If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, then you know I’ve struggled to find the right motivator for Lyra. I’ve been searching for something that I can take to the shows (portable) AND use to get high quality behaviors (valuable).
Easier said than done! Food and toys are portable, but neither magnetizes her. Lyra loves to swim, and working for a chance to swim definitely gives me excellent motivation, but it’s certainly not portable.
I may have found a solution.
Recently I took Lyra for a walk in open space where cows are grazed. At first I was concerned that she might want to chase the cows but outside of a quick glance she was pretty much oblivious to their charms. I was both thrilled and mystified; I’ve never had a Belgian who didn’t want to chase livestock.
After a few minutes I realized why she was behaving so well. Lyra had found something even more magnetizing than cows. Lyra had discovered cow poop.
I’ve run into this before; it appears that many dogs are highly attracted to cow poop. Something about that “crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside” texture seems to be appealing. Great; another bath in Lyra’s future.
And then I got to thinking. She’s already rolled in the stuff. She smells to high heaven. What have I got to lose?
I called Lyra back and attached her leash. I kept her with me until I found a particularly fresh looking pile. This one was barely crusted over and still steamed in the morning air.
I let her get close enough to get a good whiff and then waited until I was sure she was desperate to roll in it. I pulled her back by her collar, asked her to set up in heel position, and next thing I know I had two minutes of fabulous work! We did heeling, a few position changes, a front or two and then…I let her go.
After a few more mini-training sessions, I knew I had a winner.
What are my options for taking this motivator into competition? Well, unlike the swimming pool, poop is portable. At first I might have to allow her to roll in it like I did today (which is pretty disgusting), but if I work at reducing the size of the pile, slowly and over time, it occurs me that I might be able to take just the smallest bit to the show, possibly in a plastic baggie.
I don’t think the judges (or other spectators) are going to appreciate the smell that comes from a dog that has rolled in fresh cow poop, so I need to figure out the relevant variables. Does it have to be fresh? Does it have to be a full pile? Can I substitute a different (less offensive) type? My son has a hamster at home – It would be a lot easier (and less offensive) if i could carry a small bag with some shavings and just a bit of hamster poop in it. Now that I think about it, that would be no harder than a bag of teats.
Anyway, I had the video camera with me when we went for our walk today, so I took a short video which shows the last portion of our walk, and how I used the reward. Go ahead and take a quick peek. You never know; maybe this will work for your dog too!