Luring, shaping, and capturing are the foundations of dog training. When I begin training a new dog, I always start with luring. It is an easy skill for new dog parents to learn and it quickly achieves simple behaviors such as sit, down, roll over, and so on.
Luring is when you use a reward, such as food, to move your dog into one position or another. This is done by holding a treat to the dog’s nose and slowly guiding them to perform the behavior. For example, luring your dog’s nose down to the ground so they lay down. Once they have achieved the behavior you want, mark the behavior (with a clicker or a sound such as “yes”) and give them the treat. Think of the treat as a magnet to your dog’s nose. You want to keep the treat as close to their nose as possible in order to get the best results.
So let’s teach “down” using the lure method. When you begin training, don’t use the cue yet. You don’t want to associate the cue with the wrong behavior, and your dog may not lay down every time you lure him when you first start training. Start by holding the treat to your dog’s nose and slowly moving it down to the floor, making sure your dog’s nose follows the treat as close as possible. Mark when their rear end and both front legs are touching the floor and give him the treat. Once your dog is laying down every time you lure him, it’s time to start fading out the lure. Get ready to “lure” your dog again, only this time you’re just bringing your hand to the floor without a treat in it. When your dog is laying down, mark and treat! Once your dog is consistently laying down every time you lure him, it’s time to add your cue. As you bring your hand to the ground say “down” and mark and treat when he’s laid down. Moving forward, start to point your hand farther away from the ground in reasonable increments while your dog is still successfully laying down every time. I like to use points on my leg such as my ankle, calf, knee, and thigh, until eventually I just need to point to the ground and my dog lays down.
As you can ses, luring is an excellent foundational skill to teach your dog all sorts of different behaviors, from a simple “down” to fun tricks and more. You can also teach your dog more advanced behaviors such as the heel position. Teaching your dog how to follow a treat early in your training opens up a whole world of behaviors and possibilities for you and your dog.
The exercise in this blog generally takes a couple three to five minute training sessions over the course of one to three days for you to be able to ask your dog to “down” and point and your dog drops to the floor and eagerly waits for his treat. This blog is meant to jump start your progress, but not all dogs will respond the same way. I’m happy to help work with you and your dog to solve any problems that come up while you work on this exercise.
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