Will Work For Food

Annyong! looking relaxed in the car for once.

Assuming you are not independently wealthy, I imagine you have a job that puts food on the table. If you don’t go to work, you don’t get paid. And if you are broke & hungry, you are more motivated to get a job, right? But what about your dog? I bet he could in essence flip you off when you call him from barking at that dog (i.e. ignore you) & you would still feed him. But what if you didn’t? What if you started using his food- his meals, not steak, to get his attention & obedience? Sound crazy? Keep reading.

So my 7 year old German Shepherd, Ziva, was never “food motivated”. I had problems, especially when she was younger, overriding her desire to lunge & bark at people walking past our fenced in yard. No food would be more important to her than that. I scoffed at food training as a joke. I would put her kibble down & she would fast until I added some wet to entice her to eat. I’m sure a lot of you can relate to this. But then I took this weekend workshop with Duke Ferguson a year or so back. It changed my life. I’m not as hardcore & intense as Duke. Precision is not my priority. I just want a dog that will listen when I say his name or give a command (which I give very few) & not make a fool of me…

Ziva at IACP Conference 2014 in D.C.

So now, instead of feeding her in a bowl, I put her meal in my pocket & give her kibbles all day long. Now I can call her from a mile away & she’ll come running for a kibble. Yes, a kibble. Why? I assume for one thing, it’s more fun & engaging for her. It’s like a game “how do I get that kibble?”. I think she also likes the stronger bond we now have. I’m paying more attention to her doing this program. She was an awesome dog before this, but now is damn near perfect.

Fast forward a year…So I recently acquired a new German Shepherd, 2 year old Annyong, from a client. He came with a litany of issues: lunging at my cat with bad intent, scaling a fence to attack another dog (that was before he was mine), barking & lunging at people while driving, ten thousand times worse if they have a dog. He looked & sounded like the Tasmanian Devil when dropping off my daughter at school. He was such an embarrassment, especially as a trainer. I kept having to tell people “I just got him. Please don’t jude me on this dog!”.

By using this Work4Food program, I’ve been able to overcome all of these issues at about 90% currently- which is huge! Considering he was one of the craziest dogs I’ve ever met (and I’ve been working dogs going on 17 years). He has been with me about 5 months now & I think another month from now he’ll be at 99% recovery. Just yesterday I was able to drop my daughter off at school & he was quiet in the drop off. That right there is a minor miracle. And just this morning he ran after the cat, but instead of sounding like the hounds of hell, he was quiet & excited, almost like he wanted to play. The cat didn’t run either, which was a good sign he didn’t feel danger either. I’ve never been able to record any “before” video because it took all of my energy to contain him & prevent him from doing any harm. So just trust me on this ok? Think of your dog’s worst day, make your dog a crazy Shepherd with bad blood lines & that’s my dog. 😉

So here is what I want you to try: put your dog’s next meal (just dry) in your pocket, or on the counter in a bowl. He’s not to get the food unless he looks you in the eye when you say his name. Try it for a week both meals. Say his name, he looks you in the eye, give him a kibble. Now if you can do this all day, all the better. The more you do this & dragging it out, the better your results. Now if you have a large dog (i.e. a LOT of kibble) you can give in handfuls rather than one at a time. But remember the more you do this the better the results. Do this for a week, starting off in a quiet setting, then maybe your backyard, and as time goes on, start doing this in more challenging settings. If you dog ignores you, don’t feed him. He’ll listen when he’s hungry enough. I asked my vet & she said most dogs could refuse to eat for a couple of days without her being concerned, as many dogs are overweight like their owners! (me too, so I’m not picking on you!).

Bonus advice: Never say your dog’s name in conversation. ONLY say it when you expect him to drop everything & look at you (you will then give a kibble). This is my protocol & you can see the results here in this video. I have conditioned my dog to respond to his name with such precision by doing this method that he heard his name in conversation & came running to me!

If you are not in the New England area & are in need of a professional trainer, please visit the IACP International Association of Canine Professionals. Remember not all dog trainers are the same, so if you have not gotten the results you want, please do not give up on your dog. Find a competent, qualified trainer near you. And be sure to tell them Laurie Wagner sent you! 🙂

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