A Lure is something that you show your dog in order to get something else to happen.

If I show my dog a toy to encourage play or energy, and then ask for work,  I have used the toy to “lure” engagement and energy from my dog.

If I show my dog a cookie (or give him a few) before the start of work, I have used the cookie to “lure” engagement and attention from my dog.

If I play with my dog to get him to engage and give me energy, I am still using play as a lure, but this one I can take into the ring, so it doesn’t worry me too much.

If I stand quietly and wait for my dog to look at me, and then respond with a cookie, a toy or some play, then I have rewarded my dog.   There is no lure for that repetition.  However, all future repetitions have an element of a lure to them, since my dog is now aware of what motivator is available.

Last week I started a new on-line class called “Bridging the Gap; From Training to Competition”.  The class is about getting into the ring where there are no toy or food reinforcers.

And this above issue, understanding a lure (and the good and bad aspects of them) has become pivotal, so I decided to mention it here as well since I suspect my students are not the only ones wrestling with this challenge.

Many of us use food, toys and personal play to train, so we spend a good deal of energy developing those motivators.  But once they are developed (and our dogs want them), then it’s time to stop using them as lures and start using them as rewards.

No more “warming a dog up” with a toy.

No more carrying cookies on your body or giving the dog a few to get started.

No more begging a distracted dog to work by showing them what you have.

Your dog must engage with you to cause work to begin.  It can be as simple as eye contact or as complex as an entire obedience routine, but regardless, the dog must begin the process.

You tell your dog that you are available for engagement (I do that by standing still and telling my dog to “take a break” on a leash) and then the dog responds.

When you go to a dog competition, there will be no more food or toys on your body.  If you are relying on “fooling” your dog into thinking that you can reinforce your dog in the ring, you’ll find that your competition career is limited to the period of time that you can continue to fake your dog out.  Why not stop lying and just be honest?  Work hard to develop the motivator that you can take in the ring (play and praise) and train your dog to understand that the classic motivators will come later; after a job completed?

It’s not hard to let your dog start the engagement, but you have to let go of control.  Let your dog realize that working is fun; truly a privilege.  Of course, if your dog would rather do anything than engage with you in work, you have another problem altogether which is beyond the scope of this post.

Give it a try.  Engagement is the first step to getting into competition.  Just a simple behavior at first, followed up by a reward.  Then a few simple behaviors, chained together.

If you need the structure of a class, you can still sign up for a few more days at this link:  http://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/courses/203   If you prefer to work on your own, always ask yourself how  your current approach to training will hold up in the ring.  If you have doubts, re-evaluate and make changes as needed.