Teach: Breakfast in Bed
Several treats in one hand
Make a good habit of collecting an exact number of treats for each session. For youngsters or early learners I would collect 6, for more experienced 10.
This prompts you to stop when the hand is empty and not continue without a fixed end or break. When you need to refill, consider how that batch, or session, went and make your immediate plan for the next batch. One small change or adjustment is all that is needed. You can then easily assess how that change affected the dog, if you made several changes you will not be aware of which change was having the effect.
This hand holding the reserve will later hold a clicker, but not at this stage.
This is NOT the delivery hand.
Transfer one piece of food,
Either by collecting or placing into the delivery hand.
The dog engages to you in a general fashion,
It does not have to be eye-to-eye contact, but an orientation to you, a scan of you, your hands, your face looking for a clue as to what may be going to happen. Be certain they will be able to scent the food and notice it is in your hand.
We shall call this “enquiry?” It is going to become your future Cue Seeking behaviour which should be self-initiating after every treat. Cue Seeking form the dog is begins all training sessions. If it is not present, then we will not proceed with learning.
Spot the sweet spot
This is the skill of identifying where you will place your hand for the dog to take the treat. Do not underestimate the benefit of doing this in the moment before you move the hand towards the dog. This “spotting” process is the skill that allows for accurate delivery, that ensure the treat is rewarding without the need to stretch or reach. It will also ensure the dog can relax in their position or location and not need to lunge towards that hand, and it will truly be full service, breakfast in bed …. They may not even need to sit up!
You can practise “spotting” without food during all interactions with the dog throughout the day. Essentially, your hand connects with the dog, open palm, and then give some affection to the chin or face. If you are going to feed treats from hand, it is good practice the let the dog experience hands without food as well as food.
If you are careless with delivery this should frighten you into paying attention:
Our pattern of preparing to deliver a treat will be learned by the dog and if this includes opening the pouch, reaching into the pocket those actions will all become significant to the dog. This can often lead to anticipatory behaviours that will disrupt and taint the rewards we are trying to deliver. From excessive arousal, fidgeting and stepping in towards the hand or snatching are all habits taught to the dog by not be clear about delivery.
These videos show a cleaning up process for Breakfast in Bed:
Dogs takes food from hand
Be aware that taking the food is the dog’s choice, it should not be force-posted into their mouth and remove that choice. Wanting to take that treat is an indicator that the dog is seeking this as a reward. Be aware of how the “taking” is carried out. If there begins to be changes then you will need to modify the process.
If they begin to grab the food,:
~ Question whether the dog is so utterly hungry or fearful of going hungry that they may need a good collection of floor or bowl collected treats before this process begins. This is often the experience of puppies reared in a free for all environment or dogs that have a history of extreme hunger, or competing for a shortness of resources.
~ If this is a new change then observe that the hand does not slightly withdraw as the dog comes to take the treat. This is often their experience of food-in-fingers posted treats where the person is fearful of being bitten and pulls back as they deliver the food. Success is assured by the dog lunging forwards.
Bad food grabbing habits are always taught BY people TO dogs. Be tidy!
Breakfast in bed is ideal for rewarding stationary behaviours where resting, and muscle relaxation is required. Usually the behaviour, or location is maintained with several repetitions of Breakfast in Bed which builds the anticipatory association.
It is not ideal to reward a stationary behaviour that is a preceding to an active behaviour, such as sitting in a heel position ready for heelwork, or heeling.
The expectation of a specific and repeated delivery pattern will affect the way the behaviour is carried out. B in B will induce a relaxed state, and muscle resting that is not complimentary with muscles held in preparation for movement. What we often see with B in B is open joints, such as a floppy pelvis with the knees outwards, or a down position that is on one hip and loose elbows.
Knowledge & Understanding
Stage 1 – Unconsciously unskilled
We don’t know what we don’t know. We are inept and unaware of it.
This is where we all begin. As a trainer the recipe instructs minimally as “treat”. We now look at this and realise delivering a treat is a skill. There are many considerations and motor patterns to practise and develop.
Stage 2 – Consciously unskilled
We know what we don’t know. We start to learn at this level when sudden awareness of how poorly we do something shows us how much we need to learn.
As we progress in our training, we may return to this stage many times as we become aware of skipping pass a skill.
Stage 3 – Consciously skilled
Trying the skill out, experimenting, practising. We now know how to do the skill the right way, but need to think and work hard to do it.
This is where the really hard work sets in. We may need to step away, re-learn our skills, self-checking our progress. Seeking feedback and working past the errors and future-less habits that came from skipping this stage when we first began.
Stage 4 – Unconsciously skilled.
If we continue to practice and apply the new skills, eventually we arrive at a stage where they become easier, and given time, even natural.
This is heaven. This is where we find the flow and rhythm in teaching. This is where it seems natural and unforced, where our confidence comes through and we can lay down a learning pathway that brings pleasure and joy to learner and teacher.
Application & Activities
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