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Getting it: Motivation!

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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!

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

30 responses »

  1. Got me! in my defense, positive dog trainers do almost anything. I know one person who used her goldfish (safely in a bowl and protected) as a motivator for her dog at the end of the track.

  2. Lisa Signorelli

    You got me.

    Mostly because I trained agility in a horse field. Horse manure was, in fact, used as a motivator for one of my dogs. Lol

  3. omg – i thought i only used livestock as rewards – good job little squirrel .. go get the pig poo now! people should know better than to investigate baggie contents too closely 😉

  4. That’s great…I have joked about using deer and rabbit pellets before…never actually thought of using it…hmmm…may have to reconsider !!!

  5. Suckered me right in – I so believed it! Good one!!

    Barb VanEseltine & Belgians

    Ringer, Terry, Patt and Lollie

    Beeken Belgians

  6. Beverly Moody

    Oh my gosh! You got me! I was thinking, “I don’t know about this, Denise is way more dedicated than me. I won’t do it. She’s nuts!”

  7. Charlene Schreiber

    I spent the entire read wondering how you got her home!!! Totally suckered.
    I did talk the pet store folks into giving me soiled bedding from a rat cage for my little terrier.
    I filled the pouch of a stuffable toy, and danced it around on the end of a cord… but after all the work all he did was look at me with a “you must be kidding! I can tell the difference” look…sigh.

    • I don’t know that you would want to use Rat poop and urine as a motivator.

      Though Silly Sally DID think that the rat Caecum that Devil (Rat catcher Extraordinaire) left on the kitchen floor was a stroke of luck! And luckily I have trained her in a good ‘leave it ALONE!” \
      (Lesson to self — Just because my husband has been out n the kitcen before me, don’t think he’s seen last night’s caecum which Devil always leaves !)

  8. Have you tried horse poop? It’s Raafi’s favouritest thing in the world (I’ve been using it as a lure for his running dogwalks and he’s bonkers for it). It has made training a challenge as my only outdoor space is in an arena used for horses, so there’s ALWAYS fresh stuff around, but for distraction proofing it’s been fantastic. It’s not liquid like cow poop, highly portable, and way less stinky (to humans) after it’s been around for even just ten minutes.

  9. “Now that I think about it, that would be no harder than a bag of teats.”

    A bag of what?

  10. Okay…….you Got me! But ONLY because I understand the Power of Premack! I do lots of “orphan care” for neonate kittens and wildlife. Currently, we have baby squirrels……The Collies are excellent nurse maids….It is very tempting to *think* about taking one of those critters in the ring…..They’d fit right into my pocket…..And Truly, there are no rules about taking a squirrel in the ring……or poop……are there?

    Thanks for the gotcha! Gotta go devise one of my own…….

  11. I think you are completely missing the boat here. Just come up with a recipe for treats that actually have cow manure in them. Then you can not only take them around for training and motivation, but you can market them.

    Then you can brand your training as “The Manure Method”. You can have Brito in a cow suit as your advertising campaign.

    • This is probably not as silly as it sounds. Although by cooking you will have killed off all the good “intestinal flora”.

      I’ve never yet met a dog who didn’t absolutely LOVE Blue Cheese. (I think they prefer the brie, but the others will also do. Your probably do not get ‘Roaring Forties Blue” in the US, but being a hard cheese that’s easier on the fingers 🙂

      I had a jar of grated parmesan in the fridge that ‘caught’ the blue cheese mould. I thought it was ‘orrible on the Spaghetti, so mixed it with wholemeal flour and enough water to make a dough and baked the dogs blue parmesan balls 🙂

      Parmesan (ungrated) itself is probably hard and dry enough to use as treats.

  12. Our dogs LOVE horse and goat poop. We’ve often thought of marketing at dogs and promoting is as “organic” dog treats. They don’t, fortunately, feel the need to roll in it. With 5 Collies, that would be entirely too much bathing.

  13. Definitely got me. I was all set to recommend deer or sheep pellets…

  14. OMG, I was thinking “Denise is just totally beyond (think outside the box/Premack) brilliant….”! April Fools indeed…. hook, line & sinker you got me:). Excellent!!
    BTW- how do you work through the great desire to chase livestock?

    • My dogs all leave ‘live-stock’ alone. When we first moved onto acreage we agisted the neighbours’ cows on our paddock. There was one mean old cow, with “her one eye on the pot and the other up the chimney” and a crumpled horn, and she lived up to her wise old ancestor who tossed the dog.

      Kelly (German Shepherd) decided to annoy her, but the cow merely turned her back to Kelly and then with a well-aimed kick to her ribs sent Kelly flying.

      Kelly (boss lady) then taught all the other dogs that cow chasing was a no-no. And they in turn taught the next generation even though they hadn’t been kicked 🙂

      (And this is the advantage of having multiple and over-lapping generations 🙂

      (Who says dogs have no culture! It is only because we separate ‘families’ so never/rarely observe it.)

      • Interesting observation Jenny, thanks for sharing it….I might have to send my dog to you’re house for a while:)

  15. I knew it as soon as we got to the cow dung–but enjoyed the read, very convincing!

  16. Happy April Fool’s!

  17. Ha Ha! You got me!! 🙂

  18. LOL WOW! Got me. Totally got me.

  19. Margaret McLaughlin

    And a happy April Fool to you, too.
    Didn’t get me–but only because I worked last night with a 22 year old, who smeared catsup on a (willing) patient & then screamed for the nurse.
    My “gotcha” detector is set on high.
    Actually, it probably would work…..

  20. Lovely! 🙂

    All of my dogs have thought that all their Christmases have come at once whenever we’ve had baby calves here. Baby Calf Poop, Mmmmmmmmmm!

    Cow poop is not favoured.
    I had one dog who thought that horse poop was Heaven on Earth.

    My dogs all love to check out the paddock for bird poop when go out.

    We do tend to forget that herbivore poop is a natural part of a dog’s diet. Though my vet did advise me to stop my dogs eating chook poop as it is a little hard on their intestines.

    Rabbit poop might be the ideal “training treat” 🙂

  21. Connie Kaplan

    Got me too! If I thought it would work I would try it, let her roll in it when she’s done working…

  22. It’s after 9, I’m worn out from the weekend, just home from a meeting, I want to start my new classes, but I can’t resist finding out what is helping to motivate Kaleb’s little sis. I read, I view, in increasing horror and wonder–can I carry just a little female dog pee with me without his eyes glazing over—and get to the punch line!! AHHHWW–LOL, you had me all the way!

  23. Pingback: Done with dominance training!

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