOL!

  9. Ahh, something I started to try and teach but never really stuck to it. I really need to get on this. Lol 😀 Thanks for the reminder. So much stuff to do, and what feels like so little time. Lol

  10. I haven’t ever taught a leave-it by default, will have to reconsider this. I don’t have much trouble using a cue in the time it takes me to drop my pizza, though. 🙂

    • In a house with up to 4 scavenger dogs and 3 cats… there are times i’m making something on the cupboard when an item falls of… with the potential rush of 7 animals … i really prefer the default leave-it… until i used it with Rio i didn’t really find the value but since i have… i’ll never go back LOL!). It’s also great while on walks… if i can’t see potential dangerous yums in the grass or dirt or what not… i don’t have to worry about the dogs finding it first and me having to ask a dog to “leave it” or “out” a high value food item that is already in their mouths.

  11. This sounds like a great technique! I’d also love a video of how you start the training process. Skye is finally able to turn away from objects with the leave it command, but we do so many off leash activities that it would be nice to teach her to make her own decisions. Thanks!

    • Check for that this week some time, i have a lot of videos to put together so it will probably be near the end of the week… we’ll see if I can’t get something put together showing the steps

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