In some circles a target with food on it is referred to derisively as a "bait plate". Some instructors adamantly refuse to put food on a target, claiming it is nothing more than luring. First, I don't see the big objection to luring - it was the first mainstay of reward based training and has been used successfully for dog training for a few decades. There can be a lot of value in luring for some behaviors. Second, if the dog is taught a cue to go to the target and get the food, its no different than any other cued behavior. Its similar conceptually to our special bowl training. And third, given how readily the dogs learned the behavior and continued the behavior in the absence of food on the target (and then absence of the target itself), I fail to see how this is a bad thing.
The sequence was:
- send dog to food target from 4 feet
- leave dog and move in halfway and send dog to food target
- from halfway, release dog to food target and as they pass you, step sideways or back -- this teaches the dog on the flat to continue to the cued behavior despite your movement.
- set up jump wings and send dog to target placed just beyond wings (about 8 feet), while moving sideways or back -- in following runs, move the target to the side until its somewhat hidden behind the wing -- work forward send with post turn, forward send with front cross and lateral send, treat the dog for returning to you
- place a bar in the jump and send dog over the jump to the target set somewhat hidden behind the wing -- work forward send with post turn, forward send with front cross and lateral send, treat the dog for returning to you -- after a couple of repeats "forget" to put food on the target, but continue treating when the dog gets to you
I commented to Blynn that I hadn't thought of Gimme as a sticky dog (totally forgetting in the moment what we experienced briefly with the special bowl training). Blynn said, she thinks Gimme is sticky, because of how I run her. To which I said, "then I'm the sticky one." Blynn said, "Yes, and you've taught it to her." Hmmmmm I have noticed Gimme is not as fast as she used to be, but I had been chalking it up to my uncertainty and such because of the bum hand.
I didn't think we'd get anywhere with step 4 & 5, since we hadn't been solidly successful with step 3. However, two things worked to make it successful. First we had the additional distance, so I was able to start with a supporting step toward the jump before moving away. Second, the jump was a known cue, so Gimme understood moving toward it. She got this right away and was quite comfortable with it.
The first time I "forgot" to put food on the target, Gimme stopped and looked at me as if to say, "You forgot something." I encouraged her to come to me and gave her lots of treats. The second time she paused again and looked at me as if I was slightly daft. After this she never paid any attention to the target and continued doing the behaviors correctly. Smarty pants.
Our final run was a short sequence including both a forward and a lateral send. We repeated it several times with Blynn coaching until I got my timing right. I hadn't noticed at the time, but both of these were sends with the dog on the right and all the other ones I'd done in steps 1-5 were dog on the left. Gimme had no problem with it. She genuinely seemed happy to be unstuck and able to run at speed without me holding her up.
Gimme did go and snark at a dog in a crate. The next time I preempted it with a stern "leave it and rewarded her copiously for returning to me. On a positive note, Blynn's dog Ray was on a down stay off to the side and Gimme worked through that. On the final runs he was directly in her line of sight about 40 feet away as we'd set up for the first tunnel and she was giving him 'the look'. I did ask someone to stand near him in case she went toward him, which she didn't. Each time I just held her collar until she looked back toward me - at which moment I said "yes" and released her to the tunnel and our short course. So running on the course and nutter butter cookies at the end was her reward for working through Ray's distracting presence.