Reinforcement drives behavior so we start by teaching each puppy our reinforcement strategies, otherwise known as marker cues. Each marker cue informs the puppy on how and where to access their reinforcement. We use different marker cues to reinforce specific behaviors and to create our training loop. For instance, a tossed cookie works great for creating a training loop for recall practice. As the puppy retrieves the tossed cookie we can call their name, when they turn around and start moving towards us we can then toss another cookie away and repeat the loop. But a tossed cookie may not work so well when working on holding a sit or down position while we move away. In this case, it would make sense to use a different marker cue that lets the puppy know the food is coming to them.
Yep– dog takes food from the hand- Stand still with hands at your side, say “yep” then reach for a piece of food and hand it to your dog. Repeat several times.
Find it– dog chases tossed food- Stand still with hands at your side, say “find it” then reach for a piece of food, show it to your dog, and drop it on the ground. Repeat several times working from a dropped treat to a tossed treat. We want your dog to hear “find it” then look at your hand to see where the food is going to be tossed. Tracking the food should be easy for them.
Take it– dog takes food from the ground or other easy to reach spot where you have placed food. Start by placing a dish on one side of you and hold your puppy by the collar/harness on the other side. Place a piece of food in the dish and when your puppy releases pressure from trying to move forward or looks at you say “take it” and let them go. Repeat several times, work up to placing the food on the floor instead of in the dish.
Scatter– dog eats a handful of food tossed on the ground- Stand still with hands at your side, say “scatter” then reach for several pieces of food, show them to your dog, and drop them on the ground. Repeat several times working from a dropped handful to a tossed handful. We want your dog to hear “scatter” then look at your hand to see where the food is going to be tossed. Tracking the food should be easy for them.