quality not quantity

I’ve kept my twenty ten resolution to train Scoop daily on 2o2o & nose targeting. Just when I thought we were really making progress, Scoop has decided he wants to be an anorexic. Hormones up=appetite down. I assumed this is the case with my 11 month old boy, but to be safe his vet give him a thorough exam which he passed. I was hoping for some small little disease that a round of antibiotics would cure. I do know the cure for hormones, but it requires a sharp surgical knife!

A week ago Scoop started eating his meals slowly but still trained with great enthusiasm for food. Over the week’s time he decided that he could easily skip a meal or two. His weight was perfect and I don’t want him to lose even a pound. The dilemma is not just getting him to eat enough to stay strong and not lose weight, but to be able to use food for training.

Over the last two days he is just as likely now to eat his treats slowly as well as his meals, and  at times even spitting them back out after he accepts the goodie. He is most likely to swallow a treat after he gets a click. He is programmed to do so after so many thousands of c/t’s in his life.

My normal training procedure is to use high quality meat or dog food as a reinforcement for nose touches. We do touches and clicks and vary the number of nose touches, and while we play a lot, I really depend on being able to do many touches for a food reward. It is quick. Nose touch/click/treat and repeat. After a few we break for play, or intersperse a tug game instead of/or directly following, a treat for the touch.

He is also more likely to take the treat if it is thrown to him. But if the food doesn’t have “click value“, or is moving like a toy, he just might not bother to eat it. So, the training process is changing. I need more behavior for less food reward, and I need higher quality responses for one great game of tug or a retrieve. That means I really need to be careful that I get a great touch before the release and instead of doing 100 nose touches, I might do 10. After a great strong touch, I say break-get-it, and I toy toss or tug with him.  Sometimes I ask for multiple nose touches, and then use the toy. This takes a lot longer than just handing a tidbit, and he is getting more rewards off of the target than on it.  If I throw the toy, he needs to return to me and either tug or go out for another retrieve reward. If we tug, even a very short session is at least 5 seconds long before I feel that it is fair to ask him to release the toy and do another behavior.

The moral is that I am being VERY careful to mark only the hardest nose touches, as the cost of the behavior for me is time and both Scoop’s and my energy.  Whether we are training nose touches or tricks, the reinforcement procedure is similar. He is having lots of fun though at my expense, and maybe the results of more toy training will be stronger and better behavior.

If so, then why not do more of this training whether he is eating voraciously or not.  He is training excitedly as the percentage of play greatly exceeds the length of time doing actual behaviors. I am also going to experiment with different foods, and larger quantities of food for each click. I am pretty sure Scoop is in hormone city right now, and I sure hope he get’s out of there soon. I’m an inpatient sort of person, the testicles will be gone soon if I decide the source of the anorexia is indeed from between his legs:)

I hope your puppy is still happily training for treats, and I hope mine is back on the chow wagon soon.



5 responses

  1. Thanks for posting this Nancy – my boy is 12mths and I’m waiting to neuter for a bit longer too. I noticed his slower eating and disinterest in treats on occasion and I really didn’t recognize it was hormones. So glad you brought it up – thanks!


  2. Hi Steve,

    All my boys get neutered, WHEN is the only question:) I would like to wait till he is about 14 months. Most knowledgeable sources say that the growth plates of a dog will be closed by then and hormones are believed to *possibly* effect the rate or quality or type of growth of the bone and plates.

    My general rule is that by the time I think I would not need a vet to neuter the boy because I am threatening to cut them off myself with dull scissors, then it is time to go to the vet. My first BC Scud (gone now) and Ace who is 6 years, were neutered by 6 months. (see above scissors rule) Panic was 14 months, Jack the sheltie was about the same. If Scoop can’t be trained with food and I am begging him to eat then he will be “collected and cut” earlier than 14 months.

    I collect from all my boys, just in case, and in all cases until now I have thrown the semen away after a couple years when it became evident that I was not going to use it for whatever reason.

    Good luck with Balto, thansk for reading and writing.


  3. Hi Nancy,

    I have been following Scoop’s Blog with great interest because I have a 8 month old borderr collie named Balto and I am always looking for ideas for training and for games to play with Balto.

    So far Balto is a BIG food hound… if he started refusing food I would be as concerned as you were with Scoop.

    And your comment that Scoop is going to be neutered soon; I have hear so many different takes on when or even if you should do that with your male dog I would be very interested in your thoughts on this.

    Thanks, Steve

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